15 Sep 2014
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Students Get Creative to Keep Down Prom Costs

Economy's slump has teens looking for ways to save money.

Students Get Creative to Keep Down Prom Costs

For those who think today's teens are immune to the economy's woes, think again.

student Collin Labak said the downturn is “certainly a factor” in how much he’s spending for prom this year.

“I personally believe that there are more than a sufficient number of ways to keep the cost low while planning a fairly lavish night,” he said.

For example, Labak sold five boxes of candy via a school fundraiser, which brought his $100 prom ticket price down to zero. And he was able to receive a free tuxedo rental by handing out coupons to his peers from Men's Wearhouse.

Because he was able to take advantage of those money-saving opportunities, Labak said he can “go a bit more ‘all out’ on the night of prom while keeping the overall cost relatively low.”

Hinsdale South’s prom is set for May 14, at the Palmer House in Chicago. Post-prom will be held at Dave and Buster’s in Chicago. Tickets for both would cost a couple $250, not including the costs for attire, corsages and boutonnieres, and even limousine rentals.

Labak is not alone in trying to keep costs down for the dance.

Fellow Hinsdale South student Varshini Kumar said while the price norm for prom dresses is about $500, she scored a deal and paid only half that.

“And I plan on jazzing it up with my own accessories from a store,” she said.

Kumar also plans to get more bang for her buck by having the dress hemmed later so she can wear it again.

“Tons of girls say they want to shorten it later but I’m definitely doing that,” she said.

Kumar will do her own nails on prom night, and her sister is on hair duty.

“She’s been doing my hair since I was little,” Kumar said.

Her sister’s best friend, a cosmetologist, will help Kumar with her makeup.

“Overall, prom is really expensive, but there are definitely ways to get around the expense by being frugal and smart-minded,” she said.

Hinsdale South student Gabby Stonyte said she falls “in the middle” as far as prom night expenses. She is attending two, so her costs will be a little higher than some. But she’ll save money by using a coupon to get her nails done and doing her own hair.

“I looked up hairstyles on YouTube and how to do them,” she said.

She was also able to land a dress for much less than the $800 price tag.

“I understand getting a dress for maybe more than $300 if you’re going to wear it again,” she said. “But people spending $1,000 and they’re going to wear it once like a wedding dress? I just don’t think prom has that same special connotation.”

Stonyte also opted to be frugal with her shoe purchase.

“The shoes I wanted were $80, but I decided to look around a little more,” she said. “I know my limits.”

Hinsdale South student Sebastian Ostrowski said he and his date plan to split the costs for prom night.

“I’m trying to save money so I’m trying not to go all out,” Ostrowski said. “Of course I’m going to have a good time, but nothing too extreme.”

At in Downers Grove, an employee said gowns range in price from $99 to $300.

Steve Potter, owner of , a tuxedo rental and formal wear shop, said tuxes at the store range from $99 to $140, depending on styles and accessories.

“The tuxedo market has moved up a little bit each year,” he said.

Potter said some of that cost is due to the rising fuel surcharges for transporting the formal wear to the stores. And the rental market has not been immune to the economy’s downturn. Potter said over the years black tie charity events have dwindled, putting a dent in rental sales.

“The prom market is the biggest part of our rental market now since the charity aspect has declined,” Potter said.

Hinsdale South High School’s 2011 prom theme is “Time of Your Life.” And many students plan to have just that, without spending a fortune.

“Even one-night opportunities can be economized without sacrificing too much of the experience itself,” Labak said. “Though I don't buy into lame cliches, an experience is made memorable by the people with which it is shared, not by the luxuries purchased for that experience.”

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