It's prom time. With families spending an average of $1,000 or more, you need a savings strategy to make sure you're not paying bills long after the hairdo and flowers wilt.

The dress: If you're not eligible for a free dress through Operation PROM, try consignment or thrift stores. "Not only can you find a designer dress at a great price, but it could be one-of-a-kind," says Noel D'Allacco, founder of Operation PROM in Bronxville, N.Y. Also shop last-minute flash/blowout sales.

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The tuxedo: Men's Warehouse has a program that lets boys sign up as school representatives to encourage other students to get their tuxes there. "If you refer a certain number of students, your tux rental is free," says D'Allacco.

The limo: Be sure your head count and itinerary are accurate so you can get accurate price comparisons, says Chris Hundley, president of Limousine Connection in Los Angeles. Get a written contract.

Use technology: Many dress retailers, florists and beauty salons offer discount coupons online. "Sites like retailmenot.com have coupons and promotion codes that can save you hundreds of dollars," says Catey Hill, author of "SHOO, Jimmy Choo!: The Modern Girl's Guide to Spending Less and Saving More."

Shop smart: Skip pricey salons and get hair and makeup done at a cosmetology school. Some beauty salons and florists offer group discounts. Get together with friends and negotiate a deal.

The night should be a momentous occasion, not a bottomless money pit.