An inexpensive dress , early-bird tickets can save on prom costs

Prom prices pulverizing your pocket-book? Here are some tips for making prom affordable and fun:

BUDGET: It helps to figure out at the start how much you have to spend on prom and then allocate your funds. For example, you may really want a new dress but not care so much about a fancy dinner or professional photos. Making the budget and sticking to it can alleviate stress so you have time to focus on just having fun that night with your friends.

TICKETS: Some schools offer an early-bird discounted ticket price. You can usually save at least $10 by purchasing prom tickets right after they go on sale.

DINNER: Instead of going out for dinner, you could dine at a friend's house or at yours. Younger siblings or other family members can help serve, and you can decorate the table before-hand and set up music in the background. Everyone in your prom group could provide a part of the meal, and the expense can be minimal.

FLOWERS: Most flower shops will give a small discount if you and your date order your flowers together in a "prom package." Or, if you have a friend who has taken a floral design class, he or she could make up the flowers for a minimal cost.

TRANSPORTATION: Though there's a lot of pain at the pump, the biggest price slashing tip can be cutting the limo or party bus and driving yourself to prom.

PICTURES: Have your parents or a friend take pictures of you and your date. You'll be able to choose the background and can keep posing until you have a shot you like. Another alternative is getting pictures taken beforehand at one of the photo studios at the mall. Or, most photographers offer a group picture price (usually $5 per person) that is much less expensive than a couple picture package. That way, you can have an "official" picture with everyone in your group to go along with your own snapshots.

For girls

HAIR/MAKEUP/MANICURE/PEDICURE: Find your style from a stack of prom magazines. If you like a particular look, try doing it yourself or get your mom or a friend to help. You could even practice the week before.

Another idea is to have the girls in your group meet in the morning before prom to help each other get ready. Some might be better at hair than at makeup and another could give the manicures. It could provide an opportunity for some fun photos and memories even before your dates arrives.

DRESS: This can be one of the biggest costs. If buying a new dress is not an option, you can either borrow a dress from a friend or get one from the local chapter of Becca's Closet, an organization that lends prom dresses to teens. In either case, there's no cost.

Go through your closet for a purse and shoes to match, or borrow from a friend. Check out thrift stores. If you do buy a dress, consider donating it to Becca's Closet after prom is over so someone else can enjoy it next year.

For guys

FORMAL WEAR: If you already have a suit, you can buy a shirt and tie to match your date's dress or you can rent just a tie and vest to match your date's dress. (Many local formal shops rent the tie and vest for $20 and some have tuxedo packages starting at $40.). You can also save the shoe rental fee if you don't have the right shoes by wearing something funky like your Converse. They might be more comfortable anyway.

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