On the anxiety scale, prom season is right up there with swimsuit season. There's an intense need to look drop-dead gorgeous and an attack of near-nausea when stepping into the dressing room. And the cost just adds to that sick feeling. A survey by Seventeen Magazine reported that teens spent an average of $231 on a prom dress in 2012 (and an additional $45 for shoes and $23 for a handbag).

But a fabulous look doesn't need to come at a high cost. Here are several ways to save money on a prom dress:

Go classic

Forget fussy frills and complicated cuts. Go for a classic, timeless look and save hundreds. A basic black dress can be found for under $30 at H&M, Forever 21 or Target. Feel too plain without all the extra frills? Bling it up with some statement jewelry and heels.

 

Save…and save

Start a prom savings account at promgirl.com and then use that money to buy a dress! Promgirl lets shoppers save Prom Dollars in a virtual prom piggy bank. Family and friends can also contribute to the fund. A code is sent to the shopper so they can purchase a dress with their savings once the goal is reached.

The site includes a wide range of styles for fashionistas on a budget. Shop by price at Promgirl (there's even a category for under $50), style, body type and more.

Shop pre-owned

There's an endless array of online resources for pre-owned prom dresses (and resale is a good option for anyone looking to unload a dress they'll never wear again).

Preowned Party Dresses sells prom dresses for bargain prices (many selections are under $30), and there are testimonials so buyers can feel confident about shopping this online consignment shop.

Consignment Chic is a massive online collection of nationwide consignment shops selling clothing, furniture and more (including formals). The site has a large national following and been featured in Southern Living Magazine. Shop by category, store or brand for quick and easy searches.

Fashion for every budget

Donate My Dress is a national organization that believes every girl deserves to feel beautiful at prom. The site features listings for dress drives held throughout the country where girls can find a free prom dress (hundreds of dresses are donated each year). It's easy to get involved: There are step-by-step directions on how to start a dress drive for anyone living in a community that doesn't currently have one in place. There is also a listing of locations that will accept dress donations by mail for girls who want to pass their dress along to someone else. Donate My Dress also has fashion tips, advice and other ideas for prom planners.

Go custom

Although a custom-made prom dress sounds like a splurge, it can be very budget friendly! The handmade shop at Etsy lists dressmakers who will create a dress based on each customer's measurements, and reviews from other buyers keep purchases risk free. Simpledress, for example, offers a classic A-line sleeveless dress for $64. If this option is appealing, be sure to consider the extra time needed: It takes up to 12 days to complete the tailoring process and up to nine days to ship the dress (shipping is an additional $29). Also be aware of return policies when ordering a custom dress. Simpledress will make free repairs if the dress doesn't fit, but the buyer must pay shipping to send the dress back to the maker.

 

How to Find a Fabulous Prom Dress on a Budget