The Hidden (And Not So Hidden) Costs Of Your Teen’s Senior Prom

Greg Hewitt

It’s a good thing he’s the last one because don’t think I can afford this anymore.”


These are the words of an old friend, spoken in frustration as he described how much money he and his wife have spent on their youngest son’s senior prom.

“It’s not just the tuxedo and the cost of a nice dinner,” he told me. “It’s all the other bells and whistles these kids think they need.”

Some of these “bells and whistles” include MTV-like videos of the evening’s events, super fancy limos, and a host of other costly accoutrements.

It’s this “Teens Gone Wild” mentality that stressing parents out.

According to a recent study, the costs of attending a the prom range anywhere from $700-$2000!

And it’s even worse, Parents surveyed who fell in the lowest income brackets (less than $50,000) plan to spend more than the national average – $1,307.

Breaking down the spending by family income, the survey found:

  • Parents who make under $20,000 will spend an average of $1,200
  • Parents who make $20,000-$29,999 will spend an average of $2,635 (?)
  • Parents who make $30,000-$39,999 will spend an average of $801
  • Parents who make $40,000-$49,999 will spend an average of $695
  • Parents who make over $50,000 will spend an average of $988
  • Parents who make over $75,000 will spend an average of $842


(The study also found that parents are planning to pay for 61% of prom costs while their teens are only covering the remaining 39%.  (Here’s a thought, maybe we reverse those numbers.)

So it’s the parents who are least able to afford these costs who are spending the most?

That seems a little crazy, right?

And why is that? Are parents who make more money just better or more discerning shoppers?  Are they more connected to those who can pass along favors?

Important questions to answer before your child expects a prom night version of MTV’s “My Sweet Sixteen”, a show which takes pride in celebrating a new class of entitled brats, desperate to “keep up with The Kardashians”.

Fortunately for me, my kids are too young for any of this nonsense… yet.   Just to play it safe though,  I’m already setting aside part of their “allowance” as a down payment for any  limo rental costs!

Experts (and common sense) suggests that parents have to establish the ground rules for these sort of circumstances. The earlier they say, the better.

And if they have a problem with that, you can always quote from Dr. Phil…





More from Greg Hewitt

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