Once Layton High School senior Luke Herzog gets his tux, dance tickets and flowers, and takes his date to a nice day date and dinner, he usually shells out $300 to $400 for prom.
And the girls often spend as much on a dress, up-dos, nails, even eyelash extensions or time at a day spa, said Bonneville High School student body president Mackenzie Stevens.
Stevens likes to cut costs wherever she can -- and she's not alone.
Many students are finding they can have a great time and not break the bank.
SBlt Alternative day dates
Day-date groups often spend hundreds renting a gondola at Snowbasin or the iFly or Flowrider at The Junction, Stevens said, but just as many groups do low-cost activities like playing hockey, dodge ball, hide-and-seek, or going on a video scavenger hunt.
That's something her mom appreciates.
"I've chaperoned enough to know day activities can get a little out of control. I appreciate when my kids do creative, not expensive, day activities," said Debbie Stevens of Riverdale.
Davis Larkin, a senior at Layton High, said one of the best day dates he's been on cost $6 a couple. "My friends and I from prom met at a church gym and played "Minute to Win It" games and ate ice cream after," he said.
Hailey Gold, another senior at Layton High, agreed the "Minute to Win It" date was a blast, and she also enjoyed a scavenger hunt through the Gateway mall and making graham cracker gingerbread houses.
Layton High student body president Emily Glende said she enjoys going to a park to play volleyball or soccer, sledding or swimming. "You can watch a movie and hang out. You can have fun at Nickelcade for about $10. There are always fun things to do," she said.
The list goes on:
Laurie Gibby of Riverdale said her daughters prefer inexpensive dates like playing board games or mini golfing.
Kari Byington of Hooper said her kids enjoyed building snowmen in the mountains or going bowling.
Utah State University homemaking specialist Teresa Hunsaker says card games or a walkie-talkie version of capture the flag are fun options.
A couple of day-date ideas can also save money overall:
Heidi Shaw of Riverdale said her nephew's dance group got a bunch of flowers from Costco and created their own boutonnieres and corsages as a day date.
Hunsaker likes the idea of students preparing their dinner during the day.
SBlt The look
If you want to save hundreds on prom, the easiest way is to spend next to nothing for the dress or tux.
Glende said she has never spent more than $30 for a dress.
"Almost everyone has a friend who spends a lot on dresses you can borrow from. I borrowed a $500 dress, got a dress for $9 at the Northridge dress exchange and got two dresses at Ross for $12. You can sew on sleeves if they're not modest. There's always a way to find an (inexpensive) dress. (Online classifieds) have dresses all the time," she said.
Gibby said buying a strapless dress is one of the best ways to get a gorgeous gown for next to nothing. Because there is less demand for them, they are often on clearance. She sews sleeves on them and usually spends $15 to $30.
Hoping to help families save money, Shaw helped organize a dress exchange for girls in her stake for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was surprised at the response, both from girls coming to borrow dresses and girls willing to lend.
"I had two kids in high school at the same time and some have one every year. It gets really expensive," Shaw said.
Mackenzie Stevens often buys dresses more than a year in advance when she shops clearance racks in the summer. "I've bought seven dresses and the most I've spent is $60. I know how many dances I have left. I've had this year's prom dress for a year and a half," she said.
Another way to save big is to spend a little time learning how to do your own hair and nails, or asking a friend for help. Stevens said she and her friends had a blast at a pre-dance nail party where a friend in cosmetology school helped them do their own nails.
Hailey Gold adds that beauty colleges charge only $10 for an up-do.
Guys can get around full rental price for a tux, too.
Gibby said most boys in choirs have a tux they may be willing to lend, and a family can save money by buying a used tux, especially if they have more than one son.
Because most guys take the jacket off anyway, Byington said, it is a good idea to use your own black pants, white shirt and shoes and spend just $15 to rent a vest and tie.
SBlt Dinner and transportation
When mom is the chef and waitress, dinner costs can go from $100 to less than $20.
When she hosts a dinner for her kids' dance groups, Byington said, she wears a waitress-type outfit, pulls her hair up and uses a false name. She tries to do something fun, like offering an April Fool's theme where the kids have to guess what they're ordering.
"Eating at someone's home is a big one to save money," she said. "We've done a whole bunch at our house. It's not that hard. You can get candles and a tablecloth at the dollar store. Just sprinkle confetti down the middle. You can get a big package of green salad, Rhodes rolls, a baked potato, steak and dessert for $15 a couple."
Glende said she enjoyed an around-the-world theme where the group went to different homes for each course of the meal, like a Chinese egg roll appetizer and Italian pasta as the main course.
When it comes to transportation, mom or dad's car is cheaper than a limo. Hunsaker recommends getting a family member to drive and using vinyl letters to put a fun logo and limo service title on the door or windows.
SBlt Flowers and pictures
Byington said it's simple to make your own boutonnieres and corsages.
She always keeps the wristbands from her daughter's corsages to use for her sons' dates. You can hot-glue ribbon and flowers from the grocery store onto the wristband, she said, using a simple technique of working in odd number of flowers with three on one side, three on the other and one in the middle.
As for boutonnieres, wrap a flower with green floral tape and use a long pin with a pearl head.
Byington doles out less money for pictures by asking her kids to choose either group or individual pictures. If they want both, they have to come up with the money themselves.
Hunsaker said you could also take the pictures yourself.
"There are some amazing places around the county to set up a photo shoot and prints are pennies at Walmart and Costco," she said. "There are a lot of ways to save money, but whether kids will buy into them, no pun intended, is another story."