Prom spending highest among poor northeastern families
April 29, 2013 1:50 AM   Subscribe

Prom spending rising again, average of $1,139 The USA Today story is based on a recent VISA press release about prom spending that comes out every year. The VISA press release breaks down how prom spending is highest among Northeastern families, with Northeasterners averaging $1,528 compared to Midwesterners paltry $722. It also shows a breakdown by income category with families earning less than $50,000 spending an average of $1,245 while those from higher earning families spend $1,129.

The USA today article focuses only on the national $1,139 average and ignores the regional and income differences. Naturally, it has been picked up by the AP and you will probably see versions on all the TV news shows within days, offering shopping tips for those forced to economize.

Last year's survey broke down the spending by income category:

Parents who make under $20,000 will spend an average of $1,200
Parents who make $20,000-$29,999 will spend an average of $2,635
Parents who make $30,000-$39,999 will spend an average of $801
Parents who make $40,000-$49,999 will spend an average of $695
Parents who make over $50,000 will spend an average of $988
Parents who make over $75,000 will spend an average of $842

The inversion of the relation between family income and spending is striking. Somehow, the USA Today article didn't cover this.
posted by notmtwain (77 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Presumably the family with more income will already have purchased many of the accouterments 'necessary' to participate (suit/dress, nice car, etc.)
posted by anewnadir at 6:22 AM on April 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow, I had no idea. Glad that my kid followed in my footsteps of never going to a prom. I was so out of the loop in high-school that I didn't even know when or where the proms were or how you'd go about going to one.
posted by octothorpe at 6:24 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I find these figures highly, highly questionable. A family making under $20k spending $1,200 on a prom? I just can't see it.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:28 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


People must get wealthier by spending wisely or something.
posted by Brian B. at 6:29 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like the analysis of the young man in the USA Today article:
"The way I see it," he says, "I worked a little over two weeks shoveling stalls at a horse barn to spend five hours at a dance."

They should retitle the article: "Your prom- VISA survey says it is worth 10 weeks of shoveling manure"

// Hmm, well maybe we can drop the limo...
posted by notmtwain at 6:37 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


When that VISA press release came out my wife and I sat down and tried to figure out how to get to $1200. Dress, shoes, hair, dinner, prom ticket, limo... I still have no idea.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:38 AM on April 29, 2013


People must get wealthier by spending wisely or something.

No doubt that's true, but the quoted figures aren't about wealth, they are about income. Not at all the same thing.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:51 AM on April 29, 2013


How come we've never had a MeFi prom? We could all dress up in prom gear and go there in a limo and do prom things, like slow-dancing, drug abuse and voting for prom Sovereigns. I watch Community like you people all told me to, and they have dances every fucking week, often involving crazy japes and hilarious adventures. Here at MeFi University we get NOTHING. Mathowie is the worst. dean. ever.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:52 AM on April 29, 2013 [18 favorites]


Will you be my date, the quidnunc kid?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:55 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


When that VISA press release came out my wife and I sat down and tried to figure out how to get to $1200. Dress, shoes, hair, dinner, prom ticket, limo... I still have no idea.

It could be like that Wall Street Journal infographic that was just wildly incorrect.
posted by odinsdream at 6:59 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This doesn't come as a shock to me. I grew up in the Northeast in a rural school district that had more than its fair share of low-income families. I'm only going by my own anecdotal evidence but I'm willing to bet that most of the low-income families in this study also are the least likely to have their kids go to college or leave the area where they grew up. It comes as no surprise that these families will spend more on Prom than their better-off counterparts. Prom is the high point of these kids' social lives, especially when your prospects after graduation aren't as robust as those from higher-income families. That extra 200-300 dollars that the poorer families are spending is probably the one chance where their sons and daughters will have to feel "special" and not be conscious of the class & income gap between them and their classmates.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:00 AM on April 29, 2013 [24 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I find these figures highly, highly questionable. A family making under $20k spending $1,200 on a prom? I just can't see it.

There's the fact, already discussed, that wealthier families are more likely to own the "capital" required to go to prom (tuxedo, car, etc.).

But I'd also be willing to bet that a senior prom is a point of higher leverage, so to speak, for poorer/less educated families. Mine is a good example - my parents, and none of my aunts or uncles on one side of my family, went to college. All married to the person they went to senior prom with (and all but my parents are still married to that person). Their prom was a much bigger deal to them than mine was to me - I went with a high school girlfriend and both of us knew the relationship was going to end fairly soon.

Obviously an argument from anecdote, but I have a hunch that these things are more highly correlated with marriage, and thus are just bigger deals, to families in lower income bands.
posted by downing street memo at 7:04 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not only will the wealthier family's kid already have a lot of the accoutrements, but also, the wealthier family's kid will have been to more events/occasions/fancy dinners, so outfitting for prom won't feel as urgent. If you've been putting on fancy clothes and going to expensive restaurants and formal social occasions since junior high school, prom is a big deal only because it's a teenage milestone. It's not also a big deal because it's the one time you get to wear a ball gown.

