8 Ways to Save Money on Prom

Prom is one of those days that you look forward to from your childhood. You dream of having the perfect date, the perfect dress and the perfect night. Unfortunately, the reality of perfect prom can be a little bit harder than it seems in the movies. When you go to choose out your perfect dress, you may realize they are all ridiculously priced, especially for something you are only going to have for a night. So much of the night is focused on having the prettiest dress, hair and accessories that it’s easy to go crazy budget wise while forgetting that the night is really about having fun with your friends before you graduate. A few tips for keeping your night affordable so you can spend your time having fun: 

1. Borrow from a friend

There’s no reason you need to buy anything for prom. Odds are you have friends and family who have been to prom before, or other similarly fancy events and will be more than willing to loan you shoes, accessories or even a dress if you just ask. Abby Piper from Notre Dame ‘18 tried this option out at her homecoming. She wore a borrowed dress and says, “Some people recognized it, but I didn’t really care because obviously if I cared about it that much I would’ve spent the money on a new one. A lot of people try and sell their dresses, but honestly any good friend will lend you a dress free of charge, so just ask around -- your friends, their older sisters, cousins, etc.”

2. Do your own hair and makeup

There’s no reason you need to pay to go to a salon or makeup bar to spiff up for prom. If you feel confident enough in your hair and makeup abilities, getting ready at home is a totally viable option. The internet is filled with tutorials with all the hair and makeup styles you can imagine. Spend some time browsing YouTube, try out some of your favorite tutorials and pick one for prom. You might even end up having more control over how your hair and makeup looks than if you went to a salon. Bethany Mota and Zoella are two great youtubers to get you started with some ideas. If you have a friend who’s a beauty guru, or just great at doing hair and makeup, you could also have them try whatever style you decide on for you.

Related: 5 Cute & Easy Hairstyles For Spring Break

3. Check out a thrift shop

Vie for something vintage by finding a dress at the thrift shop. You might have to do some digging, but there are often some good finds in thrift shops or fashion-oriented second hand stores. Emily Schmidt from Stanford ‘20 tried this out: “For my prom many girls buy super expensive dresses, but I didn’t have the money to spend on it, so I decided to visit nearby thrift shops for something cheap that could be spruced up. Both my junior and senior proms ended up spending less than $100 combined for my dresses,” If you want to get creative, you can even use the dress as a base for an original design. If you aren’t quite comfortable with a thrift shop purchase, TJ Maxx is also an option for getting a reasonably priced dress you can spiff up however you fancy.

4. Go to a training salon

If you don’t feel comfortable doing your own hair and makeup, but do want to keep the price low, going to a training salon is a great way to save some cash. Beauty salon students need people to practice on, but are usually already incredibly talented as well as being supervised by professionals. Students often appreciate the chance to be creative, so if you don’t know quite what you want this is a great way to find some ideas. Lookup your local beauty school and see what kinds of services and discounts they offer. This is an especially sound option if you are just getting a style as you can always undo it if it doesn’t work out.  

5. Research your options

If buying anything for prom really isn’t in your budget, this still doesn’t mean that you can’t afford to go. Kayla Düngee of Georgia State University ‘19 explained “I got both of my prom dresses from Cinderella’s Closet. It’s a nationwide organization that gives away prom dresses, shoes, and accessories to girls experiencing financial hardship. So my dresses were beautiful and didn’t cost me a penny,” If you want  a picture perfect prom, but really don’t know how to afford it chances are someone will be willing to help.

6. Get costume jewelry

If you’re looking for some sparkle to go with your dress, there’s no reason to go to an actual jewelers. While prom may seem really important now, it probably won’t matter to you looking back if your earrings were real pearls. Most people won’t know the difference and it will save you a lot of money. Get the jewelry you want, just opt for the cheaper option. Costume jewelry, which is often used in theater productions is realistic looking and sometimes rentable, so you will still shine without having to spend ridiculous amounts.

7. Rent a dress

Men have been renting tuxes forever and there’s no reason women can’t do the same. After all, you only need your prom dress for one night. Services like Rent the Runway allow you to borrow dresses for special occasions without the financial obligation of buying one. Often, you can even get designer dresses for much cheaper than you’d buy off the rack. This option works especially well if you’re planning on attending more than one prom; you can get a different dress every time.

8. Don’t worry about what you’re wearing

When it really comes down to it, having fun at prom has nothing to do with what you’re wearing. Be confident and comfortable in whatever you choose to wear. How much money you spend on prom doesn’t need to relate to how good you look or feel. However you choose to get ready for prom, enjoy the process and you’ll have an amazing night.

There are a lot of pretty simple ways you can create your dream prom look without paying the price on the tags of your original options. It might take a little bit of extra time to figure out a creative alternative to hitting up your local prom dress shop, but you will probably end up with something more original and specific to what you want. When it comes down to it, you’ll probably think whatever you wear to prom is ridiculous when trends have changed in 20 years. What you’ll really value is the memories, so have fun and don’t sweat about what outfit you’re going to rock on prom night.