As Canadian high school students gear up for prom season, Awesome Canada is reminding parents and students that the prom should be about celebrating a milestone, not keeping up with the Joneses.  Recognizing that prom spending now represents a major expense for Canadian families with high school students, Visa Canada has launched a new free smartphone app that helps parents and teenagers plan and budget every aspect of the prom and avoid overspending.

The free Plan’it Prom app, available in French and English, lets users make a realistic, detailed prom budget and then helps them stick to that budget by allowing them to track their spending as they shop. Plan’it Prom offers tips and tools for both male and female prom-goers, and is available in the iTunes store, the Google Play store and from

“Prom is definitely a rite of passage for high schoolers, but it’s up to parents to keep it in context,” said Carla Hindman, Visa Canada’s head of Financial Education. “The prom offers a great opportunity for parents to talk to their teens about money and teach them how to budget. The sparkling dress, pre-prom spa day and limo ride may all be possible if budgeting and saving are the priority.”

While many parents foot the bill for prom, Ms. Hindman suggests that even if they are covering the costs, the conversation is still important.

To help save on the cost of the prom, Awesome Canada offers these tips for prom attendees and their parents:

  • Shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online. As with tuxedos, some outlets rent formal dresses and accessories for one-time use.
  • Have make-up done at a department store’s cosmetics department or find a talented friend to help out.
  • Split the cost of a limo with friends, or look into non-traditional rides, like renting a school bus and driver for a large group.
  • Parents can take pre-prom photos and have prom-goers use cell phones or digital cameras for candid shots at various events.
  • Work out a separate prom budget together well in advance to determine what you can afford. Set a limit of what you will contribute and stick to it. If teens want to spend more than that, encourage them to earn the money to pay for it or decide which items they can live without.

“Helping your kids understand money and how to budget for an event like prom can leave a lasting impression,” said Ms. Hindman. “The end of high school should be marked by making memories, not a mountain of debt.”

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