It’s prom season, and even if it’s been, um, a long time since you’ve
freaked out thought about prom, for high school students (and their parents’ wallets) it’s a big deal. USA Today (thanks for the heads up, Pat’s Papers!) looked at spending patterns for the average prom-goer, and the results are pretty surprising.
First of all, the costs of prom are rising, according to data from a Visa survey. This year prom goers are expected to spend $1,078 on prom, which is up from $807 last year–a hefty 26% increase. “This is social-arms-race spending. It’s extreme,” Jason Alderman, who’s director of Visa’s financial education programs, told USA Today.
What’s triggering this prom spending mania? Experts are pointing the finger at celebs, reality shows, social media, and fashion blogs (sorry!). An advertising director at Seventeen Prom told the paper that girls see proms as their “red carpet moment.” Since people are getting married later, and debutante balls and coming-of-age parties (My Super Sweet 16 notwithstanding) aren’t really happening as much anymore, proms are becoming a more important MOMENT.
In addition to wanting that Jennifer Lawrence-in-Prabal-Gurung reveal, there’s a lot of pressure to be original and unique. Thanks to Facebook and other social media platforms, not to mention a zillion fashion blogs featuring peers showing off their personal style, girls no longer want to “go to a national chain and get the same dress that 18 other girls have.” Striver parents are an issue, too. Kit Yarrow, a psychology professor who wrote a book about Gen-Y buying behavior, told the paper, “Especially in really affluent households, the parents, in a way, use their kids to proclaim their stature to other parents. They use their kids to communicate to the community who they are.” Ick.
Where you live and your income level also affects how much you’re willing to spend on prom. If you’re from the Northeast or the South, families will spend an average of $2,000 and $1,047, respectively. Those more down-to-earth Midwesterners/Westerners? About $700. And one surprising stat is that those families in the lowest income bracket in the Visa survey ($20,000-$29,000/year) will spend the most on prom–about $2,600–while the highest income brackets will spend about $700-$1,000.
The USA Today article also looked at data compiled by Seventeen Prom and TeenPROM and broke out where all the money is going. Click through to see the surprising breakdown.