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Top 8 Senior Year Expenses to Prepare For and How to Make them Affordable

by | Jan 26, 2023 | Finances, Teens

How to plan for high school senior year expenses

There are so many things to think about when you have a senior! Here are some sample senior year expenses that will occur… test prep, cost of taking the tests, college applications, college visits, cap and gown, class ring, senior trip, prom… There are more, but you get the picture. So, hang on for ways to plan for high school senior year spending!

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8 senior year expenses to prepare for on a red high school diploma with gold tassel

Here’s A List Of Senior Year Expenses

#1 Senior Year Expense:

College Visits

If your student plans to go to college, you may spend some time on the road visiting prospective schools. After COVID, many schools have added online tours and other resources for your student to explore and picture themselves on campus. However, nothing is really the same as an on campus visit. On campus visits show your student what it takes to travel back and forth from school, the weather in the area, and how the school “feels.”

Do not let your child go to a school they have never visited. An on campus visit will seem very cheap compared to transferring to another school, which may or may not take the credits they earned in their first miserable semester or year.

If the budget is tight for this, consider visiting their top 2 school on accepted students days. This can take away the fantasy trips to schools they will never attend anyway due to cost or the school being highly selective.

Check out Expedia, VRBO, and TripAdvisor for help with plane flights and accomodations.


#2 Senior Year Expense:

Senior Pictures

This is still a thing! This can range from free if you just have the school take the picture, and you don’t order anything. It can be fairly inexpensive if you order a small package from the school. OR, you can spend a lot with your own photographer depending on what it is that you want.


#3 Senior Year Expense:

Test Prep Materials

Here are some ways to save on the expense of senior year test prep. Get this help during freshman or sophomore year. They can take these tests as early as 8th or 9th grade depending on the test (subject of another blog post!), but this is definitely an expense that could take place earlier in their high school experience.

Every point on the ACT or the SAT can mean more scholarship money at many schools, so investing in a few prep materials can be a good investment.

Here are some very reasonable options:


Test Fees

Your student can take the PSAT/NMSQT ( this stands for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) as early as 8th grade, and probably should to get the experience under their belt. The year it really counts is the junior year when they can earn loads of scholarship money if they perform well.

#4 Senior Year Expense:

College Applications Fees

This is where good preparation will save you money! Make sure that your student has visited and researched schools before their senior year! This will also save on the expense of travel during senior year. If your teen has narrowed down their choices, then this reduces the amount of applications.

Many colleges will accept the Common App, and so be sure to check into this possibility. If there are other “optional” essays required, they are NOT optional because for sure there will be students who really want into particular colleges who will jump through all hoops to get in. College acceptance is very competitive!

#5 Senior Year Expense:

High School Graduation Expenses like the Cap and Gown 

How much does high school graduation cost? I did some research and actually found a site where gowns were less than $14. However, many school require a certain color/type of package, and that can be where you get into trouble, and don’t forget the tassle. Our local high schools have a contract with a company, and you can only order from them… Same info goes for the class ring.

The cap and gown company will send your student home with a large catalog of items you do not need! Order the cap and gown and maybe some announcements from them and be done with it. 

Other options for more personalized graduation announcements:

Shutterfly Graduation Announcements

Minted Graduation Announcements 

#6 Senior Year Expense:

Senior Trips

How much do senior trips usually cost? It depends! An overnight to someone’s lake house – not so much. A week in the Carribbean over spring break – a lot more.

An option is to have your student put some skin in the game by asking them to save towards their spending money for this trip if you pay their travel expenses. You could say that you will spend X amount, and they are responsible for the rest. This might save you some arguments later about how this will play out.

Like anything else, if you can split the cost among a group of families, this will be helpful for cutting down the expense.

Check out sites like VRBO, TripAdvisor, and Expedia for ideas. Sharing the cost of VRBO is a great way to make a trip more budget-friendly.


#7 Senior Year Expense:


Prom can also be a moving target when you consider the expense. I do think that girls will spend much more on this than the guys. But, there are always ways to save. Do your own hair and makeup, or ask a friend. Keep an eye out for dresses all year especially at Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off 5th.

Guys can save as well. My son’s already had black suits. We just bought a cumber band, added a bow tie, and they were set -you could not tell that they were not in tux. And, let us add here, as a moms of boys, “prom-posals” need to calm down. Find a way to ask that special girl in a way that does not cost an arm and a leg! Did you know that on average a promposal costs $324!

#8 Senior Year Expense:

Graduation Parties

This will be addressed in another blog post, just remember that this is another optional expense, and not necessary. If you are considering this, co-host with the parents of your teen’s best friends, and you will be able to save a lot.

Laura’s daughter shared her party with a friend (a very popular option). They held a graduation brunch.

Also, most schools have an option for after graduation that might cost money to attend, but typically, it is fairly inexpensive. And, I bet they have a scholarship option for those kids who need it!

These are some ways to save on some of senior year expenses in high school. Do you have any other great ideas? Share in the comments below!

High school senior expenses can be a lot!

As you plan for senior year, this might be a good thing to budget for ahead. Decide ahead of time what you want to splurge on and wher you can save money. Most of these expenditures have a range that you can spend, so do your homework. Do you have any other ideas of where to save money on senior year expenses? Let us know in the comments below!

Related Posts for Senior Year Expenses:

NPP Review of Mama Bear Legal Forms -if you have kids over the age of 18, please read!

Graduation Brunch Ideas

College Dorm Essentials

When You Have An 18 Year Old: Important Information You Need To Know

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Senior Year Expenses -Everything you need to know! On a background of graduation caps in the air with dollar signs in the image as well


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