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Good Question: Why Do We Spend So Much On Prom?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s more money than most adults would spend on themselves for one night, but parents are spending an average of $1,139 per family on prom in 2013, according to a new survey from Visa.

Why are we spending so much on prom?

“I want it to be a night I’ll never forget, and I’ll be able to tell my kids about,” said Taylor Mueller, a Chaska High School student shopping at Mestad’s Dress Shop in Southdale Mall.

It’s a competition, to a certain degree, to see “who has the coolest dress at prom,” said Maggie Deslauriers, a Wayzata High School student.

The real answer might be because parents are paying for it. According to Visa’s survey, parents will cover 59 percent of the total cost of prom, giving students little incentive to control their spending.

Mueller said her mom set a limit on the dress — $300. She has to spend an extra $100 to cover the total cost of her dress.

“When she told me, I was shocked how much she spent on the dress,” said her friend Marissa Bartlett, who said her dress cost “just” $190.

But both young ladies say the expenses don’t end with the dress.

“You need shoes, hair done, some people get their makeup done professionally,” Bartlett said.

“Then there’s dinner, limo, dress, shoes, nail hair makeup, it’s a lot,” Deslauriers said.

It’s easy to run up a tab of several hundred dollars, the girls said.

According to Visa, families in the Midwest spend the lowest on average of any geographical region — $722.

Northeastern families will spend an average of $1,528. Southern families will spend an average of $1,203; and Western families will spend an average of $1,079.

Couldn’t it be done cheaper?

“Probably. I could do it for a lot cheaper,” Mueller said.

“Prom has devolved into a competition to crown the victor of high school society, but teens shouldn’t be trying to keep up with the Kardashians,” said Nat Sillin, Visa’s head of U.S. Financial Education in a company press release.

Here are a couple of troubling statistics:

Parents surveyed who fell in the lower income brackets (less than $50,000 a year) plan to spend more than the national average ($1,245) while parents who make over $50,000 will spend an average of $1,129.

Single parents plan to spend $1,563, almost double the amount that married parents plan to spend at $770.

“The prom is an opportunity to teach teens how to budget. If they want that sparkling dress, fancy dinner, and limo ride, this is the opportunity to set a budget and save,” Sillin said.

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