School formals on a budget

September 29, 2022

Year 12 is an exciting time, but it also comes with some extra expenses. Covering the cost of the school formal can be challenging, and some schools have a graduation celebration as well. If you are feeling the pressure, you are not alone.

‘These events are important rites of passage that students understandably look forward to,’ says UnitingCare Financial Counsellor Janene O’Donnell, ‘but they can also cause families significant financial stress.’

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

‘There are plenty of things you can do to keep the spending under control,’ said Janene.

The first is to think ahead.

‘Try to find out the relevant dates as soon as possible,’ said Janene. ‘Does the school hold the formal mid-year and graduation at the end of the year or will both events be late in the year? Knowing this will help you budget for the expenses, and you can start putting aside a little money each week.’

It’s also worth finding out how ticketing works for the events. Some schools require students to buy a ticket, and sometimes parents/caregivers are invited along and also need to purchase a ticket.

The next step is to think through what expenses are involved. These could include:

  • Entry tickets
  • Photos (many schools bring in a professional photographer for these events)
  • Outfits for the student and yourselves
  • Hair and make up
  • Accessories (nails, handbag, jewellery, shoes)
  • Transport to and from the venue (you can cut this cost by sharing with others)

Once you’ve made your list, research what each expense is likely to cost and set a budget.

‘Involve your child in this process,’ suggested Janene. ‘If they know the budget, they know how much money can be spent and they can take that into consideration when browsing for different items.’

And if there’s something your child wants that isn’t in the budget?

‘Think about how they could contribute to the cost,’ said Janene. ‘Could they save their pocket money, or put aside money from a part time job?’

Another thing to keep in mind is that a formal outfit need not break the bank. Second hand shops often have great formal dresses and suits for a fraction of the price.

‘You don’t just get 80s throwbacks,’ said Janene, ‘Be open to the idea of wearing something that isn’t new but is more likely to be unique.’

Also, keep an eye out for sales throughout the year and you might be able to pick up a bargain.

With a little planning and a bit of extra thought, you can give your child a magical year 12 experience without breaking the bank.