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Building a cheaper prom night

Survey says students spend on average $1,100 on prom night

MIDDLETON - Prom season is in full swing, but a night to remember often comes with a tab that high school students and their parents won't soon forget.

Unless you or your teenager is going through the event yourself, it's easy to forget everything that goes into that big night.

The tickets. Food. Transportation. Hair. Makeup. Shoes.

And this year's prom could be the most expensive yet on record.

But Martha Meyer, a senior at Middleton High School, is just one student who is not buying into an expensive prom.

This year's prom will be Meyer's second at Middleton High.

"We're seniors, so I feel like your first prom is the bigger deal," said Meyer.

So Martha decided to go to Citrine, a vintage clothing store on State Street, to search for a dress that would not blow up her budget.

"A hundred, I think, would be the max," said Meyer of her prom budget, which would be a fraction of what most teens will spend on the big dance this year.


According to a survey by VISA, high school students will spend about $1,100 on average on prom night.

"A lot of people treat it as like the end all, be all, and there are other days you can do stuff extravagant," said Martha.

Pricey proms seem to be bringing more people to roam used clothing racks or looking for secondhand sparkle at consignment shops, like The Pink Poodle on Madison's west side.

"There's definitely been an uptick this year compared to other years, but its always been a good business for us, even in other years," said Pink Poodle co-owner Joe Testa.

Testa can mark down the used gowns to a third of the actual price.

And since money is tighter for many, selling thriftier dresses makes for good business.

"They'll start looking as early as December or January, because they know that we have it and they want to get first dibs," said Testa.

Once Meyer says yes to her dress, her prom purchases are done.

"The tickets are 20 bucks," said Meyer. "Other than that, we're literally spending no other money."

For a budget far below that four-digit national average, Meyer is happy to pass on those steep price tags.

VISA conducts this survey every prom season.

This year the credit card company found that Midwestern families are expected to spend the least of any in the country: $722 on average.

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