. Have a blast at grad without breaking the bank! - Manitoba Parent Zone | Healthy Child Manitoba
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Have a blast at grad without breaking the bank!

Grad is an exciting time for most teens, but it can be a very expensive time for parents and families. For many teens, preparations for grad celebrations start early in the New Year. If your teen is already starting to think about what his or her perfect grad will look like, as a parent, you might be starting to think about the cost. Check out our tips for grad on a budget, and our links to Safe Grad, to help ensure your teen has a fun, safe and memorable grad experience.

  • Boutique dresses are beautiful, but there are many great department store dresses out there, too. Thrift stores or consignment shops can also be wonderful sources of reasonably priced items, as can online shopping. If buying from an online seller, try to meet them in person so that you can see what you are buying, and pay in cash. Go with your teen to make the purchase, and remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Friendships and acceptance by peers can be very important to teens, so your teen may feel some pressure to keep up with his or her friends. This might be a great time for discussion about finances and spending. More and more teens are opting out of the shopping frenzy that has often accompanied grad, and are choosing to express their individuality in their own ways.
  • Making an economical choice is also often making a green choice!  By purchasing a used gown, or borrowing from a friend or an older cousin, you will be saving money and recycling at the same time.
  • Shoes are one thing your teen can spend less on without being noticed too much. For girls, they’re sometimes hidden under the dress, and will probably come off on the dance floor. Boys may already have a pair of dress shoes they could wear. You can also consider checking out friends’ or relatives’ closets, to see if there is something to borrow.
  • Accessories are also items that can be borrowed or recycled from things you may already own. If you do borrow, make sure it is not a meaningful item, in case it happens to get lost during all the fun.
  • Going to the spa can be exciting, but you could also host a pedicure party the weekend before grad, where everyone takes turns doing others’ toes. Or, consider calling local aesthetics schools, which often have lower prices than spas, and students with flexible schedules.
  • Is there a photographer in your family? See if they can come take some great digital shots before grad, rather than hiring a professional. The other great part is that digital shots are easily shared with friends and can be printed at home.
  • If you and your family feel that you cannot afford to spend money on a grad dress, think about getting in touch with Gowns for Grads. Through this program started at St John’s High School in Winnipeg, girls who could not otherwise afford a grad dress are able to shop and select one of hundreds of pre-loved gowns.
  • If your teen is planning to take a limousine to grad, make sure to book it early. This is a cost that is easily shared amongst friends, but make sure they are reliable friends who will contribute like they say they will. Don’t forget to factor in tipping.
  • Although many of the expensive grad preparations are for girls, costs for guys can be quite high, too. Some of the expenses will depend on what your teen chooses to wear. Renting a tuxedo can be a significant cost, but you can also choose a less formal outfit. It might be possible to borrow a suit from someone you know. Consignment shops or thrift stores can also have some great finds. If you do decide to rent a tux, call around and comparison shop, and ensure that you will get all the accessories in the rental.
  • If your teen needs to buy tickets to grad, don’t forget to factor this into the cost, too! If your teen is going to grad with a date, make sure they talk to confirm who is buying the tickets. They might consider each buying their own in order to share costs.
  • Are you planning to open your home for a grad night party? If so, talk about expectations with your teen well in advance. Have a clear idea of whom and what is welcome in your home. Grad is an exciting time, but things can get bigger than expected quickly. If anyone is drinking, it is essential that you know that the guests are at least 18. You will also need to consider how guests are getting home, both for legal and safety reasons. It’s a good idea to have a list of the attendees’ parents’ phone numbers, and to make sure they are available the night of the party, in case they need to pick up their teen.
  • Many teens feel like a tan is an essential part of their grad outfit but tanning spas have been proven to be unsafe. Make sure you and your teen are well informed about the effects of indoor tanning.

Another very important discussion to have with your teen is about the dangers of impaired driving. Most schools now have Safe Grads, and planning for these events starts early. It is often possible for you to get involved as a parent, too, so try to explore the possibilities for you to participate. Your child’s high school website will likely have information about Safe Grad plans, so check there frequently.

Grad is an exciting time for students and parents. With some thoughtful planning and a little creativity, it’s possible to have a night that is memorable, and one that fits within your budget. Don’t forget to talk to you teen about rides and safety planning, too. Check out the links below for more information.


Teens Against Drinking and Driving (TADD) Manitoba - Learn more about this grassroots organization dedicated to the getting the message out.

Mothers Against Drinking and Driving (MADD) Canada - Learn about efforts to save lives and prevent injuries on the roads.