Prom: The Ever Escalating Cost of the Social Arms Race

If you've got a teen who's been bugging you about going to prom, then you probably already know this: prom is much more expensive nowadays than when you went oh so many years ago.

USA Today business reporter Hadley Malcolm (right, above), who still looks good in her original senior year high school prom dress, reports that the average prom spending is - sit down moms and dads - over $1,000:

Prom is the new wedding, and spending on the springtime high school dance is climbing within reach of celebrations of holy matrimony.

Mary Stirsman says she couldn't imagine buying her 17-year-old daughter Madison the $500 dress she found at an Indianapolis boutique on one recent shopping trip, because Stirsman only spent $800 on her own wedding dress. But a higher price tag is the new norm for an increasingly lavish event for which teens and their families are dropping loads of cash on one-of-a-kind dresses and tuxes, limos or party buses, hair, makeup, jewelry, flowers, dinner and dance tickets.

This year, families with teens are expected to spend an average of $1,078 on prom, up from $807 last year, according to data from a survey released today by Visa that includes results based on a thousand telephone interviews conducted at the end of last month.

"This is social-arms-race spending. It's extreme," says Jason Alderman, director of Visa's financial education programs.

Read the rest of the report over at USA Today: Link

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I went to prom in 2007 and I only spent about $100 on a dress and shoes. I had friends who borrowed dresses or bought dresses from stores like Forever 21 (so probably under $30.) There wasn't pressure to spend a whole lot or even get a limo. I can't imagine spending anything near $1,000 as I didn't have that and my parents certainly weren't going to spend that much! I wouldn't even spend close to that for my wedding dress, veil, shoes, etc.
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My prom in 1976 was free to get in, a fine dinner was served, and we even had a live band. It was Exile, before they had that first big hit. The students had car washes and bake sales to pay for it. I made my own dress and shoes.

Now I have three girls in high school. I will have to re-sharpen my sewing skills.
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"reporter Hadley Malcolm (left, above), who still looks good in her original senior year high school prom dress..."

wow. she looks remarkable on the left, there, in her classy suit and tie...
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