Parents and teenagers find that saving money on prom dresses, grooming, food and other incidentals during the prom season can be difficult, according to Debra Pankow, PhD, assistant professor of child development and family science at North Dakota State University.
For approximately four years, Pankow has surveyed North Dakota high school students to calculate prom costs. In 2004, couples attending prom in the state spent an average of $509 for one night of fun that's often seen as a rite of passage for teens. Pankow surveyed 509 students who attended prom in 2004, with 285 females and 224 males listing expenses for their prom events. The night seems to be a bit pricier for females, who spent an average of $296 for prom preparations, while males spent an average of $213.
Survey results showed that parents paid all prom expenses for 22.9 percent of the males and 28.5 percent of the females. "Many students paid their prom expenses using a combination of their own earnings and money given to them by their parents and other family members," says Pankow. She points out that teens planning to attend prom can take steps to ensure they don't spend more money than they or their parents can afford.
Pankow notes that prom costs can vary considerably, depending on where you live and how formal the occasion. Add the cost of a limo, flowers, dinner, hair and makeup, tanning sessions, a formal dress or tuxedo, and prom costs can range from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand.
At least one student in NDSU's survey of prom costs had another very practical perspective. "People are going to have memories of what you did, not [memories of] if you had your nails done."
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