one shoulder dress

Every year, tens of thousands of teens across America prepare for the dance that may become their fondest high school memory. The pressure to look stunning and wow the crowd can be intense, especially in the age of Instagram and instantaneous feedback on one’s looks. Unfortunately, some teens have started treating prom as a mini-wedding, with limos, expensive dresses and demands for perfection draining the fun out of the event.

With a little planning, you can avoid the extra expenses associated with prom and even have fun in the process!

Resale Shops

To some, resale shops carry an unfair stigma, but these stores can be a treasure trove of dresses that have only been worn once or twice. The selection available can vary widely based on the city you live in and the size of the store. But even small towns sometimes have prom dresses tucked away in the corner of a resale shop.

Don’t assume resale shops will have decades-old dresses, either. Many will carry dresses that are only a few years old since parents tend to get rid of prom dresses after their daughters have been at college for a while. Resale shops can be great for classic silhouettes and retro flair, making them a fantastic option for young women of all styles and sizes.

Think Outside the Box

sequin dress

You may have your heart set on a certain color and style of dress, but don’t be afraid to try something different! It’s easy to think the stunning knee-length sequined dress you saw on your friend’s Instagram is a must-have, but maybe your body shape and hair color would be better complemented by a different dress. Sometimes gorgeous patterns that look great on fabric completely overwhelm an outfit.

Keeping an open mind can result in significant savings that can be applied to other fun expenditures or a savings account to help fund your college tuition. If your dream dress costs twice as much as an equally beautiful alternative, going with the cheaper option shouldn’t be a hard decision.

Easy Modifications

Sometimes a dress might be almost perfect but have critical flaws that keep it from being a good fit. If a dress is too low-cut for prom, consider sewing a hemmed piece of fabric into the V-neck to provide more coverage. A strapless dress can be easily modified with straps made or bought at a fabric store. If an otherwise perfect dress is a little too plain for the attendee’s tastes, pick out some sequined trim or other embellishments to sew on.

If a dress is a little too long and poses a trip hazard, a visit to a qualified tailor can usually fix the problem. However, some fabric types are difficult to re-sew and may be more hassle than the dress is worth. Always leave extra time for dress modifications to be completed before the day of prom, since a major miscalculation can require time-consuming corrections. Better yet, follow the classic advice for seamstresses: measure twice, cut once!

Skip the Fancy Shoes

open toe shoes

Let’s face it, nothing is less fun than trying to dance in a pair of shoes that haven’t broken in, yet. One option is to use a pair of shoes that’s already in your closet. After all, very few people are going to be looking at your feet. It’s more important to be comfortable than to be wearing a new and novel pair of heels.

You can also find a cute pair of shoes that can be worn again to other events. While the price of a comfortable and fashionable pair of shoes can be steep, being able to wear them over and over again can justify the cost in the long-term. Shoes in neutral shades, like white and silver, can be paired with a wide variety of dresses, so consider buying something understated instead of a flashy pair that perfectly matches your dress.

Handmade Accessories

Handmade jewelry with unique focal beads and pieces and easy to use components can be a great hands-on activity for crafty teens. Fans of the latest trends will be able to create their own cutting-edge pieces without waiting for department stores to catch up on new styles.

Besides, spending lots of money on jewelry and hair accessories that are too formal for everyday use is a waste. Most teens would rather spend that money on after prom tickets or other fun events. Handmade jewelry can be inexpensive and even more exciting than shopping at the mall.

Handmade corsages are an easy way to save money, too. Grocery store or flower shop corsages can sometimes be limited in color and style, especially if you wait too long to buy or reserve them. Incorporating you or your teen’s favorite flower into a corsage can also be a nice touch that makes the memory of prom even more special for them.

Cheap Hair and Makeup

woman with beautiful hair

The vast majority of the time, inexpensive hair and makeup salons will be just as good as more expensive ones. This is especially true if the prom attendee has a short list of potential hairstyles already picked out and can simply show them to the hairstylist before deciding on the best option. It may be tempting to go to a salon that offers spa treatments and other upgrades on such a special occasion, but chances are the attendee will be too busy or stressed to enjoy them properly.

Whether it’s you or your teen attending prom, consider opting for a simpler hairstyle to avoid having to spend hours in a chair at the salon. Not only will a simpler hairstyle likely cost less, but it will also take unnecessary stress and hassle out of prom preparations.

If your teen is talented at makeup, consider getting her to do her own for the big day. Offer her a tradeoff, like a new makeup palette or supplies she can use in the future, in exchange for not going to a pricey salon.

Finally, consider trading skills with other teens and their parents to make the big day happen on a budget. If one girl in the friend group has amazing makeup skills, negotiating a trade for hairstyling or dress modifications can be an easy way to keep costs down. It can also be a valuable chance for teens to learn budgeting, negotiation and leadership skills. To really make a statement, teens can add special touches to their hair, like flowers or pearls from necklaces, to really elevate their look to the next level without breaking the bank.

Final Thoughts

Prom doesn’t have to break the bank or be a major source of strain on parents’ wallets. Flexibility and creativity go a long way in making a fantastic prom happen on a budget. The experience of making an inexpensive outfit come together can be much more rewarding than simply going to the mall and spending hundreds of dollars. Ultimately, the big day should be about the memories you make, not just about the photos, the glamour and the Instagram likes.

Brenda Kimble is a writer and stay-at-home mother of two daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! She loves blogging, crafting, and spending time with her family. She also enjoys strolling the streets of her quaint neighborhood in Austin, Texas and finding the trendiest hotspots for fashion, food, and live music.