Basically, when you always spend more for everything, you don't tend to spend much for occasions when people who always spend much less than you are also spending more for the event.

Class structures are a labyrinth.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:06 AM on April 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Prom is the high point of these kids' social lives, especially when your prospects after graduation aren't as robust as those from higher-income families.
That's a really good point. My daughter's senior prom is in a few weeks, and we're all excited about it, but then she has graduation and college orientation and dorm-room shopping and moves 2 hours away in the fall--it's just a fun event amongst other fun events, not a Big Deal.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:08 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I disagree that the wealthier parents already have bought all the stuff-- how many already have the limos that they all rent? A boy teenager's tux is probably too small after six months, certainly after a year. Girls are presumably changing size almost as rapidly. Nobody has corsages lying around. I do like the idea that the prom is just that much more important as a right of passage in certain areas and to some groups of people.
posted by notmtwain at 7:14 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Like the cost of weddings, that's just ridiculous.

Your daughter doesn't need a $800 dress. Buy a $100-150 and deal.
Guys---you don't have to buy your date everything under the sun.
posted by stormpooper at 7:15 AM on April 29, 2013


Great. Can someone run a predictability report and let me know how much I'll be spending when mine gets to be that age? She's four, do I need to start saving now? Is there some sort of IRA that I can use for this? Can someone get me the name of a halfway decent off-shore tax shelter so I can still pay my rent that year?!?
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:17 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


My sister says her junior prom was one of the best nights of her life, and all it cost her was the price of a couple of hits of acid.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:18 AM on April 29, 2013 [24 favorites]


I disagree that the wealthier parents already have bought all the stuff
Tuxes are rented, dresses are bought. Typically these involve a credit card... and interest... which is generally based off income. It's not necessarily about the stuff that's bought, but how that stuff is paid for.

(No, I'm not going to circumnavigate the nuances of the world of credit, but debt to net is one of the factors. Generally speaking people with less net have a higher cost associated with spending the same amount.)
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:24 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


The wealthier parents probably already have things such as special undergarments, fancy shoes, etc. I'm guessing the girls are going to buy new dresses/shoes, but they're more likely to have access to nice jewelry and other accessories. The boys might already have tuxes if they're doing the wedding/social circuit, and definitely have dress shoes.

It might also be an accounting thing. If you're already getting a regular tan, nails done, fancy restaurant meals, etc., you don't consider it a prom expense. It's just your way of life.

As a data point, I spent $200 on my prom dress, and nearly as much getting it altered. And my family was poor, but when you're in high school and all your friends are going, and you're aware that in a few weeks you'll all be headed in different directions and Things Are Going to Change... well, you save your waitressing money and get the fancy dress and shoes. This was over fifteen years ago, so I can see how it'd cost more now.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:25 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd be curious to know what the median is -- surely this is only the average. But the breakdown by income is troubling. (If it weren't for the income breakdown, I'd assume this average was closer to the "average" wedding or "average" income.)

I'd also be interested to see the gender breakdown. It seems like there'd be a female penalty -- hair, makeup (either professionally done or increased costs in buying makeup), shoes (two pairs, according to one of these links!), dress, dress alterations, undergarments to wear with the dress (most women in this age group may not already own the strapless bra etc. needed for most prom dresses), jewelery, formal purse... it adds up to a lot more than a $180 tux rental and a corsage, although I guess it depends on whether the couple is going dutch.

I really resent spending money on things like hair and makeup, and I probably spent a good $500 to be a bridesmaid, which is a similar level of formality. (Breakdown: $180 dress. $50 alterations (I saved a lot there by using a local shop instead of David's Bridal, like the other bridesmaids; I think they paid at least $100 for even minor alterations). $100 makeup -- I did my own, but I didn't already own appropriate makeup products (I hate makeup) and the bride's expectations were clear. (Note that this wasn't Crazy Fancy Makeup, this was the bare minimum that would be acceptable in pictures and would not make me break out. And my nails weren't done at all.) $50 hair -- required by the bride -- and probably cheap compared to most areas, as this was in a rural area and the hairdresser was a friend of the family. $25 shoes (black ballet flats, DSW). At least $100 for other required garments and accessories -- appropriate strapless bra (required for the dress), hose, formal purse, hair clips, etc.)

