By Susan Hely
Money magazine, June edition
Susan Hely battles the costs of a school formal
School formals are traditionally held towards the end of the year. It’s a good idea to start planning early if you want to keep the costs down. The expenses can get out of hand. There is the cost of tickets – usually around $100 per person and double if you pay for the partner. But this is nothing compared to the cost of my daughter’s dress, shoes, accessories, hair and makeup. For boys, there’s the suit, shirt, tie and shoes. There’s photos if you choose them.
I put my foot down on extravaganzas such as stretch limos though I did hire a reasonably priced mini-bus to take a group to a Year 12 formal. Expect to pay more if you host a pre or post formal gathering.
My daughter’s school headmistress sends out a letter urging costs for the Year 10 formal be kept to a minimum. While some do this, plenty get carried away.
How do you keep the costs down? Setting a realistic budget is one way. Start looking early to snare a bargain at the sales. If you leave it to the last couple of weeks before the formal, you are more desperate and inclined to panic and pay up.
Always look for a dress or suit that can be worn repeatedly after the formal. Also look for warehouse sales where clothes are at least 50% off the original price and sometimes more. I snared a fabulous dress for my daughter at a warehouse sale.
To cut the cost of formals, some schools are holding vintage or retro formals so that the clothes are pre-worn and cheaper. This cuts down on the waste that comes from buying an expensive dress that is only used once or a couple of times. There are plenty of vintage clothes shops plus websites. There are large-scale vintage sales every year held by the National Trust.
Why not borrow a dress, shoes or suit? My niece borrowed a dress and spent most of her budget on some fabulous shoes.
You could also take a look at some of the designer hire websites that offer a number of well-known labels from Mui Mui to Valentino to Australian designers such as Alice McCall. They are designed for 20-somethings who get invited to a number of events and don’t want to be seen in the same dress. Try the websites such as dressedup.com.au or lovemeandleaveme.com or canIborrowthat.com.au. Some dresses start as low as $50 to hire but are typically $100 for a week’s hire.
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