This mom had little money for prom, but she still made her kids feel like a million bucks.

In Karin Klein's Southern California community, it's not unusual for families to drop close to $1,000 on a prom dress.

Klein's family has never been one to splurge in that way. As a parent, Klein was always uncomfortable with spending money on something that might only be used once. And her kids' awareness of fashion-related environmental and human rights concerns kept the family on an tight budget.

"There were always a lot of talks [with the kids] about where we place our values," Klein says.


Spending that much for prom might sound over the top, but it's not unheard of. American families are spending on average more than $600 on prom-related expenses according to a 2017 Yahoo Prom Across America survey. For many families struggling to pay rent and put food on the table, $600 isn't just a splurge, it's out of reach.

But prom night doesn't have to cost as much as a used car, and parents like Klein have found realistic ways to keep it affordable.

GIF from "Mean Girls."

Here is how the Klein family spent a fraction of the average prom-related costs in three big spending areas:

1. Attire and accessories

With two kids who wore dresses and one who wore a tux, the Kleins experimented with a variety of options for prom wear.

They purchased new: For her oldest daughter's first prom, Klein bought a slip dress, which she paid to have altered because it was too long. Klein then hand-made a shawl and bought her daughter shoes from a discount store.

Total cost: $160

They reused, borrowed from friends, and wore hand me downs: The next year, her daughter borrowed a dress from a friend and re-wore the shoes she had bought the prior year.

And having used her older sister's first prom dress as a play outfit as a child, Klein's younger daughter decided she wanted to wear that dress to her first prom. They paid to have it cleaned and pressed.

Total cost: Cleaning fees

The dress the Kleins bought new (left) and their eBay steal (right). Photos by Karin Klein, used with permission.

They bought on clearance and from auction websites: For cute shoes and accessories at a great price, the family headed to Payless.

Klein and her girls shopped around, but they didn't really like anything, and the dresses were very expensive. They turned to eBay and found a vintage slip gown for $7.

"I figured for that price it was worth gambling; it came cleaned and pressed, to my surprise, and fit her perfectly," Klein recalls. Her daughter still really loved her shoes from the previous year, so she wore those again.

Klein's youngest daughter liked that prom dress so much that she says that if she ever wants to marry, that ivory dress might do the trick.

Total cost for prom and potential wedding dress: $7

GIF from "Footloose."

When it came time for her son to attend prom, Klein decided to purchase a tux, dress shirt, tie, and vest on clearance instead of rent them because she figured it was a better investment. He ended up wearing that getup to four proms, and Klein has since loaned it to other kids in need of a tux for prom.

Total cost: $132 plus the joy of an investment paying off for other families.

Lastly, they committed to eliminating corsages and flowers to cut down on both on costs and waste.

In addition to ideas like borrowing, swapping, and thrifting, a number of organizations in communities across the country give away donated prom dresses to those who cannot afford them. Check out the Princess Project or Google "Cinderella project" and your location to find one of these locations in your area.

2. Hair and makeup

Klein's oldest wore her hair down and wore minimal makeup that she did herself for each of her proms.

Cost: $0

GIF from "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion."

Klein says her younger daughter did her own make-up and hair but that the hair did not work out so great.

Klein, a writer, happened to be up on a reporting fellowship in an extremely remote area of arctic Alaska around prom time. She gave her husband and daughter instructions for a simple updo, and they managed to get her out the door looking good, but it fell out shortly after. Klein says she was pretty unhappy about it.

"She's not one to make a fuss about things, but it was definitely a disappointment to her," she says. "She hadn't asked to have her hair done professionally, but it was one of those times when a mom wishes she'd been home for her daughter."

After the hair fiasco of the previous year, her daughter asked if she could have her hair put up professionally the following year. Klein obliged.

Total cost: $0 and $65

3. Transportation, food, and post-prom

Klein's daughters sometimes had rides from significant others who could drive or they shared the cost of a party bus with friends. They swung through In-N-Out Burger for dinner.

In Klein's community, a lot of parents rent hotel rooms for their teens for the night, but her family was not comfortable with that for a lot of reasons, so they skipped out.

Total cost: $0-$50

Outside of the actual prom ticket, the Kleins had years where they spent nothing on prom. ‌‌

GIF from "100 Years of Prom in 2 Minutes"/Teen Vogue.

Their most expensive year cost around $280, which is significantly below the American average for the night. The cost of the prom ticket at their school was $70.

In fact, most schools and communities are doing their part to help make sure the night is accessible to everyone.

School administrators are directing families to resources like community dress give-aways and often assist lower-income families with obtaining prom tickets, too. (This school partnered with a non-profit; kids wrote essays in exchange for everything they need for prom.)

The fact is, prom can be affordable. One fun night doesn't have to (and shouldn't) break the bank. As the Kleins have discovered, a creative spirit, knowing where to look for deals, and a commitment to the fun of it all makes all the difference.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less