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Average prom cost tops $1,000 per teen

High unemployment, soaring gas prices and mortgage crisis be hanged: Americans are spending more than ever on the really important things, like the high school prom.

A new survey from Visa Inc. shows that the average American family with teenagers plans to spend $1,078 – that’s for each child – on the prom, a 33.6 percent increase over the $807 spent last year.

And those in the lower income brackets, less than $50,000, plan to spend even more – $1,307 per child, the survey found. And those in the very lowest bracket, under $20,000, plan to spend $1,200 – more than 6 percent of their annual income.

But the most staggering number came from those families earning between $20,000 and $30,000, who plan to spend an average of $2,635, which would represent almost 9 percent of annual income for those making $30,000. Those families are just above the federal poverty level, which is $23,050 for a family of four.

“Prom season spending is spiraling out of control as teens continuously try to one-up each other,” said Jason Alderman, senior director of global financial education for Visa. “It’s important to remember that the prom is a high school dance, not a wedding, and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility.”

That advice is apparently falling on deaf ears, however, as the survey found that parents are planning to pay an average of 61 percent of the cost. Alderman said that’s one of the problems.

“One of the reasons that prom spending may be running amok is that parents are paying the vast majority of the costs, giving teens little incentive to economize,” he said.

There were sharp regional differences in the amounts people were planning to pay. The Northeast was the highest by far, at $1,944, followed by the South at $1,047, the West at $744 and the Midwest at $696.

Prom expenses vary widely, of course, but the website promgirl.com offers these price ranges:

Prom tickets: Between $20 and $250, depending on location.

Pre-prom dinner: From $25 to $130 per person.

Hair, makeup and nails: $30 to $275.

Gown: Most prom dresses average between $100 and $400, but some families spend far more.

Photography: From $30 to $125 per person, depending on whether you use the official prom photographer or arrange for a private photographer.

Limousine: Limo rentals range from $200 to $500, but this cost can be split between group members.

2012 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at www.ajc.com


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  1. If kids want to go to prom shouldn’t they foot the bill? Mine did. and they did not spend anywhere near that ridiculous amount

  2. My girls have managed to keep it under $300 including dresses, shoes, boutonnières, transportation and

    • Laura Scarborough via Facebook
  3. Oops! It is a big event but they are realists and know that there is so much more in store for them down the road so they chose to keep it simple and just have fun making memories.

    • Laura Scarborough via Facebook
  4. i would not let my daughters spend that…. i on the other hand never went to a prom and will do all i can to make it a memorable event for them

  5. Here’s our breakdown. Dress 120$ @ macys on clearance, 30$ alteration, 20$ shoes @ marshalls on clearance, 30$ slip @ target, 6$ bag DIY with thrifted clutch, 50$ on her part of transportation, 37.50 her part of prom bid, 40$ make up, DIY hair,50$ for pre prom photographer. 30$ corsage and boutineer also DIY.she’s paying for pictures at prom and her nails. She chose to go with a friend this year, so they split everything except dinner (he’s buying), last year her date paid for bid,dinner,flowers etc. So my estimate is about 420$ While I. have a hard time with girls that spend 1000$+ on their dress (my wedding dress was less), I do believe that you should make it a memorable occasion for your child….they only go through high school once. That being said, everyone should stick within their means to do it. We pick and choose what we spend the $$ on, and do the rest ourselves….were lucky, were a creative family and we have the resources to do that.

  6. I would love to help bring that overall cost down! I am a local photograher offering pre-prom photographs at a very resonable rate! I do not only photograph the couple, but include the couple’s family as well, for no additional cost! And if other couples book with me too, I will provide group photographs, again at no additional cost. http://www.facebook.com/CaptureLifeEvents

    • Crystal Roberts via Facebook