How teens can help pay for prom

Most of the talk about prom season has focused on the high cost of attending.

And most assumptions are that parents are covering the total cost.

That may be true in some cases, but a study last year from Visa revealed that not all students are waiting for mom and dad to foot the bill.

In 2013, parents planned to pay 59 percent of prom costs while teens covered the remaining 41 percent.

Teens may or may not have a job outside the home to help contribute to the costs, but even for nonworking students, prom can offer some important financial lessons.

Here are a few ideas to help teens prepare for the high cost of prom as well as their financial future.

Create a budget. Long before prom season rolls around — even a year or so in advance — sit down together and create a budget. Consider the obvious costs — the dress, dining out, prom tickets — along with the hidden costs such as gas to get to and from all the prom-related events. Think carefully about what you can do yourself or get free such as a makeup trial done at a beauty counter instead of a salon. If the numbers aren't adding up, work together to find ways to trim the costs.

Work for it. Working teens have the advantage over their unemployed peers when it comes to saving money for prom since they may be able to take on additional hours to increase their income. But teens without regular paying gigs can also consider turning a hobby or skill into a short-term moneymaking venture. They might offer to teach a sport to neighborhood kids or devote a few weekends a month to baby-sitting jobs. They can set up shop on Etsy or eBay and sell handmade or unused items.

Save without suffering. Banks help adults save with programs that deposit excess change into your savings account. Create the same system at home with teens. Each day, have your teen empty the change from his or her pockets into a special prom fund jar. If you start early enough, the coins will add up, and he or she won't even miss the spare change. Family members who want to assist can empty their end-of-the-day change into the jar as well.

Look beyond money. Ultimately, it takes money to pay for prom, but think of ways your teen can earn "money" in other ways. One local prom dress giveaway program gives girls a prom dress in return for a day of community service. Ask your child to come up with service ideas, then assign a specific prom need or want to each task. When they complete a "job," they earn that prom item as payment.