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Off to the prom? Shop around first

A reader: My daughter is going to prom soon for the first time and I am worried that the price tag is going to be huge. She tells me that there are fees for the tickets, flowers, dress, getting her hair and nails done and so on. Any tips on how I can make her happy and not break the bank?

Action Line: You are wise to start with open eyes. Before you start spending, check out your options. Before you automatically decide you can’t afford it all, do some research. Remember, not everything needs to be traditional.

Prom tickets can run anywhere from $25 to $250. Ticket prices generally include a dinner and dance. Find out before you decide on dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant. Expensive dinners are great but not necessary in lots of cases.

There are things you can be creative with. For instance, if a limo is a must, make it a group thing and share the cost with other prom-goers. A limousine contract should specify hours the limo will be in use and should include not only hourly rates but fees for extras. If the kids want to go just as a couple, offer your car. I’m sure it’s a better vehicle than they drive, if they have one.

What is she going to wear? Again, you can throw tradition out the window. Dresses can be formal or casual, long or short. Don’t count anything out. You can go to the expensive dress shops, but you can also check consignment stores, thrift stores or your best friend’s or sister’s closet. My number one suggestion: make sure what she wears is comfortable, especially the shoes. Trust me, if she is comfortable, she will have more fun.

Makeup, hair and nails can run $275 at a high-end salon. Shop around first. Ask your friends where they are going to get ready. The salon idea is fun but if you don’t check them out first and make sure they understand your style, you might not like the look they give you. Here again, you can do these things yourself. Have your daughter invite her friends to your house to get ready. They can help each other with hair, makeup and nails.

Boutonnieres can run $10 and up depending on what you like. Keep it simple. Flower prices vary depending on the type of flower.

And don’t forget the photos. Prices can range from $30 on up. Most proms have arrangements made with a professional photographer. You may need to prepay for these or pay at the door. With the quality of cellphone cameras, that’s an option, too.

As always, check with the BBB regarding each company you are doing business with. For the amount of money you will be spending and the dreams you will be creating, you want to be sure you are starting with trust. Happy Prom Season!

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or