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Where one-third of prom costs go today

Hard to believe it, but prom season is sneaking up on us. That means millions of high school students will soon be fretting about dresses, tuxedos, hair, nails -- and the all-important "promposal." According to the Washington Post, the promposal is a relatively new phenomenon, mimicking a marriage proposal, "wherein students go to elaborate, terribly public lengths to ask each other to prom."

And according to a new national survey by Visa (V), promposals and the rest of the prom rituals are adding up to a pretty penny for a lot of American households.

The phone survey of over 3,000 people, aged 18 or older, found that promposals are, on average, costing $324 this year -- and now represent one-third of the nearly $1,000 prom-going teens (or, actually, their parents) are expected to shell out on attire, limousine rentals, tickets, flowers, pictures, after-party festivities and the like.

Still, Visa noted that total prom costs are down 6 percent this year, compared to 2014.

The survey also pointed out some interesting regional and economic disparities:

  • Northeastern families are likely to lead the nation when it comes to blowing their prom budgets. They'll spend on average $738 for overall prom night costs and around $431 on "promposals," creating a total bill of $1,169.
  • Western families will spend an average of $596 on prom night and $342 on promposals, tallying $937 in total expenses.
  • Southern families will lay out an average $544 on prom night and $305 on promposals, for a total of $849.
  • Midwestern families will live up to their reputation for thrift and spend an average of $515 on prom night and $218 for the promposal, leading to overall expenses of $733.

One alarming economic trend: Families with lower incomes are expected to outspend their more affluent neighbors when it comes to overall prom costs. The Visa survey reported households with total annual incomes of below $25,000 will likely spend around $1,400 on prom costs, while families with a total annual incomes of below $50,000 should spend just over $1,100.

And the survey found that parents are indeed picking up more of the tab for this year's prom costs. They're covering 73 percent of expenses, compared to 56 percent last year.