Senior year bring a whole new level of independence, fun activities, and unfortunately, a very hungry wallet. With so many special events and future planning, it’s easy to have your bank account sucked dry, right when it’s time to save up for college. Here, I’ve outlined some possible prices that may come your way, with tips on how to avoid them.

Test Prep

Though the majority are taken junior year, you may have some SAT/ACT/AP/IB/etc exams still to go. By this point, you probably know the drill: buy used books off the internet (thank you based Amazon) or from older friends who are finished with their exams (and didn’t write in the books), check out prep books from your local or school library, and take full advantage of free online test prep. If you’re serious about your prep game, your local library may offer free practice tests, typically during the fall.

College Applications:

Of course. Costing $50-$80 each, college application fees can add up quite quickly. The best way around these are applying for fee waivers, which typically include a letter from your counselor about your inability to pay. Besides that, the only way to cut down the cost is to cut down the number of applications.


I’m actually the hardcore-yearbook-lover who buys the overpriced, typo-filled, glossy, hardcover book every single year, so perhaps I’m not the best person to advocate for this. Even though 90% of the memories aren’t mine, I truly love going back, flipping through the pages, seeing how my classmates have changed throughout the years. If you’re heavily involved in student activities, I would suggest purchasing your yearbook every year. On the other hand, since yearbooks typically range from $50-$100, I’m not surprised that uninvolved students would give a serious look of disgust at any mention of paying that price 4 times over. If your wallet is limited, think about purchasing your school’s yearbook only for your senior year. If you’re the most un-school-spirited person to ever walk the Earth, at least look through your friend’s copy to make sure that your mugshot turned out cute.


Public service announcement: an entirely new outfit is not necessary for prom. Go ahead, put those new shoes, purse, and jewelry back on the shelf. No, you don’t have to get your hair and makeup done at a fancy salon, and a mani/pedi is certainly not your date’s dealbreaker. An expensive dinner at that new upscale, classy Italian restaurant may seem fun, until all the grumpy, rich old people and snobby waiters (sorry for the stereotypes) continuously tell your group of 10+ teenagers to quiet down. A corsage and boutonniere may be tradition, but honestly, it’ll just fall off while you’re dancing away to Beyonce’s new single.

There are two ways to look at prom: 1) it’s only one night of my entire life, so why not go full out, go the extra mile, make it extra special, and look my very best or 2) it’s only one night of my life, so why would anyone ever spend so much money on such a small amount of time? If you’re the hopeless romantic that fully believes in #1, well, I can’t stop you. But if you’re #2, just remember what I said in the previous paragraph about all those new accessories and pricey beauty appointments are, in no way, necessary, and you can still look and feel amazing without them. Grab your sister or friend to do your hair and makeup. There is a very high chance that either the length of your dress will cover your shoes, or you’ll take them off on the dancefloor when you start to feel those blisters burning.

I’m not sure why there’s the social stigma of girls wearing the same dress to two dances when guys will literally wear the same suit until the pants turn into capris and the jacket buttons burst (in other words, they grow out of them). As I’ve mentioned before: tradition isn’t necessary. Many girls borrow or buy previously-worn dresses from older friends, or even score great deals at their local thrift store. If you want to wear the same dress for two years in a row: you do you. It’s not illegal.

Various Senior Class Activities

Oh, the entire senior class is getting special “Class of 20__” t-shirts? Here’s $15. Oh, the entire senior class is holding a special senior-bonding time at the beach? Here’s $20 for gas. Oh, the entire senior class wears crowns for every rally? Here’s $5 for the paint, multiplied by however many rallies your school has.

The same theory applies for prom: senior year only happens once. Will you go all out or hold back? This heavily relies on your personal preferences: how often will you ever wear that senior shirt after high school, do you even enjoy the beach, can you even wear crown or will your head get too sweaty, etc. If your friends are mostly from other classes, exclusive senior trips may feel kinda lonely. Again, it’s not illegal if you don’t go. Make the decision based off of whether you think you’d personally be happy, and remember: peer pressure can’t phase you!

End-of-the-Year Banquets or other Graduation-based Parties

Whether your tennis team want to go out for an all-team postseason brunch, or your Speech and Debate team is holding a semiformal end-of-the-year banquet (punnily referred to as Debanquet at my school), or your special academic program (IB, AVID, etc.) is holding a special recognition ceremony, there will be some sort of exclusive, fancy food-eating event during your senior year. You may be able to choose your own meals (and thus, choose the lowest price), or there may be a set ticket price that includes admission and a meal. This is just another event to keep in mind when managing your budget, and as I’ve said numerous times previously: do what makes you happy, but it’s not illegal if you don’t go.

Planning ahead for the next years of your life

Even if you’re going to continue to live at home after high school, your parents may begin to expect you to become more financially independent. Whether this means limiting your allowance, making you get a job, or having you pay for necessities you didn’t have to worry about before (eg. gas, phone bill), it’s never a bad time to start adopting good spending and saving habits.

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