I want to tell you a story about my senior prom:
I had senior AP science lab with a girl who bragged for weeks about the $700 prom dress her father had bought her from a very popular store in the mall. Daily, she chronicled the whole expensive dress-shopping experience for everyone at our cat-dissection table and, by the time the bell rang each day, I was the one feeling a little shredded. I did not have $700 to spend on a prom dress. I had about 100 bucks saved up from my after school job to pay for my entire prom ensemble.
I decided I’d look just as good as $700 Dress Girl by refocusing my priorities. I started running and worked my butt off for a few weeks. I recycled a very beautiful ($100) gown and matching shoes I’d worn to a cotillion a few years before. My mother performed some alterations on the dress so it fit like a glove. I booked an appointment at a hair school for an inexpensive, professional hairdo. I bought a lot of cheap makeup at the drug store with coupons I’d clipped from the Sunday paper and read a few Internet tutorials about how to create a flawless face. I painted my own nails and bought $5 faux diamond accessories at Claire’s.
The end-result? I felt like a million bucks and received a ton of compliments on my look. $700 Dress Girl was mortified when 3 other students (who did not sit at our science lab table) showed up to prom wearing her exact, same, $700 gown.
Please, don’t make the same mistake as $700 Dress Girl. If you want to look like Cinderella at your prom, but you’re also on a Cinderella budget, you’re totally in luck. In fact, you’re in the position to do much better than I did, because you’re living in the age of mobile couponing. Check out my top ten tips for looking fantastic at prom on a teenager’s budget:
1. Stay Away from Dress Boutiques: When I started shopping for prom dresses, I made the mistake of going to all the same, over-priced, designer boutiques everyone else was shopping at. You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on a prom dress! You can find much prettier, trendier dresses at stores like Forever 21 and H&M. Check out this dress I wore to a wedding recently; it cost $15 at Forever 21!
2. You Probably Don’t Need New Shoes: Here’s the thing about your prom shoes: you’re not going to wear them. You’re going to take them off as soon as you hit the dance floor. Chances are, you have a pair of black pumps in your closet that are perfectly suited to whatever dress you’ve picked out. Wear them! (They’ll look great; I promise!) Don’t waste money on shoes you’re only going to wear for 15 minutes.
3. Get Your Makeup Routine Down: Look, you should have a fabulous dress for prom, but, let’s be honest: it’s all about the face. Nail your makeup, because your friends will be taking pictures of you, not your dress. Set aside a pre-prom hour to do your makeup well and jazz it up! Nothing says prom like a fabulous red lip.
4. Take Care of Your Hair: Find a beauty school near you and book an appointment with a stylist-in-training. There are tons of naturally talented men and women who can do an amazing up-do even when they’re still in school. You’ll get your hair done for half the cost and your styllist will shower lots of attention on you, because you’ll be one of his or her first clients.
5. DIY: Paint your own nails. Make your own jewelry. Need a coverup for a chilly night? Head to the craft store and buy a beautiful piece of fabric for a fraction of the cost a shawl will set you back at the department store.
6. Recycle: What do you own that you can repurpose for prom? Now’s a great time to see if Mom will lend you her diamond earrings or her string of pearls. Costume jewelry can get ridiculously expensive; see what friends and relatives will let you borrow that’s the real deal. (Hey, it’s what celebrities do for the red carpet!)
7. Work up a Sweat: Trust me, you’re going to feel the best in your prom dress (whatever it costs) when you feel the best about you! Find an online workout routine and get on those crunches for a few weeks. Ditch the junk food and try some healthy snacks like fruits and nuts. The stronger, fitter, and more well nourished you are, the more beautiful you’re going to look and the more confident you’re going to feel. And taking better care of yourself doesn’t cost a thing.
8. But Don’t Spazz: Take your time getting ready but don’t freak out about every little detail. If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re defeating the entire purpose of prom. You’re absolutely going to look your best when you’re relaxed and happy. (You’ll take much better pictures, too.)
9. Go Natural: Want to whiten your teeth? All you need is a little hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Want to exfoliate? Simply mix some granulated sugar with olive oil and scrub. Want extra-shiny hair? Coconut oil conditioner will do the trick. Don’t waste money on spa treatments when it’s practically free and way more fun to do them yourself with a group of girlfriends at home.
10. Mobile Coupon! Prom shopping presents so many opportunities to save with your smart phone. If you’re buying a new dress or new shoes, make sure you SnipSnap some deals before you hit the stores. There are tons of fashion and beauty coupons in the SnipSnap app right now, so it’s impossible not to save on every part of your look, from head to toe. Going out to eat with your friends afterwards? Make sure you snip a restaurant deal and you could collectively save a ton of money at your table.
Want more ways to save? Follow me in the SnipSnap app and subscribe to my Prom 2013 coupon bundle, where I’ve hand-snipped dozens of deals to help you do prom on a budget and have one, unforgettable night.