The Average Prom Night Costs How Much?!

The average family spends $1,139 on the big dance

We already heard the average price of an American wedding is continuing to soar. So perhaps not surprisingly, the cost of prom is keeping pace -- with families spending an average of $1,139 in 2013, according to the results of a new survey released today by Visa.

That represents an increase of 5 percent over 2012, with the Northeast region leading the nation in spending (at over $1,500!) for the second year in a row. And guess what: Parents who fell in the lower income brackets tended to spend more than the national average, and single parents spent about twice as much as married parents for their child to attend the big dance.

All of this begs the question: Where on earth is all that money going?!

Well, of course it starts with the apparel, with the cost of many typical dresses hovering around $150 and up. And then there's hair and makeup, photos, limousine transportation -- and the cost of the dance tickets themselves.

Plus, the spending frenzy is often about keeping up appearances in school. "Prom has devolved into a competition to crown the victor of high school society, but teens shouldn't be trying to keep up with the Kardashians," said Nat Sillin, head of U.S. financial education for survey-sponsor Visa in a statement. "The prom is an opportunity to teach teens how to budget. If they want that sparkling dress, fancy dinner and limo ride, this is the opportunity to set a budget and save." And what better time for kids to learn then just when many are about to launch out on their own?

To that end, Visa has launched a new, free smartphone app called Plan'it Prom that lets users create a realistic budget, track their spending and stick to the plan.

And the company also offers tips to keep spending for the big day from veering way off the rails. For instance, shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online, have make-up done at a department store's cosmetics department, split the cost of a limo with others and take your own smartphone photos.

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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