I hate spending money on this kind of thing (which is why I didn't already own these things), and I wasn't making much money at the time, and I was paying the bare minimum I could get away with without going below the bride's expected level of quality. If it hadn't been a wedding and I hadn't been held to the bride's expectations, I could have saved a lot -- thrifted dress, thrifted purse, doing my own hair, etc. (In fact, that's what I did for my prom, where I did do my own hair -- frankly, it looked better -- and I wore a vintage beaded 1950s dress from the thrift store.) But I can definitely see where someone could spend a lot more to get ready for prom than I did to be a bridesmaid, without feeling like any individual purchase was *that* crazy.
posted by pie ninja at 7:31 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


In high school, me and my stoner friends would scrawl "Bomb the Prom!" on the bathroom walls and whatnot. It was funny then, but these days it'd probably get us a visit from the FBI.
posted by jonmc at 7:32 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Presumably the family with more income will already have purchased many of the accouterments 'necessary' to participate (suit/dress, nice car, etc.)
I'm sorry, but the difference between the spending in the $20,000-$29,999 range and the $40,000-$49,999 range is nearly two thousand dollars, and:

(1) Families making $40,000-$49,999 a year do not have teenage children who own tuxedos;

(2) Renting a car for the night does not cost anywhere near $2,000, let alone $2,000 per family having a child going in that car.

Something else is going on here.
posted by Flunkie at 7:41 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Girls around here (small towns, rural) spend $400 to $600 on a dress and all the stores record which girl going to which prom bought the dress so they don't sell the same dress to another girl going to the same dance. And the kids all go to at least two proms a year -- theirs, and their boyfriend/girlfriend's at a different school -- and wear a different dress for each (And all the proms have actual "promenades" where they all dress up and all the adults in town come to watch them walk with their date under an arch of balloons and along a red carpet and they give them roses and all kinds of things.)

It is literally insane. I grew up in the suburbs and tickets for my prom cost $175/couple which was PLENTY ABSURD, and there was all the limo and dinner and next-day amusement park expenses, but people wore $200 dresses and bragged about getting them on clearance if they managed to and wore the same dress all "prom season" if they went to more than one, and sometimes wore them again the next year.

I know these women (and men) buying their daughters $400 one-time-wear dresses, and doing it SIX TIMES over three years if their daughters are popular, and they're not dumb or financially irresponsible, but I just cannot understand it at all. They complain bitterly about the expense, but they keep paying it. I guess the pull of the cultural norm is just really strong.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:41 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that the higher-income parents pat themselves on the back afterwards for how brilliantly thrifty they are, just before they pack their kid off to rack up a quarter million in college debt.
posted by XMLicious at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2013


As a yurpean, I have alway looked at the whole US prom phenomenon the same as way as I looked at initiation rites from the Dogon in Africa. Exotic, bizar and not meant for understanding by outsiders.
posted by ouke at 7:50 AM on April 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


It is literally insane. I grew up in the suburbs and tickets for my prom cost $175/couple which was PLENTY ABSURD, and there was all the limo and dinner and next-day amusement park expenses, but people wore $200 dresses and bragged about getting them on clearance if they managed to and wore the same dress all "prom season" if they went to more than one, and sometimes wore them again the next year.

I want to say tickets to my prom were $50/person (maybe it was $75) and included dinner and transportation--my prom was fancy enough that it was at a hotel and not the school. I know roughly what my friends spent on prom, like no more than $250/person (for reasons lost to history, I was there for the dress shopping), but now I'm really wondering what the 'normal' people at my school (which, as a general rule, was rich) were spending.

As a yurpean, I have alway looked at the whole US prom phenomenon the same as way as I looked at initiation rites from the Dogon in Africa. Exotic, bizar and not meant for understanding by outsiders.

This is, however, why my mother was very insistent I go to prom. It was a curious American tradition and she'd be doing us a disservice by telling us it was stupid and not to bother going. (My brother even went twice! And then had to spend the next two years convincing our dad he wasn't dating the girl he went with. He definitely wasn't. The math team went as a group and dates were actually assigned based mostly on height, which is weirdly enforcing of social norms, but whatever.)
posted by hoyland at 7:55 AM on April 29, 2013


ouke: "As a yurpean, I have alway looked at the whole US prom phenomenon the same as way as I looked at initiation rites from the Dogon in Africa. Exotic, bizar and not meant for understanding by outsiders."

I grew up in suburban New Jersey and feel the same way about proms.
posted by octothorpe at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is basically why I didn't get to go, even though I wanted to.

It doesn't surprise me that poor people spend more. For people who are unlikely to ever go to college, etc, your prom and your wedding are basically the high points in your life, and you're probably never going to be able to find the money to spend $100k on a wedding. But $2000 on prom can be scraped together from somewhere if the whole family pitches in. A chance for every kid to have this supposedly magic moment before they have to go on to the drudgery of the real world.

A $200 dress is way more economical, but then you're just paying to go to a party, you are not achieving a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience. You're operating on the assumption that you will probably go on to bigger and better things.

My parents totally would have done it if they could have. In my 30s, now, I'm glad they didn't, but they would have if they could have.
posted by Sequence at 8:17 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I spent $5 on my prom: $3 on Jiffy Pop and soda, $2 on a video rental of Carrie.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:20 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


FEIGNED OUTRAGE!

I'm sorry, but the difference between the spending in the $20,000-$29,999 range and the $40,000-$49,999 range is nearly two thousand dollars, and:

(1) Families making $40,000-$49,999 a year do not have teenage children who own tuxedos;

(2) Renting a car for the night does not cost anywhere near $2,000, let alone $2,000 per family having a child going in that car.


