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DISCUSSION: Has Prom Spending Gotten Out Of Control?

Yes, in Racine we love our prom. But are we going a bit overboard with how much we're spending these days? While midwesterners spent an average of $700, financial experts say our spending has "run amok."

I love my child.

She works two jobs, gets good grades and knows her way around the bargain racks when it comes to shopping. Over the years she has come to expect financial limits from me, and she's not ashamed to 'shop vintage' at Goodwill or go without. She's also had a student checking account for well over a year, and she knows how to spend money wisely and knows the value of saving money.

And while I've grown accustomed to paying cash for things, I've recently discovered that what she and I are spending for her to go to prom is in line with what others seem to be spending in the Midwest... about $700, according to a story published on Mail.com. This includes the dress, the nails, the hair, the make-up, the shoes, and the flowers.

Is this a lot of money? Yes. Can I afford it? Yes. She's my only child and after having been unemployed and in grad school for two years we cut back on a lot of stuff so I feel...

Do I sound like I'm justifying this? Why yes.... yes I am.

According to the story:

The Visa survey found that teens are covering 39 percent of the cost, while parents are planning to pay for 61 percent.

'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,' said Jason Aldreman, senior director of global financial education at Visa Inc.

Well Jason, I am proud to say that I didn't use my Visa to pay for my kid's prom and she'll be footing some of the bill as well. We're 'cash only' girls and we like it that way, but I was rather surprised to learn that people making the least spent the most, according to a Visa survey.

Still I had one of those 'feeling old' moments when the kid and I went shopping for dresses with her friend. Her friend's mom and I both commented on how much more we we're spending compared to how much we spent on our prom. I actually had my dress made for $75, but that was almost 25 years ago.

But the story eludes to something bigger at work here that I thought was interesting, the idea that parents are seeing prom as a Cinderella moment... a chance to capture the attention or at least compete with those who are well off financially. Prom seems to be a "social arms race," Alderman said.

I look at prom a little differently in that it offers kids the chance to dabble in the grown-up world, but I don't know maybe I'm missing something.

What do you think?

Heather in Caledonia April 19, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I'm glad I have boys. :) We didn't spend much on prom, either. I went to 2 proms - for one I wore a dress I found in a re-sale shop and for the other I re-worked a dress I had worn for an earlier event. No limos (although some friends and I got together for a limo for our 9th grade dance) and we had dinner at Red Lobster. Yes, I'm from Kenosha, where the whole city doesn't go berserk for a weekend. I guess I would like to think the kids are "dabbling in the grownup world" for a night, but from the way I've seen them act on video and in person, many of them are just children playing dress up. The activities at Racine's post-prom are really more appropriate for someone in athletic wear instead of formals, also. I'm sure the guys don't mind girls in strapless dresses bouncing in bouncy houses and climbing rock walls, but it sure looks silly to me. :)
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I don't know that prom is kids dabbling in a grown-up world because I sure as heck do not ever get all fancy for a night out. I mean, that we aren't deserving of all that, but do we ever do it? Nope ... but it is a tradition and because of this, I'm all for prom and the way Racine does it is out of this world. Now, having said that, we made our middle kid pay for 1/2 her senior year and she asked for prom as her birthday present her junior year. The kids have to have some investment so they feel the pain - and you know that's what it is - of having to pay for what will, hopefully, be one helluva memory!
mau April 19, 2012 at 08:23 PM
I guess I'm kind of shocked that a teenager would be spending that much money, for one night, whether they earned it or not. What are our young girls being taught. Spend that much money for something so frivolous when it could have been put to something useful. This sets the stage for their future decisions. What will they be willing and feel they deserve to spend, for their wedding. We have a generation willing to go into debt for their weddings. Some spending as much as we paid for our house. For what? I spent under $150 for my son's once in a lifetime (I hope) wedding. It was very hard for me to spend the $120 for the hand made in California kimono jacket (I lucked on a big sale) that I wore over the $25.00 India knit black ankle length dress that I bought off ebay. I did not join the wedding party to get my hair, make-up and nails done. I did not want to "not" look like me. And I'm not into that stuff. Especially the money.
mau April 19, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I never went to prom and I don't regret it. I can't even remember my wedding day :)
App April 23, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Denise and Patch: Not to be picky, but please check your spelling (and don't just use a spellchecker) during the writing or editing phase. I think you were alluding to "allude" rather than "elude", in your article. And yes, $700 for one night for one person is a lot. I don't know many grown-ups that spend that much for a night out, even for a very special night.

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