My Story: Frugal Prom

contributed by Jacque

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"Prom" and "frugal" seem to be two words that don't go together, but if you put some forethought in, you truly can put them together, and your child can still have the starry-eyed fun experience without the price tag. How? With the ante going up annually for higher and higher priced dresses, hairdo's, shoes and more, let me offer some ideas to help you through the season.

You think the season is over, as you just had or are having Prom? No, you're just in time. Just like buying other items out of season, this is a biggie for out of season buying. We typically bought our Prom dresses in June for the following Spring. The most we spent was $33 for a $169 dress. It was a two piece with rhinestone trim, and it is a favorite. Not only do you get an awesome price, but you can almost guarantee that there will not be someone else with your frock on too. And it's truly not out of sync, as trends tend to stay for a couple of years.

Having had two daughters and being on the shoe-string budget plan, we are masters! For our youngest, we found a pair of "generic" clear and sparkly dress shoes for approximately $15 at a bridal store sale rack that she wore for 99% of dress up occasions. They looked great with everything. There is no need for shoes to match one dress only.

In our hunt in June and on into July, we would get some things that had good potential like long gloves. These are $20 at most specialty shops, but we got them for $1.99 up to $5. Having a pair of white and black worked out well. We did add a pair of sheer ones with pearl trim that we got for dirt cheap. The same was true with a dressy small bag. Goodwill provided a great selection for a dress purse, and we did have a few. Even at the dollar store I found a satiny gray and black purse.

We shop all year at Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul for dress possibilities, as there is Homecoming and other events. A favorite was an $8 purchase that had been handmade. We changed the straps to make it a halter, and it looked awesome. I do not sew, so we just used a seam ripper to undo the shoulder straps. We got several items there for under $12. We also invested in a great pair of black sandals at St. Vincent de Paul for $2 that proved to be a great asset. Don't forget about asking or giving on either.

Keep in mind that dressier dresses are sized entirely different than everyday clothes. They run several sizes larger than what you typically wear. If in doubt, try it on! And don't judge a dress by how it looks on a hanger. Two of my girls' favorites looked like total duds on the hanger, but they humored their mother and tried them on to discover they were sensational! One of them even made it to the Miss Teen pageant. No one needs to be privy to where you get all of your great bargains. When you get your shoes, practice wearing them. There is nothing worse than a lovely dressed young lady that can't walk in her shoes.

Yes, you can get your hair done, but an electric hair setter (which is what the stars use) can be purchased for approximately $2 or less at most second hand stores, and most of them are new. Practice, and go to Wal-Mart or your favorite fabric store and get some sweet little rosebuds or pearls for accent. One or two bunches will do and you've accessorized your hairdo like the pros!

I am unclear who started the garter thing for high school prom, but if you must have one, don't pay $10 to $20 at the specialty store. Instead, go to Wal-Mart's bridal department. Get a little ribbon that is the color of your gown, and add a couple of the rosebuds or pearls you got for your hair with a glue gun. It'll be custom made to match your dress!

Just like the generic shoes, we had generic jewelry that could be worn with anything. However, by visiting the super sale bins after Prom, we found a few other things to work with for a few dollars.

Do you need super nails? Invite friends over and do each other's nails. Give French manicures and practice on hair. Take your vitamins and you'll have nails that will be all the envy. If you cannot decide on a color, clear makes things look finished and together. The same is true for toes!

Silk flowers worked out great for us. They're not easily smashed, so they can be kept as a keepsake. And they are much cheaper than fresh. Wrist corsages are not hard to make, nor are boutonnieres! This will save a bundle.

For pictures, we had a group of friends meet at a park so we got a lot of fun pictures. Because of this, what they ordered from the photographer on site was optional, and the pressure was off. We lined all the kids up on the steps to a slide. It was awesome! They were glowing, and that picture is a favorite to this day.

You can fix dinner at home for the kids. Try spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. It's great. Everyone can contribute to the meal. It's much cheaper, and they are so excited anyway. It's a great way to handle dinner. Also, I reminded the kids that they could order sandwiches in nice places and enjoy the environment.

When it was Homecoming or something other than Prom, we often invited the kids to come to our home after the festivities. We usually had a "lock in." They were there until morning. They brought movies, music, munchies, and comfy clothes to change into, and we served a light breakfast before they headed home. They could have fun, all the parents could relax, and everyone was happy, safe and saving money.

For tuxedos, check for places that offer discounts. Many times, at the place where the girl buys her dress, the guy can get a discount on tux rental. Also, it's generally not publicized, but major chains often offer "discount" tuxes by request only. They are last year's tuxes and less than half the price! Who knew? But you have to ask! It's crazy to pay $100 for one night's wear. Ask for out-of-season or last year's models and prices. They will rent them to you.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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