Prom on a Budget: Prom is as Fun With a $50 Dress as With a $500 Dress

Prom can be a super expensive night but there are ways to save money on prom. You can still have an amazing time and look as gorgeous as ever with these tips for prom on a budget.

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Prom was simpler back when I was in high school. There were no promposals. A guy (usually) asked a girl to go to the prom, and that was it. If you had a boyfriend or girlfriend I think there was barely an ask; it was pretty much assumed you would go together.

It seems like proms are a lot more elaborate these days. With elaborate can come expensive, but it doesn’t have to be like that.

Prom on a budget

I am many years away from my own prom, and many (many!) years away from my daughter’s prom (she’s only 3!!). But I know some of you have teenage kids (or if you’re in high school yourself and you’re reading this) and coming up is that big rite of passage in high school – PROM!!

People can drop a ton of money on their prom, from the all-important dress, to shoes, hair, makeup, corsage / boutonniere, jewelry…whew!

But you don’t need to spend a lot of money on prom (whether it’s your prom or it’s your child’s prom).

You can do prom on a budget and still have the prom of your dreams.

Other frugal living posts to read:

How to save money on prom

Prom dresses

I loved my prom dress!!! ♥ ♥ ♥ I STILL love my prom dress and still have it hanging up in my closet.

My prom dress didn’t cost $500 or $100 or even $50.

It cost $20.

You read that right.

And it was gorgeous.

My prom dress came from a unique upcycling boutique. They took thrift store clothing and fabric and upcycled them into creative designs.

There might be creative clothing stores in your city that would have amazing prom dresses for much less money than the typical prom dress. You might have to ask around to find such stores but it’s worth it. You can find something unique that you love and will help you with your prom on a budget goals.

If you don’t have this kind of upcycling/fabric artist store there are still upscale second hand/thrift stores in many cities. You might be able to find a gorgeous vintage dress or a current dress (including designer) for a fraction of the price of it new.

I realize my experience is not typical and there’s a good chance you will want to/have to spend more than this. But I wanted to share my prom dress story to show you what’s possible. I never felt deprived or embarrassed that I didn’t spend hundreds on my dress.

Another option you might want to consider is renting a prom dress. You get to wear a gorgeous gown for a fraction of the price of buying it outright. One $255 retail dress cost $30 to rent and a $795 (!!) retail priced dress cost $105 to rent. Huge prom savings right there!

An important note about undergarments

Depending on the cut of your prom dress, you may or may not be able to wear a regular bra. This adjustable bra strap extender will help you save money on prom because you don’t need to get an expensive specific bra for your dress. It lets you wear a bra you already have, and converts it so that you won’t see it if you have a backless or low back dress – it’s great!

If you have a halter dress, off the shoulder dress, or backless dress too, this sticky bra is the thing to get. Before trying a sticky bra, I was super skeptical that it would work/stay on. I had visions of dancing and my sticky bra unsticking, slipping down my dress and ending up on the dance floor. I can (gladly) say that this didn’t happen and the bra stayed exactly where I put it, even after a night of dancing.

Flowers for prom

A great tip on how to save money on prom is to buy prom flowers at a grocery store instead of a florist. There is a huge money saving potential here! Check your local grocery store for prom flowers such as the corsage and boutonniere. Many grocery stores have a flower section, and stock for seasonal events like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and prom. Check ahead of time to make sure the grocery store offers prom flowers, but if they do this is a chance to save some money on prom.

This is a great tip for other occasions such as baby showers or weddings.

Prom hair and makeup

Have a pre-prom makeup and hair date with your best friends instead of getting your hair and face done at a salon.

Not only is this fun, you will save lots of money and help you keep your prom on a budget. There are usually friends who are more adept at hair and makeup than others. I was not one of these girls so I was very grateful for friends who were better than me in this department (thanks Bern!!)

Shoes for prom

If you can, wear a pair of shoes that you already own. Even Duchess Kate has been seen in outfits she has worn before. It’s no big deal.

If you don’t already have something you can use, buy something that you will wear again. There’s no need to have a one-time use pair of shoes. Higher quality thrift stores can have some great dressy shoes, including designer shoes if that’s your thing, you just need to do a bit of hunting.

Prom car ideas

A special note on prom car ideas because my husband is a total car guy.

Sure you can rent a limo or a fun car. BUT, there also might be someone in your family, a parent, an aunt or cousin who has a fun car that they wouldn’t mind lending you for the night. There’s no harm in asking around and it could help you save money on prom night.


This is an important one. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or as much money as other people to have a great night, or to feel beautiful.

This goes for prom night, for dates, even for your wedding.

Doing prom on a budget is not embarrassing or less than. When many people look back on their prom, they think they spent too much money on it. People don’t look back on prom and wish they spent more on this one night.

I spent much, much less money than most people do on prom and I had an amazing night. I have no regrets. The cost of your dress or your hair staying perfectly in place isn’t what will make this a magical night.

Let go of the idea of the perfect everything. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy the music, the food, your date. Make memories not based on money! xx

Do you believe in doing prom on a budget or do you go more all out?

Suchot - The Curious Frugal
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