Friday 22 September 2017

Slash the costs of your Debs and still be the belle of the ball

Mia de Burca looks stunning in an Oxfam dress
Mia de Burca looks stunning in an Oxfam dress
All dressed up: Some of the Debs dresses Oxfam has to offer.
All dressed up: Some of the Debs dresses Oxfam has to offer.
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

Looking for a realistic approach to the big night? Here's our brilliant guide.

It's Debs season and over 50,000 glammed-up school-leavers are enjoying their big night out this autumn. But while stretch limos and spray-on tans were de rigueur during the Celtic Tiger, recessionary times have forced a more realistic approach to the traditional rite of passage between school and adulthood.

Smart Consumer looked at how teenagers can cut their costs for the big bash – but still have a ball and look a million dollars.


There's much more pressure now from participants and their families to get a decent price on the basic cost of the night, says Alan McArdle of which has been organising events for over 20 years.

Debs committees are very focused on getting a good all-in package rather than being hit with a raft of hidden extra charges for things like security or the bar extension, he said.

Typical costs are between €50 and €70 a head, but that includes a decent meal, transport, dance and often breakfast the next morning, meaning it's a pretty good deal compared to the costs of a big concert or festival, he says.


Stretch limos are no longer a crucial part of the equation with most people now taking the collective bus transport option, says McArdle.

Although limo companies have slashed their prices, that option still typically costs around €400 an hour to take eight people, whereas a party bus might cost €700 for 20 people.


This is the biggest area of expenditure, particularly for young women. But whether it's buying online, secondhand or renting, girls are doing their best to cut costs.

Sites such as Amazon and eBay are hugely popular while others source from cutprice American fashion websites.

Secondhand, or "vintage" as it's now known, is also popular and many girls scour charity shops for bargains.

Oxfam says it had both pre-worn dresses and new ones donated by boutiques – but such was demand for affordable debs wear, many had already been snapped up.

An example of what was left at time of writing was a 1940s-style bronze strapless dress with gold sequins for €17.50 in their Dun Laoghaire store.

For men, hiring a tux often costs around €70, so purchasing one can be a good investment. New ones typically start from around €200 but they will last for years and carry you through a huge range of outings from college balls to weddings. Tesco has tuxedo jackets for €44 and trousers for €22.

Go in a group

They're still in the minority but there's a growing number of young people who don't bother with agonising over who to bring.

This is a combination of cutting out the cost of a second ticket but also many people wanting to avoid the stress of bringing a stranger into the social mix, when they might have a better time with their friends, says Alan McArdle.


Nails, hair and make-up remain essential elements of the debs experience, but most beauty salons offer packages of treatment that are cheaper than the sum of their parts.

Gillian White of Shirley's Beauty Clinic in Glanmire, Co Cork, says they were getting huge uptake for their debs packages which included Mac make-up, spray tan and nail file and polish for €45.

Even more popular is the €70 gel nails, tan and Mac make-up package.

Many girls are also happy to get together and share their talents by helping each other out with nails, hair and other treatments.

Irish Independent

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