Poor Spend More on Proms than the Rich

VISA Survey Looks Into Prom Spending Habits

Poor Spend More on Proms than the Rich
May 4, 2015

Prom is your child's special night, and while you are watching your budget, you are still willing to spend big bucks to make it so. At least that was the conclusion of Visa's 2015 survey on the expected costs of high school proms. The average spending per prom attendee was expected to be $919, down from 2014's value of $978 but still a significant hit to the family budget.

The survey also found that prom takes an even more disproportionate bite out of the budget of lower-income families. Families above the $50,000 income level were expected to spend an average of $799, while those with incomes below $50,000 expected to spend an average of $1,109. The effect is even more pronounced on poorer households, with families earning less than $25,000 expected to spend an average of $1,393 on prom night. At $25,000, a $1,393 prom bill would be more than 5.5% of the families' overall income for the year!

Increasing the amount of credit they use to cover these expenses compared to the total credit available to them may impact families' credit scores, as credit utilization accounts for typically 30% of a credit score. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.

There were no assumptions made in the survey as to why poorer families spend more on proms than wealthier families, but on one level, it makes some degree of sense — it may be a larger event in the lives of teens from poorer families. Prom may be their only opportunity to have a special memory-making night, while teens from wealthier families may have other chances.

Visa's survey also picked up a few other interesting trends with prom spending.

  • "Promposals" – Increasingly elaborate methods of asking a date to prom, called "promposals" in the Visa survey, are taking up a large component of the prom-related costs. Of the $919 average cost of the prom, almost 35% of that cost ($324) was spent on the promposal. They are beginning to rival marriage proposals in their forethought and creativity. Charging some of those costs to a rewards or cash back credit card could result in savings for some families.

  • Geography – Not that it is a huge surprise, but prom costs are higher in the Northeast and lower in the Midwest. Families in the Northeast were expected to spend an average of $1,169 on prom, with $431 on the promposal and $738 on the night of the prom. Midwesterners, who appear to be the most frugal Americans, were expected to spend an average of $733, with $218 on the promposal and $515 on the night of the prom.

    Western and Southern families fell in-between, with Western families expected to spend $937 ($342 promposal, $596 prom night) and Southern families expected to spend $859 ($305 promposal, $544 prom night).

    However, the frugality prize goes to our Northern neighbors. Canadians intended to spend only $402 (US) on the prom experience, with $119 on promposal and $283 on prom night.

  • Moms vs. Dads – Dads are more willing to spend on prom than moms, according to the survey. Dads were expected to spend an average of $1,160 in 2015; moms were expected to spend $710.

  • Parental Costs – Whether it is Dad, Mom, or both footing the bill, parents were paying a larger share of the prom bill compared to 2014. That year, parents were planning to cover 56% of the prom costs, but in 2015, parents were expected to end up with 73% of the costs. Canadian parents were spending an even greater percentage (76% of costs), but that represented a drop from 81% in 2014.

What can we conclude from the survey? While there are interesting variations with respect to geography and economics, one thing remains a constant — prom night is considered a special night by most teens and their families, and they are determined to keep it special regardless of costs.

If you want more credit to help pay for some of your prom expenses, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers.

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