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Monday, November 24, 2008

Frugal Formal, Frugal Prom

Although it is November, and proms are spring events, the frugal parent’s thoughts should turn to proms (or similar events) around now…if not sooner. My own thoughts never turned to proms, having skipped the prom in my countercultural high school days, but my children’s thoughts do tend in the formal direction at times. And since I still pay for their desires, and I have a daughter and a son, I have had to think about the dress and the shoes and…the tuxedo.

While one might think that it is the daughter’s prom that raises my frugal hackles, that would be a mistake. It is easy to have a frugal prom for the female: with stores like Ross and TJ Maxx and the other usual suspects, it is no hard task to find a dress for under $20, even cheaper than a thrift store price. So I let my daughter go her own way on this (last year a $12 dress with borrowed shoes; this year a borrowed dress with old shoes and new earrings from Target for $23, including shipping).

But the boys! No one thinks about them. But their prom is actually more expensive: more than $100 to rent with all sorts of add-ons. Answer: thrift store with large lead time. A few years before my son was of prom age, I noticed a tuxedo for $5 in my area thrift. It was a medium size (40R) so I bought it. So for the next year of so I kept the future prom in my frugal filing cabinet (i.e. my brain). But I didn’t stress about it because I figured that even if I had to buy the rest new I would still be ahead over renting. But eventually I found a silk bow tie (15 cents! In the Halloween costume section); we had some black pants. Only problems: shirt and cummerbund. Amazingly, I found a new tux shirt in the Food Bank thrift store ($2.00). Cummerbund…it was getting close. I looked on ebay and found them ridiculously expensive. Finally, at the Habitat for Humanity Store I found a cummerbund. Unfortunately, it was attached to a complete tuxedo set for $30.00. So, I begged the manager: “Please Ms. Charlotte, can I buy just the cummerbund?” YES! (I am a good customer and have even volunteered a few times).

So instead of renting for $100 plus, we “own” for under $20. This set has been worn twice.

Runner-up solution for those who don’t bliss out at thrift stores: JC Penney’s! A very nice wool blend tux is $100; accessories are reasonable too. If you wear it once, it is the same as renting. If you wear it twice…easy math.

A funny story: one of my students worked at a tux rental store and when I told her about my success she said “EWWWWWWW. You don’t know who wore that stuff.” To which I replied: “Probably some rich guy who gained weight. But lots of people wore those rental tuxes.” She agreed.

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