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Plan Ahead for “Pomp and Circumstance”

Photo credit:  IFAS Communication Services

Photo credit: IFAS Communication Services

Do you have a high school senior in your life in the near or not-so-near future? If so, it’s never too early to begin planning and preparing for the expenses associated with senior year. For starters, here are some typical expenses:

  • Class ring – While this may be purchased during the sophomore or junior year, the cost can amount to several hundred dollars, depending on the material, design, and vendor.
  • Senior pictures – Many photographers offer portrait packages featuring shots taken at off-site locations in addition to the traditional black drape and tux headshots for the yearbook.
  • Yearbook – In addition to the average base price of $ 100, many schools offer ad space for purchase to mark your child’s special year. Prices can run from $ 25 for a quarter-page space to $ 200 for a full-page scrapbook-type ad.
  • Class dues – Many schools charge students annual dues for various expenses associated with their particular grade level.
  • Cap and gown rental, graduation announcements, thank-you cards
  • Test fees – If your child will be taking the SAT, ACT, or other placement test, be prepared to shell out $ 50 or more per each test sitting. Prep classes will be an additional cost.
  • College application fees – these generally run $ 35 or higher per school.
  • Dances and Prom – Tickets, corsages, the dress, shoes, hair and makeup, tux rental, limousine rental, and dinner can add up quickly; the average cost of prom in 2014 was approximately $ 1,000.
  • Class trip – Whether it’s a trip to a theme park or a white-water rafting adventure, factor in the costs of transportation, lodging, meals, admission tickets, and spending money for the excursion.

As you can see, senior year expenses can add up quickly! To ease the burden on the family budget, plan ahead. First, contact your child’s school for a list of anticipated expenses. Next, sit down with your high schooler and discuss the expenses he or she is likely to have. Decide together which are needs and which are wants – many items are “nice to have” but not necessary and there may be some items, like a class ring, that are of no interest to your child.

Set a realistic budget for the year and discuss ways in which your child can contribute through, say, babysitting or a part-time job. Explore alternatives to reduce costs – enlist a “shutterbug” friend to take photos, shop consignment stores for prom wear, print your own graduation announcements, purchase inexpensive thank-you cards. If your child is just starting high school, you can set up a special savings account now and contribute regularly so you are prepared when that time finally arrives.

With planning, senior year can be a very special and memorable time in your family’s life without breaking the budget. For more information on setting up a budget, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit

Source: National Endowment for Financial Education, “Costs Heavy on Road to High School Graduation – Plan Ahead to Manage Expense of Child’s Senior Year’”



Author: Judy Corbus –

Judy Corbus is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Washington and Holmes Counties.;

Living Well in the Panhandle