We're talking about a PR release from a financial-planning services company. That's what's going on here.

I went to prom 3 times. Prom rules.

My guesstimate:
Tux: $80 (this was the late '80s, maybe that's high)
Shared limo (usually with 4 couples): maybe $200-250 if I'm covering my date .. a high guess .. I remember paying $100 one year ...
Corsage: ... ... $20-25? (honestly, not much shopping around here)
Dinner: after limo and tux, next biggest expense, but also variable: my senior night I had a nice dinner, but let's just say: $50 (again, '80s dollars)
Tickets: prob. $50 per couple
Liquor contributions to whomever got it however: ~$20 (again covering date)
Total: $420, which is a high but fair estimate

"Your prom- VISA survey says it is worth 10 weeks of shoveling manure"

Well, I think the claim was "a little over two weeks" ...

Though times have changed, it's probably fair to compare wages to expenditures. I was making a shitty $4/hr painting those summers, so it would have taken me about ... 105 hours (?!), or yeah, two and a half weeks of work to pay for prom.

I didn't have my own car, we weren't old enough to go to anything but all-ages $1-2 shows, I had a friend who worked at the theater and would open the back door, etc. etc. Prom was one of those things you were just expected to save and pay for. Nowadays, even more than the '80s, I would expect dates to share costs.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:22 AM on April 29, 2013


When that VISA press release came out my wife and I sat down and tried to figure out how to get to $1200. Dress, shoes, hair, dinner, prom ticket, limo...

Let's see, I was a high school senior in 2002 and despite being a nerdy outcast did actually go to prom. I have very little recollection of the cost of things, but I recall spending money on:

-Tux rental (girlfriend purchased a dress), maybe $150? It wasn't the cheapest rental possible, but far from the "luxury" rental.
-(girlfriend paid for hair and makeup, no idea how much that cost. Let's say $100.)
-Tickets to the event, pretty sure they were about $75/person. Included dinner.
-Limo rental, ended up being about $50/person. We crammed 8 or twelve people into one vehicle. I do recall some people arriving in Rolls Royces/other ridiculous rental transportation.
-Flowers. Corsage for her, boutonniere for me. Maybe another $25 for each of those?
-Photos by a professional photographer at the event, which seemed expensive to me at the time. I think the budget set was something like $150. Times two, since each family wanted one.

So, we budgeted hard because none of our parents were paying for this stuff and that comes out to about half of that $1200. We each could have easily spent double on clothing, more money for the limo, fancier flowers, more photographs. I'm not surprised about the prices, I guess.

One thing not mentioned that I wonder if was included in the numbers - the pre- and post-parties. Everyone gets together at one person's house to hang out beforehand (and makes it easier for the limo to collect everyone at one location). For a lot of people at my school, too, prom was just a prelude to the "real" party, presumably where they could drink alcohol and go a little crazy. We ended up renting a vacation property on the shore for a night, so there was added cost of the overnight - gas to and from (we drove ourselves), food, the actual rental property itself. Our nerdy friends ended up drinking a lot of soda and eating chips and playing board games all night.

My younger brother got an even better deal than I did, since he didn't need a limo - I chauffeured him to and from the event and all they had to do was buy me dinner while I waited for them.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:23 AM on April 29, 2013


As a yurpean, I have alway looked at the whole US prom phenomenon the same as way as I looked at initiation rites from the Dogon in Africa. Exotic, bizar and not meant for understanding by outsiders.

You may enjoy reading about Body Ritual Among The Nacirema
Professor Linton [3] first brought the ritual of the Nacirema to the attention of anthropologists twenty years ago (1936: 326), but the culture of this people is still very poorly understood. They are a North American group living in the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. Little is known of their origin, although tradition states that they came from the east.... [4]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:24 AM on April 29, 2013


Nth'ing all of the "once in a lifetime" points above. Also, this is another opportunity to remind ourselves that wealthy people will spend less money on the exact same thing as poor people.

For one thing, the Gown Emporium in Bumfuck, New Hampshire, probably makes most of its money from prom, so it has to jack up the prices on prom dresses to stay open for the other 11 months of the year. The Dress Studio in New Canaan, Connecticut, is selling many more dresses all the time and can afford to take a much smaller profit on prom dresses.

For another, the New Canaan kids have a much larger selection than just the Dress Studio, which also pushes prices down.

Rich get richer; film at eleven (or for our Premium subscribers, at ten-thirty).
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Will you be my date, the quidnunc kid?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on April 29 [+] [!]


