Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The $300 Prom Challenge!

I've decided to repost this, since it's prom season again, and I wrote this when I had many fewer readers. Enjoy!

It's prom season, and plenty of parents have their credit cards at the ready, financing this perfect teen Night To Remember. Some high schoolers take on extra jobs to help foot these gigundu bills. Our daughter attended a private, affluent suburban high school (which I generally loved), so I braced myself. While her friends were generally more distinguished for their idealism than their materialism, when the occasions arose, the money was there. For Junior Prom, I looked the other way and encouraged her to spend what seemed appropriate in such a context. I didn't want ruin the fun or embarrass her with my soapbox preaching about waste and excess. She found a great dress on-line, in the low 3-figures, needing alteration ($50). There were the shoes, the requisite Up-Do , also $50, the boutonnière, the ticket ($75, chivalrously picked up by her date), and the one that really got to me, and mortified my daughter, too: the Hummer Limo. She skipped the manicure and day-at-the-spa, but quite a few of her friends added that to the day's prep. They all looked great and had a lot of fun. About a million pictures were taken by adoring baby boomer parents.
Senior year the story was different. She had decided to take a gap year and was focused on earning money to cover her living expenses, so we made her a deal. We figured out a prom budget of $300 based on Liz Pulliam's article citing the American average of $296. We told her if she came in lower than $300, she could pocket the difference. I figured I'd rather spend it on her than on all the trimmings, and she quite agreed.
Here's how it all worked. She went to a conventional department store to see what the dresses were like. Awhile later she called from Daffy's, a designer discount fashion store, to ask if she should buy a terrific black long dress that looked great on her and cost $35. The answer from her mom was "Yes! What are you, crazy?" Score. She wore junior year shoes, bought a brooch on Ebay, tried (unsuccessfully...) to lobby against limos and do a trolley bus, which would have been cheaper, and covered her ticket. I read up on boutinniere-making, which is simple as could be. The yellow roses were in bloom, and I made her date's boutonnière. I will never see yellow roses in early summer without happily thinking of her senior prom.
The biggest challenge was the hair. Having performed in scads of musicals, Nomi knew how to use a curling iron and copious hair spray to do fancy hairstyles. I volunteered for the job, though I hadn't done hair since her pigtail days. It takes a very long time, and I unfortunately wielded the curling iron against skin a few times, but eventually I got the hang of it. She was very patient. It did cross my mind that I might have been better off springing for a professional to do it, but slowly beautiful ringlets, and a radiant daughter, emerged. It was actually quite a creative thrill, and something very special to share. That night when the cameras snapped and friends complimented her on her hair, she winked at me, and said "My mom did it!" Priceless.
The bottom line? She socked $115 away for her gap year, aced the financial challenge, and looked like a million bucks!


shannon said...

this is such a great idea! i think that many high school students would spend a lot less if they had a chance to pocket the difference.

Anonymous said...

LOVED this post! After spending some years in the education field, it's nice to read something like this.