Money Wellness
Image of a group of teenagers at their prom. Prom costs become unaffordable. Parents to cut back on prom spending. A third of parents plan to borrow to cover the cost of going to a prom
calendar icon06 May 2024

You shall go to the ball, cost-of-living crisis or not!

Despite the average cost of attending a prom reportedly now topping an eye-watering £400 for girls and £240 for boys, most parents wholeheartedly embrace the sophisticated successor to the school disco, a new survey has found.

A poll by Money Wellness has found over half of parents are happy with the social engagement as it is. This compares to about a third (35%) who believe proms should be scrapped or a spending cap imposed.

Hey big spender

When Money Wellness asked parents how much they plan to spend on their child’s upcoming prom, 40% said they expected to shell out between £250 - £500.

With tickets, outfits, beauty treatments, pre and post-party costs and transport factored in, 10% admitted the total bill would probably be upward of £500.

But it appears even this isn’t as much as some would ideally have set aside for the occasion.

Over half of the parents we spoke to said the cost-of-living crisis meant they’d have to tighten their purse strings.

Mums vs dads

There was a marked difference between mums and dads when it came to the factors most likely to influence their prom spending.

Mums are more likely to curb their spending because of household finances, with over half of the women surveyed saying that rising bills will affect how much they’re prepared to shell out.

While peer pressure was felt most acutely by dads, with 42% saying ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ will play a big part in what they spend.

Counting the cost

A third of parents plan to borrow to cover prom costs, with 25% planning to stick it on a credit card. A further 15% will opt for buy now pay later (BNPL) to spread the cost over three instalments.

Nearly half will cut back on spending or dip into savings. Again, mums seem more concerned about the household budget, with 26% saying they plan to reduce non-essential spending to cover prom costs, compared to just 12% of dads.

In contrast, 20% of dads are confident they can cover prom costs with their disposable income. This compares to just 8% of mums.

Our verdict

Sian Westley, budgeting champion at Money Wellness, said: “Proms mark the start of a new chapter in children’s lives. Understandably, parents want to make it an occasion to remember for their children. But costs can get out of hand and proms now run the risk of isolating children from low-income households.

“We’ve heard stories of kids missing out or getting bullied because they can’t keep up with what everyone else is doing, and of parents choosing to go without essentials, skip meals, or get into debt to cover the cost. 

“Schools should see it as their moral duty to make sure proms are affordable, accessible and enjoyable for all.”

Money Wellness has pulled together a list of tips to help struggling parents reduce prom spending.

Help with outfit costs

Several charities offer free prom dress and suit loans, such as Prom Alley which works on a referral basis from schools, social services, food banks and charities. It has over 3,000 outfits available for loan, with each item checked and fully laundered before it gets sent out.

Other charities worth checking out include:

Some schools also ask former pupils to donate prom dresses they no longer need so they can loan them out themselves to children from disadvantaged families. Speak to your school to see if they offer this service.

Alternatively, visit your local charity shops or Facebook Marketplace, or check out what preloved items are available online at sites like eBay, Vinted or Depop. Occasion wear is often only worn once, and you can pick up some great nearly-new bargains at a fraction of the price.

Look for freebies on hair and make-up

Colleges and training schools are always looking for models for students to practise on. Check out your local beauty schools and hair training colleges to see if any students would be interested in doing your child’s hair and make-up in return for pictures for their portfolios.

Alternatively, lots of make-up counters in large department stores offer make-up lessons for around £30, which is often refunded if you choose to buy any of the products used. This is a much more cost-effective way of getting glam.

Club together on travel

Limos cost about £500 to hire. Club together with other parents to bring down the costs or see if anyone has a family member with a flash car who wouldn’t mind donating a few hours to make sure everyone arrives in style. Alternatively, look into hiring an open-top bus. They are often cheaper to rent than a limo and mean that more kids can travel together in style, further lowering the cost-per-head.

Help with ticket prices

Some schools have hardship funds designed to help the kids who need it the most. If you’re struggling to afford the ticket price, speak to your school and see if they can help. Alternatively, visit Turn2Us to see if there are any charities who can help.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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