BACK OFF
posted by desjardins at 8:36 AM on April 29, 2013


How about the regional differences? How do you explain the fact that northeastern parents will spend twice as much as midwesterners? Is that the "Footloose factor"? (midwesterners disapproving of dancing)
posted by notmtwain at 8:39 AM on April 29, 2013


Stuff is cheaper in the midwest. Not half as cheap, but still. Also, we have a culture of frugality, at least in my area (southeastern Wisconsin).
posted by desjardins at 8:41 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Midwesterners do not disapprove of dancing (or drinking). You're thinking of Baptists.
posted by desjardins at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Visa info is missing a few other expenses. Most kids these days will be sequestered overnight in a hotel for the after prom party. They will then most likely have a day-after breakfast or brunch or day-trip to an amusement park. These are usually coordinated events. So add the cost of a hotel room or two, food, bus rentals, park tickets etc.
posted by Gungho at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


But $2000 on prom can be scraped together from somewhere if the whole family pitches in

This is pretty much how it happens, according to a report on this issue I heard on Public Radio last week.

Various family members chip in as much as they can, they use layaway plans, multiple credit cards, take on odd jobs, and just generally do whatever it takes to make it happen. One woman they interviewed pointed out she didn't get to go to prom or made to feel special when she was in high school, so she found herself strongly driven to give her daughter a better experience.

I can understand. My prom experience was shite -- one of the worst nights of my high school experience -- but I'm not too cool for school: I very much want my son and daughter to go to prom and have an awesome time. However, rather than bust out the credit cards and such, I plan to leverage our socio-economic status in such a manner that they have decent afterschool/weekend jobs and can save the money themselves to make it happen. :-)
posted by lord_wolf at 8:53 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm curious how Visa actually determines that certain spending is or is not on a prom.

Also, I'm curious how/if they take into account spending that was done through means other than Visa. I'm especially curious how much of the supposed effect might be explained away if wealthier families were more likely to have both a Visa and one or more non-Visa cards.
posted by Flunkie at 8:54 AM on April 29, 2013


I'm curious how Visa actually determines that certain spending is or is not on a prom.

From this year's survey: "The survey results are based on 3,000 live telephone interviews conducted nationally from February 15-17, February 22-24 and March 1-3 in cooperation with GfK Roper OmniTel."

// It's not based on transaction data.
posted by notmtwain at 8:58 AM on April 29, 2013


I'm sorry, but I find these figures highly, highly questionable. A family making under $20k spending $1,200 on a prom? I just can't see it.

Prom is a new thing here, too new probably for great amounts of spending to be the norm, but it's not uncommon for lower-income working-class* families to spend a significant amount on presents at Christmas, or on branded clothes, so that the kids have the 'right' things. It's leveraged on catalogue accounts and weekly payment stores, but that still means that the kids will have what their friends have.

*Middle-classes seem to be the opposite - now not having a TV isn't a sign of poverty as much as it is a sign of making particular lifestyle choices.
posted by mippy at 9:20 AM on April 29, 2013


I think the explanation here is some combination of what KingEdRa describes up here and what Blue_Villain describes up here.

Also, sure you don't have to rent a limo, but if you don't have a decent car to go to the prom in (meaning, if your car looks really junky and is a source of shame because you can't afford a decent one or the exterior maintenance), then it's going to be a lot more tempting to go ahead and spring for the limo rather than just renting a normal car. As for the tuxedo rental, well, you don't have to go in a tux, but if your background is poorer, you're probably more likely to worry about not looking as good as your peers, and you're going to have to plunk down something extra to get there, whether on buying new clothes or renting a tux.

It's sort of like the boot parable that came up in a different thread recently. Things are generally more expensive when you're poor. When you take those factors into account and then take into account the social/cultural considerations, these numbers are just about what one would expect to see.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2013


And the fact is, showing up looking less wealthy than your peers does have real negative social consequences (that is, it's not just about minimizing embarrassment, but also about maximizing potential social opportunity), so it's even basically rational for poorer people to spend more in an attempt to increase their odds of forming and maintaining the kinds of social relationships that might help them escape poverty in the long-run (i.e., hanging out socially with richer people).
posted by saulgoodman at 9:57 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another European here so it's all a bit mysterious to me, but I think this:

If you got laid for the first time, it'd totally be worth it.
If you spent all that money and didn't get laid, Reddit have just got themselves another life-long member of the Mens Rights subreddit.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:00 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Will you be my date, the quidnunc kid?
posted by shakespeherian

BACK OFF
posted by desjardins


The two-dates-to-one-dance conundrum, a classic sitcom trope!

Now if someone would only host a rival dance featuring Sophie B. Hawkins ...
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:06 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is depressing but not surprising.

It reminds me a little of the phenomenon of eighth grade graduation: the families hooting and carrying on the most are not those of the kids who are most likely to end up at elite colleges in a few years. Again it seems like an inverse ratio, with the families with high academic expectations treating it as pleasant but unimportant marker, and those with lower expectations thinking it means something big.

Here it's social not academic, but a similar dynamic. If you are going to spend a lifetime attending fancy adult parties the first may have a special place, but it's one of many. If you will only ever get one or two shots at this it will loom much larger.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:09 AM on April 29, 2013


I knew it, the quidnunc kid is Abed and I claim my $5.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2013


next-day amusement park expenses

What?

