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The average prom cost? Try $1,078 on for size [Video]

May 15, 2012|By David Lazarus

How much does the average family pony up for prom? A lot more than you'd think.

Our friends at Visa, the credit card company, conducted a survey and determined that $1,078 is typical for the outfits, limos, parties and assorted goodies associated with the annual rite of passage for young people.

"Prom season spending is spiraling out of control as teens continuously try to one-up each other," says Jason Alderman, Visa's senior director of global financial education. "It's important to remember that prom is a high school dance, not a wedding, and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility."

But apparently they don't, especially parents in lower-income families.

Visa's survey finds that a jaw-dropping $2,635 per prom will be spent by families making less than $30,000 a year. That compares with $842 for families with a yearly income of $75,000 or higher.

Clearly prom is seen by many families as an important coming-of-age ritual for which no expense should be spared. But it's also a potential learning experience if teens are asked to foot a significant portion of the bill.

That's not the case.

Parents pay nearly two-thirds of the expenses, according to Visa. "One of the reasons that prom spending may be running amok is that parents are paying the vast majority of the costs, giving teens little incentive to economize," says Alderman.

Probably not a bad idea for all concerned -- parents, kids, schools -- to dial things back a bit. Prom is fun. But it's not a life-changing event.

The after-party, on the other hand ...

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