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How to Throw a Sweet 16 Party on a Budget

Finding Low-cost Sweet 16 Dresses
Consignment shops are a great place to find formalwear at a discount.
Consignment shops are a great place to find formalwear at a discount.

The birthday girl's dress is the centerpiece of many a Sweet 16 party -- and it's also what can blow your budget right out of the water. Of course, your daughter might not feel the need to make a grand entrance in a custom-made full-length ball gown (or make three costume changes). But if she does want a fancy frock, you don't have to spend an arm and a leg on it.

The first rule of getting good deal on a Sweet 16 dress is not to buy a "Sweet 16" dress. You don't need to go to a specialty store or search for something that's advertised especially for teens -- that'll most likely just add to the expense. And shorter cocktail dresses, obviously, are less expensive than long gowns, so throwing a more informal party will help your budget in this area.

Buying a used dress is a great way to snag designer dresses for a fraction of their retail price. Formal dresses are typically worn just a few times, so it'll probably be in near-perfect condition. There are plenty of Web sites that specialize in reselling prom and bridesmaids' dresses, and of course there's always an enormous dress selection on eBay and Craigslist. Check out your local consignment stores, too.

Accessories are the perfect chance for a splurge -- or a freebie. Your daughter might turn up her nose at a borrowed dress, but maybe a fabulous pair of loaner earrings or a borrowed necklace would be OK. If not, you can still save by buying a simple, well-priced dress and splurging on a statement necklace, earrings, bracelet or ring.

Once the dress and accessories have been finalized, there are still the finishing touches to worry about. Paying for a professional hairdo, manicure and makeup session could easily undo all your good work with the dress budget. But surely there's a friend, grandmother, aunt or neighbor who would love to give a birthday gift of their time for hairstyling, a mani/pedi or mini makeover.

In the end, though, don't worry too much if your daughter falls in love with an insanely expensive dress. You can always take it to a consignment store or sell it online after the party -- if she agrees to part with it.

On the next page you'll find more information on throwing birthday parties.