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Reining In Prom Expenses

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Reining In Prom Expenses

By Carla Hindman
Director Financial Education, Visa Canada

If you’ve got teenagers, you already know how expensive high school can be. On top of food, clothing and school supplies, a whole host of extracurricular activities are competing for a share of your wallet- even as you are saving for your kids’ post-secondary education and your own retirement.

Surprisingly, one of the larger expenses you may encounter is prom. Gone are the days of borrowing dad’s suit and crepe paper steamers in the school gym; today’s proms can be more like a Hollywood premiere with limousines, designer gowns and after-parties.

According to a 2015 nationwide survey conducted by Visa Canada, the average Canadian family with a high school student attending prom expected to spend $508 on prom-related costs. As with weddings and vacations, spending on prom can easily spiral out of control, especially if your teenager isn’t used to sticking to a budget.

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To help teens and their parents keep their prom costs reasonable, we developed Plan’it Prom, a prom budgeting app. It’s a handy tool to help teens set a budget they can stick to as they plan for prom, including their outfits, hair & makeup, transportation, prom tickets, and the after-party. Plan’it Prom is available in the iTunes store, the Google Play store and from www.practicalmoneyskills.ca/prom

Here are a few cost-saving ideas for prom:

  • Shop for deals on formal wear at consignment stores or online. As with tuxedos, many outlets rent formal dresses and accessories for one-time use.
  • Have make-up done at a department store’s cosmetics department or find a talented friend to help out.
  • Split the cost of a transportation with a group of friends, and check out alternatives to the typical limo. A large vehicle that can accommodate a large group can lead to savings
  • Team up with other parents to host a pre-prom dinner or after-party

Use this as a learning experience by getting your kid involved with making tough decisions, helping to prioritize expenses from vital to non-essential.

Our 2015 survey also showed that while kids are chipping in for prom expenses, mom and dad still plan to pick up 79 per cent of the tab. While it’s good to see kids footing some of the bill, that ratio could easily shift a little more – you might find that if your kids are spending more of their own money, they’ll quickly determine what they can and can’t live without.

If you have a conversation with your teens about prom spending and use the occasion as an opportunity to teach teens about the importance of setting and sticking to a budget, you’re doing them a big favour. It’s a lesson that will help them for years to come – long after the excitement of prom night has faded away.

Bottom line: You want to ensure your child has a memorable high school experience, but not at the expense of your overall budget.

Carla Hindman directs the Practical Money Skills program for Visa Canada. More budgeting and personal finance tips can be found at www.practicalmoneyskills.ca. As always, consult a financial professional regarding your particular situation.

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