7 Ways to Get a Cheap or Free Prom Dress

Photo (cc) by {Salt of the Earth}

Prom season is in full swing: Do you know how much you’ll spend on your teen this year?

Promgirl.com gives a range of $175 to $2,100 for prom night, depending on factors like ticket price, whether a pre-prom dinner is involved, and — here’s a biggie — how much is spent on the dress.

In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers multiple ways to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on a prom gown or dress. Check it out, then read on for more cost-cutting tips.

Let’s break down all the ways you can save on prom dresses.

1. Save money at the dress shop

There are loads of ways to save money at the mall or in a dress shop, including:

  • Sample dresses. Sample dresses are basically the floor model of dresses, but compared with full-priced gowns, they’re dirt-cheap. Your local dress shop might have a sample dress sale day, but it may also have some samples for sale right then, so ask an employee.
  • Minor imperfections. See if the shop has a selection of sale-priced dresses with minor tears or stains. You can sew them up yourself, and if a stain isn’t too noticeable, you’ll have saved a chunk of cash.
  • Almost-perfect sizes. If you find an inexpensive dress in the wrong size, you may be able to get it tailored and still come out ahead. The dress shop will likely have a tailoring service available, but don’t hand over your dress without doing some research first. You’ll want to find a tailor who is both affordable and talented. Do a search on Yelp for “tailoring.” Look for a service with great reviews and compare its rates with your dress shop’s.
  • Gift cards. If you find the perfect dress at a major chain, pick up a gift card at a discount site like GiftCards.com or Plastic Jungle to buy the dress. You’ll easily save 10 percent or more this way.

2. Shop unusual places

Mall department stores don’t have a monopoly on prom dress sales. You might save a bundle shopping somewhere else, like:

  • Consignment shops. While they’re a bit more expensive than a standard thrift store, you’ll have more selection and a better quality to choose from and you’ll still save money over the mall.
  • Outlet stores. Check stores like the Dillard’s outlet and discount shops like T.J. Maxx, Ross and Marshalls for deals.
  • Bridal shops. They carry more than wedding dresses. Check clearance racks for cheap and cute bridesmaid dresses.

3. Rent

If you’re only going to wear it one night, why not rent it? Renting a dress is much cheaper than buying one outright and you might be able to afford trendier pieces this way. Prom dress rental shops are popping up in several major cities. Bridal and tux rentals in your area might also rent bridesmaid dresses that double as prom dresses. You can also look online:

4. Make your own

If you have patience and a sewing machine, you can make a prom dress for a fraction of the cost of in-store dresses. Plus, you can customize the color and pattern of the dress and make it to the perfect size. We’ve found many inexpensive prom dress patterns:

5. Customize an older dress

If you aren’t confident enough in your sewing skills to make a dress from scratch, you can still save a ton by recycling an older dress. Pick up new fabric, beading and supplies from a fabric store and then add your own touches to a dress you already own or one from a thrift store, or alter the dress by changing the length or sleeves.

6. Organize a dress swap

If you don’t want to wear an older dress, set up a dress swap with friends. Family friends may have prom dresses they wore once and now have no use for. You can swap your older dress with theirs and save 100 percent of the cost of a new one.

7. Get help when you can’t afford the cost

If you can’t afford a prom dress, you might qualify for a free one. A few charities offer prom dresses to low-income and financially strapped families. Check out:

How to earn $30 in less than 30 seconds

Earn extra money by using Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) — a site that gets you cash back at more than 2,500 stores. As a bonus for joining Rakuten between now and Aug. 6, 2020, you'll earn $30 when you spend at least $30 shopping online through Rakuten within the first 90 days. Start earning cash back and claim a free $30 bonus today.

Read Next
10 Products That Will Help You Save Money
10 Products That Will Help You Save Money

Sometimes, spending a little cash right now can save you a lot of money down the road.

Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement

No. 1 isn’t visiting grandkids, and No. 4 might surprise you.

17 Home Upgrades That Rarely Help Close a Sale
17 Home Upgrades That Rarely Help Close a Sale

Real estate agents give these renovations low marks when it comes to helping sell homes.

Retiree Households Lose $111,000 to This Social Security Misstep
Retiree Households Lose $111,000 to This Social Security Misstep

A study finds 96% of retirees make this mistake when claiming Social Security benefits.

This Is the Top Home Insurer — for 18 Years Running
This Is the Top Home Insurer — for 18 Years Running

Homeowners are increasingly unhappy with their insurance companies, but one stands out for the better.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

22 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
22 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

The dollar store has great bargains on these purchases.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You probably don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

The Top 11 Jobs That Employers Want Retirees to Do
The Top 11 Jobs That Employers Want Retirees to Do

Tired of age discrimination? Businesses are clamoring for older workers to fill certain roles.

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

9 Things That Are Free in August
9 Things That Are Free in August

As summer enters the home stretch, we’ve rounded up these sizzling freebies.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.