Back in my day, there was dinner, then the prom, then you left for whatever party and/or sex you had planned.

When did they add amusement parks?
posted by Fleebnork at 10:26 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm still a little bummed that being in a theater competition meant that I couldn't go to my hip school's prom and instead had to go to the square school's. But being petit bourgeois, I didn't spend much and my date didn't expect me to spend much. The only real regret I have is that since we went as friends, it was years later that I found out that I could have gotten laid if I hadn't been so goddamned focused on the propriety of the situation.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


(1) Families making $40,000-$49,999 a year do not have teenage children who own tuxedos

Er...some of us do. It's not unusual for the young men in high school Orchestra to be required to wear a tux.

(Elder Monster's tux for Orchestra in high school set us back ~$175, including alterations. He's 21 now, it still fits him beautifully, and he has worn it to a number of formal occasions.)

I'm hard pressed to figure out how to get to $2600 for Prom, even if we had bought his tux specifically for Prom. As it was, we paid for all of it for the kids (including her dress), because he wasn't getting a lot of hours at work, and her Dad was recovering from surgery and had a shit-ton of medical bills, and we still spent MAYBE $400? The bids were $80/couple, and included a catered dinner. She found her dress at a thrift shop for $20, and she already had shoes she loved. She did her own hair and nails, he raided my stash of Urban Decay and did her makeup for her. There were flowers and photos and they had an after-party at a friend's house with a bonfire and snacks. Said friend and her date did the driving for both couples. The next morning, they came back here with 8 friends and we hosted a brunch for them.

I dunno. Are they showing up in horse and carriage in other parts of the country?
posted by MissySedai at 10:34 AM on April 29, 2013


Part of the cost of my senior prom included lightsabers, which we used to duel on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House afterwards.

TOTALLY WORTH IT.

That said, we didn't rent a limo and my dress was cheap etc etc. Prom wasn't really the social event of the season for my school, it just meant better dresses and hair. I think I actually spent more all told on fancy sweet sixteen party dresses and gifts-- it just came at the end of a long line of weirdly swanky parties for teenagers, and I suspect that yes, it did play a different role in a world where many girls participated in deb balls and galas soon afterwards.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:34 AM on April 29, 2013


So, I'm guessing:
percentage of Metafites who didn't go to prom: 65%
percentage of Metafites who went to alternative prom: 15%
percentage of Metafites who went to prom, but won't admit it: 10%
percentage of Metafites who went to prom, will admit it: 5%
percentage of Metafites who didn't have prom to attend: 5%
perfentage of Metafites who hate prom, hate idea of prom: 100%
posted by Ideefixe at 10:35 AM on April 29, 2013


percentage of Metafites who didn't go to prom: 65%

I didn't go to my Senior Prom because I was living in Germany at the time.

(I did, however, go to Abitur-Ball, which was pretty fucking fantastic. Lost my shoes at that party, took the train home barefoot and quite blau.)
posted by MissySedai at 10:48 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Of course some families making $40,000 to $49,999 a year have teenage children who own tuxedos. I was speaking in a general rule sense, not in an absolutely literal decree from the heavens sense.
posted by Flunkie at 10:48 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I'm guessing:
percentage of Metafites who didn't go to prom: 65%
percentage of Metafites who went to alternative prom: 15%
percentage of Metafites who went to prom, but won't admit it: 10%
percentage of Metafites who went to prom, will admit it: 5%
percentage of Metafites who didn't have prom to attend: 5%
perfentage of Metafites who hate prom, hate idea of prom: 100%
posted by Ideefixe at 10:35 AM on April 29 [+] Favorite removed! [!]


I enjoyed my prom. I just don't see the point of spending thousands and despise articles like the one in the USA Today which try to make it seem like everyone is spending thousands (and if you don't, what's wrong with you?)

I heard Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze" the other day for the first time in a long time, which tells you when it was. I didn't have to spend $1,139, even inflation adjusted. I think It was less than $100, which I paid for since I had a job. I did get to borrow the car.

I stand by that young man who said it should at least be a good enough time to be worth a couple of hours or weeks of shoveling manure. (Well maybe not too close.)
posted by notmtwain at 11:01 AM on April 29, 2013


percentage of Metafites who didn't go to prom: 65%
percentage of Metafites who went to alternative prom: 15%
percentage of Metafites who went to prom, but won't admit it: 10%
percentage of Metafites who went to prom, will admit it: 5%
percentage of Metafites who didn't have prom to attend: 5%
perfentage of Metafites who hate prom, hate idea of prom: 100%


I went to 4 proms. Had a good time. It only took 30 years to pay off the loans.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:11 AM on April 29, 2013


I just don't see the point of spending thousands and despise articles like the one in the USA Today which try to make it seem like everyone is spending thousands (and if you don't, what's wrong with you?)

