Prom on a Budget: 4 Money-Saving Ideas

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Prom is a memorable night for high school upperclassmen, but the costs—dress, hair, makeup, shoes, and jewelry—can quickly add up. Whether your daughter is looking at the red carpet for inspiration, local boutiques, or wants to make a homemade-DIY gown, there are plenty of ways to skip the expensive dresses and still send her off to the big dance in style. Here are a few ways I’ve found stylish formalwear on a budget for prom and special occasions:

Organize a swap: By the time I was a high school senior, I had a half-closet full of once-worn dresses that I would’ve been happy to see re-worn. Encourage your daughter to organize a dress swap for her group of friends and have each girl bring someone from a different school. It’s a great way to expand their social circle, and the dress your daughter’s out-of-town friend wore to a Sweet Sixteen could easily be another girl’s prom pick.

Search outlet malls: I’m a big fan of shopping at outlet malls (Premium and Tanger) a few times a year for basic tees and off-season deals, but I never expected to find a prom dress there. I got mine on whim at Diane von Furstenberg, a high-end designer whose dresses I would have never thought of looking at in a department store for fear of sticker shock. The floor-length floral gown I found was $185, marked down from $625. This was this less than I originally budgeted for a dress, and since I didn’t buy it close to home, I was confident that no one else would have it.

Borrow a dress: It’s common for boys to rent tuxes for prom, so why are gown rentals not more popular for girls? My favorite site to borrow from is Rent the Runway, which offers designer dresses and accessories at up to 90% off retail prices.  It’s super easy: browse the site and pick the date you want the dress to arrive (you can reserve six months in advance). They even send you the dress in two sizes, so you don’t have to worry about it not fitting. Shipping and dry cleaning are included, so you can just drop the dress in the provided envelope to return after the dance is over.

Get Creative: I always enjoy seeing what creations are submitted to Duck Brand’s annual “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest. Teens must enter as a couple wearing outfits made of duct tape, and the winning duo receives $5,000. Check out stuckatprom.com for inspiration or to learn how your teen can enter.

Check out our picks for prom dresses for every teen’s style—and budget—here.

How do you plan to handle the costs of prom season? Who will foot the bill: you or your teen, or do you plan to split expenses?

What are your money-saving tips for prom? Share with others below!

Cassie Kreitner is editorial assistant at Family Circle magazine.