Visa officials recently reported the results of a study that show parents plan to spend, on average, $1,078 on their child's prom.
The numbers for the 2012 study rose to approximately one-third more than what was spent in 2011, according to survey results from the study.
Jason Alderman, senior director of financial education for Visa, said the survey results showed that those considered to be in the lower income range spent a disproportionately high amount on the prom, often totaling more than $2,000.
"Families that, in theory, have the least to spend on extraneous activities like the prom are, in many cases, spending the most," he said.
In the long run, Alderman said, these students would benefit much more from money put toward a savings or college fund.
"This is a one-night teenage dance," he said. "The memories will become fleeting the very next morning … College is far more long-lasting and far more important."
Alderman said the high spending for events such as prom are concerning not only because of the money spent but because parents are indirectly teaching their children that budgets are meant to be broken.
Instead, he said, parents should set specific prices they are willing to contribute and then teach their children how to save money to cover any remaining costs.
"Teenagers, by definition, don't always make the best decisions," he said. "We as parents have to make those decisions and guide them."
Crystal Cadieux, who helped begin Rescue Prom after the 2011 tornadoes, said that before beginning the charity dress organization she had no idea how high the cost of prom had risen.
"I personally am quite thrifty and conservative ... I do not have a child old enough for prom yet, so I was oblivious to the costs," she said.
Dresses donated to the group, which are then given to girls unable to pay for a new dress, range anywhere from $200 to $800 or more, Cadieux said. Many dresses donated to the organization still have price tags attached.
Local organizations such as Rescue Prom, which became a chapter of the national Becca's Closet organization, are available to help cover the rising expectations for prom without the high price tag, Cadieux said. However, her local organization is in need of funding so that a permanent location can be established.