No, I think the point there is to say, "Hey, do you need help managing your finances? I have something to sell you ..."
posted by mrgrimm at 11:18 AM on April 29, 2013


I did not go to my prom because I left high school way before my senior year.

I did go to another girl's prom that I met at a conference, she asked me to come 100 miles to be her date because her boyfriend, who was 700 miles away at college, couldn't or wouldn't make the trek, it wasn't entirely clear. I had to scrounge around for a fax machine (who uses those anymore?) to send in a consent form that allowed dates from outside of A Certain Confederate General High School (no, not the one in the next town over, I told my mother...no, not the one in the next county over...look, there are a lot of Certain Confederate General Highs south of the Potomac), and since I was 18 I naively thought that maybe we'd start dating, after all, she asked me out, didn't she?

The prom was perfectly fine. We didn't dance very much because I was too nervous to dance. She was clearly conflicted about it because a week beforehand during one of my trips to go see her (the stupidest thing to hand to an 18 year old who's already in community college instead of high school is a pair of car keys and a willingness to drive up and down the valley) we had, in my car, a conversation that preceded, yet sounded exactly the same, as the scene from 500 Days of Summer in the car where they try to figure out what they are and nobody knows, though I hadn't seen the movie yet.

She popped up every few months in my life thereafter to beg me to come see her as she bounced around the region, drawing closer and farther, (with curiously more intensity when I acquired an actual girlfriend, as if my mettle was being tested...and I never failed) only to flake at the last moment, and every time I fell for it, until the very last time over Thanksgiving last year when I swore her off for good. We're not Facebook friends anymore, and the 4th number in my phonebook for her (she loved losing her phone) doesn't work anymore. At long last, at peace.

Wait, what was the thread about? I totally forgot.

Right. Costs. I spent, like, $200 on the whole affair, plus whatever dollar amount heartbreak is. She looked gorgeous in the thrift-store ball gown and tiara she wore for no real reason other than she wanted to, which is all the damn reason in the world you need.

It matched her eyes.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:57 AM on April 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


(All I'm saying is 18 year olds are dumb motherfuckers.)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:58 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Adjusted for inflation, I'm pretty much on-par with the midwesterners--a tux rental, corsage, nice dinner, and my share of a group limo rental was, if I remember correctly, about $300 in 1984. If we're adding in next-day amusement park, a night (or two) at at hotel, and all the meals, transportation, new outfits, etc., that go with that, it's not that hard to double it, and that's without the parents hosting a fancy party.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is purely anecdotal, but may say something about how kids from wealthier families approach prom. My kid goes to a private high school where the students are from some of the wealthiest families in town (we're the token bus-taking, ramen-eating outliers). When it comes to formal wear, the girls go for vintage or classic pieces that can be worn in the future. Dresses skew understated rather than over-the-top taffeta and shiny satin. The prom is billed as a formal dinner and dance, and acts as an introduction to the kind of adult social event that kids of that class will soon be expected to attend. Limos, bling, big dresses, big corsages: these things don't mean anything to my kid's schoolmates because that kind of conspicuous consumption is not how they roll. They don't need it to create a special night because they take access to wealth and its trappings (Nana's tennis bracelet, Mummy's vintage Halston) for granted.
posted by atropos at 12:44 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went to my prom and hated it, though that was due more to the crippling cramps I had that day than anything else. (Also, my boyfriend was a whiny asshole all night.) I think I (well, my mom) spent around $150 on my dress -- which felt like a HUGE splurge -- but to be honest, I think it might be the most beautiful dress I'll ever wear. It was nice getting so prettied up, getting my hair done and all that. I rented a limo with my friends, and I think the actual prom ticket was like $60, this was in 2000. (And, BONUS, our prom was held at the same place that hosted the first-ever outbreak of Legionnaires', because Philly is awesome.) We went down the shore that weekend, but stayed at a friend's relative's house, so that was free. All told, it was probably around $300? Which my parents kindly paid.

I guess if you make it an all-weekend extravaganza with a super-amazing dress/tux etc, it could get up as high as these averages, but I'd still be curious to see a break-down. Not out of judgey-ness just....has it changed that much in 13 years/
posted by kalimac at 12:47 PM on April 29, 2013


Huh? I got a tux that was maybe $100, a group of us shared a limo rental, maybe another $50. Dinner, maybe $50.

$200 or so for me. This was early 90s, so maybe costs have gone up.
posted by zardoz at 12:55 PM on April 29, 2013


I went to prom; didn't know I should have taken a change of clothes; drove around a bunch looking for the other party we were invited to... delivered date back to her BF around 2 or 3 am
posted by NiteMayr at 1:07 PM on April 29, 2013


When did they add amusement parks?
posted by Fleebnork at 10:26 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


When MADD stepped in and got all hot and bothered about Prom night drinking and driving. Some schools in my area REQUIRE kids attending the prom to go to the school sponsored after party. They are threatened with expulsion unless they have a letter from a parent stating that they will pick up the kid(s) from the prom and take them directly home.
posted by Gungho at 1:35 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]



I'm not sure my Prom experience means anything, what with it happening during the Carter administration....

