Prom On a Budget

18 March, 2009

So it’s getting to be that time of year again, where the senior high school girls get all glammed up for the last big night with most of the senior class, and probably the most formal event that you will attend with people who you have known, in some cases, since you were in diapers. It is something that I wish I could have attended, but one of the two reasons I didn’t was the money. Between a dress, hair, makeup, nails, shoes/accessories, a corsage, a share of dinner and whatever post-prom activity, and not to mention pictures, I would have had to put several weeks pay into prom, because my parents were not made of money and most certainly could not have spent very much at all on it. (the other reason was not getting a date, in fact getting rejected by multiple men)

But if money is your main concern, I’ve got some easy ways for you to save money on some of the essentials.

The Dress
If you are in serious financial trouble, there are some charities that loan out prom dresses to girls whose families are in serious financial trouble-they want it to be where money is not an excuse not to go. If you are looking to buy a dress, Nordstrom Rack and stores like Ross and TJ Maxx will have selections of dresses-Nordie’s Rack having more of the formal kind though, but when I was at Ross a few weeks ago they had a couple full-length dresses. For a couple years, it was looking like shorter dresses were going to become de rigeur, but thankfully JcPenney has a wide selection of ballgowns. A shorter dress, however, will be a more economical option, because the likelihood that you will wear it again is quite high. Try the clearance racks at Express, because they may still have some of the holiday dresses around (especially in smaller sizes) that would suffice for prom. Finally, the best option of all is to check out thrift stores, where you can probably get a dress for under $40, and closets of your friends and their sisters (as well as female relatives close to you in age and size) because they may have something that they would let you borrow.Accessories
Sure, everyone loves the clear Austrian crystal pageant-style jewelry. I’m a huge fan myself. However, when everyone wears it, it starts to look a little boring, and in excess, trashy. Claire’s does have some good pieces and they aren’t too unaffordable, but even now I can’t pay $18 for a single necklace. The easiest thing to do is to raid your jewelry box, or better yet, talk to your mum and other female relatives and see what they have. It could be some antique costume jewelry, or it could be something real-but whatever it may be, it will have character to it, and you will stand out. For example, with a black dress I would borrow my mum’s big blue topaz pendant and pair it with my blue topaz dangle earrings. Also, just because it’s prom doesn’t mean you have to wear every accessory under the sun. If you have a low-cut dress, a statement necklace is good-but do a simple set of earrings. If your dress is heavily embellished, then leave the neck bare, but maybe do a more intense set of earrings. If you are wearing a plain dress, then do a bracelet and either a necklace or earrings. Coco Chanel’s rule about accessorizing still applies here. Do NOT wear a crystal anklet though-save it for the nightclub or the beach. If you have a backless dress, an interesting accessory to try would be a henna tattoo on your back, with a couple crystals glued on. You can get henna kits at health food stores as well as Hot Topic and stores of that ilk, and if you get someone to help you out, you can have a very elaborate design for just the cost of the kit (around $15)-and you get multiple applications.

Shoes are a necessary evil, and I find it good to have two pairs with you: heels for when you are going out and doing the activities (as well as the pictures), and then some flats for the actual dance. Payless is going to be your best bet here, however if you do not already own a decent pair of heels it may be worth it to ask your mum if she will help buy a basic pair (a silver, gold, or black) because it will serve you down the road. Check out Nordstrom Rack, as they have some good deals, and if you aren’t squeamish about used shoes try a thrift store, find some heels in your size, and then buy a couple packages of crystals at a craft store and embellish away. I also mention a purse in this one-raid the closets, raid the thrift stores, and if necessary, go to Ross, TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory, because if you’re not going to a ton of fancy events you shouldn’t need to spend a fortune on an evening purse.

Back when I was in high school it was all about the elaborate up-do, however it does not have to be that way necessarily. You can do a fun curly style, you can do a sleek chignon, or you can wear it down straight and sleek. If you do want an updo, go to a beauty school, as updos will run around $20-$40 there, as opposed to well over double at a salon. Another thing to do is to go get your hair cut, but have it chosen to the style that you want it to be, because most hair salons include a style to a picture in the price of a haircut.

This is one of the things that everyone seems to do, no matter what-and I can’t justify spending $25 on my nails when they get wrecked so easily. If you are like me, the easiest thing to do is spend $9 on a bottle of OPI or Essie that goes along with your dress and do your nails yourself (if you have a lot of practice) or have your mum or a friend help you (if you aren’t as good). If you want to get your nails done though, seek out the best deals. Try beauty schools, because again, you’ll save money due to getting your service done by a student. Also try the little mom-and-pop stops, because they will have a higher chance of having a good deal.

This is probably the easiest area to save on, as well as the easiest to go crazy. If you are wanting to save money, the easiest thing to do would be to do your own makeup, using what you already have or purchasing an inexpensive little item. Something that is more expensive up-front but has very high benefit is going to a makeup counter and getting a makeover. I know at MAC, it’s $50 but you get to redeem it in product, and at other counters it’s a two or three product minimum or the $50. You are getting the makeup AND your event look, done by the counter or store staff. It is easier than ever now though to learn some basic techniques thanks to YouTube and people’s text, photo, and video tutorials.

A lot of people are into tanning, however if you are going for the first time before prom, it may not be the best idea-so you would want to go a couple times beforehand to get your skin used to the beds. Many salons will have deals on tanning, so definitely try and take advantage. If the weather is sunny, then I would suggest laying out in a bandeau top in order to get a line-free tan. Make sure to use SPF though because the first tan of the year usually leaves me burnt to a crisp! If you want to go UV-free, stores like Victoria’s Secret sell a lot of self-tanner products, and some even do can-form spray tanners. You will want a little help to make sure you don’t miss everything, but it’s a safer way to get the tan you want. Check your local drugstore for deals on that kind of stuff as well, and don’t forget about a good radiant body lotion.

As far as some of the other things, like dinner and transport, it can be harder. The easiest way to save on dinner is to go somewhere that isn’t as fancy, or to get a couple other groups together and get pizzas and teriyaki. As for transport, it’s easiest if everyone goes in their own cars, but if you want to be in a limo go for the more basic model-I can guarantee that the party bus and stretch Hummer are going to drain your budget.

Well, there you have it. I don’t think I really missed anything important-but if I did, let me know and I will fix it. Also if you have a look you want to do but no idea how to accomplish it, let me know and I’ll post a tutorial of it for you on here.


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