I was on the Prom committee. I believe the theme was "A Place for Us" from West Side Story. We actually made a bazillion of those Kleenex carnations.

We were wooed by tuxedo stores. I remember going to lunch at the Spaghetti Factory and being given coupons to give to the dudes. Also...presumably, hey! Spaghetti Factory for prom dinner.

We vacillated between a live band and a DJ. Disco was the height of fashion, but being unutterably cool, we went with the band. (They were awesome.)

Venue, Thunderbird Country Club.

I still find it hard to believe that 6 high school girls pulled it off. It was a ton of work, but we made it happen. I think I'm getting my high school experience mixed up with Daria's, but I don't remember having any adult supervision AT ALL!

So I drove my own car, I didn't have to pay for a ticket, and I had to be there early so no pre-prom fancy dinner. My Mom insisted on having my dress made, and it may have cost $100.

That's 1979 $100 though.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:36 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


After reading this, I was all set to brag about how I only spent $10 on my prom dress at Goodwill, did my own hair and makeup, and my date took us through the McDonald's drive through on the way. Then I remembered that I had to pay for the prom tickets, which were $100 each. Plus we had to spend $30 to get someone to buy us beer afterwards. So even my incredibly lazy prom was pretty damn expensive.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 2:04 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hearing about other people's proms is always fascinating to me, because the more I hear the more it seems like my high school was a weird prom anomaly (apromaly?). Public school, upper-ish middle class suburbs in Western New York. I got my prom dress on the French Club's trip to Paris, that kind of school, but:

-Tickets were $15
-The Junior class sold corsages/boutonnieres/whatever as fundraisers for the next year's (their) Senior Prom, which kept costs down. I guess they bulk ordered? Solicited donations from florists? I actually have no idea.
-Transport was about half limos, half decorated cars. We took a white minivan, labeled it PROM MOBILE (but spaced the letters so poorly it ended up being more like PROMO BILE, whoops) and added a foam dorsal fin.
-Everyone went to the school sponsored Post Prom activities, because the gym was full of bounce houses. Getting hotel rooms was considered really weird. Post-Post-Prom house parties were much more common.
-Dresses were pretty freely shared. If you & a friend were going to another school's prom, you'd just switch dresses.

Prom was awesome, it was a really low-stress affair. This was only ten years ago. Disappointingly, I think times have changed. I heard some kids took a helicopter this year, which just seems like it would really mess up your hair.
posted by troika at 2:15 PM on April 29, 2013


Not strange at all. My youngest went to a school with most working class trending to very poor children. Once day she came home to tell me a particular friend was extremely rich. They had wide-screen TV, fancy brand-name clothes, holidays in faraway countries, and a huge amount of cash stashed away behind a painting in their one-bedroom apartment.
I didn't know how to explain this all.
posted by mumimor at 2:29 PM on April 29, 2013


Great, I'll add this to my long list of reasons not to have children.

Suckers.
posted by nowhere man at 2:34 PM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


My junior prom was great--serious partying on the downlow, and we were a bunch of misfits, so we really went in the spirit of ironic "let's see what the straights do" kind of thing.

Senior prom was spent in a park with friends, imbibing and partaking of heroic amounts of essential hallucinogenic substances, and going to the beach for sunrise, with an equally heroic brunch that morning, and then a few-day-long continuation of the party.

No tux necessary for either one; combat boots, baggy pants, a corsage in my motorcycle jacket for the former, no flower for the latter.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:45 PM on April 29, 2013


Huh. I borrowed a prom dress—just had to pay $7 or so for the dry-cleaning to get my friend's lipstick off of it—and bought the prom tickets, which I think were around $60 total. I did my own hair and makeup, wore a vintage rhinestone necklace from my collection, bought at a flea market. That's it!
posted by limeonaire at 6:08 PM on April 29, 2013


I think the poor spend more on prom because they know that life after that one night is a HUGE disappointment. Let the little people have their one big moment, I say.
posted by Renoroc at 8:58 PM on April 29, 2013


I've never understood prom. Back then, it was like, you want me to pay HOW MUCH to see the same stupid people I see and hate for free every day, dressed up? You want me to pay HOW MUCH to dress up in an uncomfortable dress and put crap on my face and feel really self-conscious? No thank you. My boyfriend kind of wanted to go, so I told him to find someone else to go with. Do I regret not going to prom? I'm 99% sure I don't.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:56 AM on April 30, 2013


I didn't go to Prom in High School. I didn't care about Prom, I didn't like the entire idea of Prom, we didn't have the money for it, no one wanted to date me, and I've never missed it.

However, the one singular event that my Grandma made sure that I didn't miss out on? When our HS Men's Basketball Team made it to the quarterfinals. Then the semifinals. Because in our family? Sports are way more important than some silly dance. Which is a philosophy I can live with.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:05 PM on April 30, 2013


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