Look Fabulous at Your Military Ball without Spending a Fortune

By Alecia D. Blair, Military Saves Communications Associate

‘Tis the season for holiday military balls—a chance for you to get dressed up in a formal evening gown or tuxedo (if you’re a male guest) and celebrate time-honored traditions with your service member.

A military ball, however, can be very expensive. The trick is to set a ball budget and try to save ahead for these functions, rather than using a credit card. Depending on the branch and unit, it is common to have one or two military balls a year.

Whether it’s finding affordable attire or, for women, planning to get hair and makeup done, here are some ways to look fabulous at your ball without busting your budget.

Repurpose, Rent, Shop Smart

Finding an affordable, elegant, floor-length evening gown may seem like a daunting task, but there are some great ways to cut this cost significantly. Consider revisiting your own closet for a formal gown you've worn before and give it new life with new accessories. Another option is to borrow or swap dresses with a friend for the event.

For others, heading to the Internet or Facebook is the way to go. A quick search on Facebook, using your military installation’s name, may yield pages where others are selling gently-worn gowns for amazing deals. Check these out!

Instead of buying, consider renting a gown. Renttherunway.com is a website that lets you rent high-end designer dresses for a fraction of the cost.

But if new is what you’re looking for, be sure to scour the sales racks for last season’s fashions and clearance bargains. Finding an evening gown for your military ball does not need to cost you a fortune. Beautiful dresses can be found at all price points. Revisit your budget, and stick to it.

Reuse Your Jewels and Strappy Shoes

A military ball is the perfect occasion to take out your precious gems, costume jewelry or strappy heels. And that doesn’t mean you have to buy new. In most cases, pairing accessories you already have with a new or gently-worn dress can give the accessories and dress a completely different look.

If your dress is screaming for something new, buy accessories that you can reuse with future gowns to get more mileage. According to Spousebuzz.com, it’s easy to buy trendy shoes, clutches and other accessories for inexpensive prices at stores geared towards younger adults. Just steer clear of less age appropriate dresses.

Hair, Makeup & Nails: DIY or Freebies

Are hair, makeup and nails not in the budget for your military ball? Don’t stress. A quick search on Pinterest illustrates some easy, do-it-yourself ideas for all of the above.

Do you have a friend who’s talented at doing hair and makeup? Why not ask her to do it for you or have a pre-military ball home spa party and trade these services.

Another option for the cost conscious military ball date—making an appointment at your local hair and makeup stylist school where students often provide these services for free or for a fraction of the usual cost.

Need a new shade of lipstick? Visit the makeup counter at your local department store and request a free beauty consultation. You’ll be surprised what you can get for free with a small purchase.

Calling All Gentlemen Guests!

Let’s not forget the male military balls guests. Although military ball expenses are usually more reasonable for men, they can also add up quickly, so planning ahead is important.

Men are encouraged to wear tuxedos, which can be rented for reasonable prices. Shop around and compare prices. Not all tuxedos are made and priced equally. If you’re a military spouse, ask about a military discount.

Do suits suit you more? Revisit your closet, borrow or buy a suit on sale. Just make sure it fits well and flatters you.

Childcare Exchange

Do you need childcare during your military ball? As a military couple, chances are you live far away from family who might otherwise give assistance. One inexpensive option is to participate in a childcare exchange. Ask a friend to watch your children during the military ball. In exchange, watch her children at a later time. Problem solved.

Military balls are a time to celebrate your service member’s commitment to country, while looking and feeling your best. Don’t let the potential expense of these events weigh you down. Set your ball budget, save ahead and use these tips to stick to it and look stunning. 

Set a goal. Make a plan. Save automatically.

Other resources:

Saving for Life's Special Events - Military Saves

6 Tips to Get You Through the Military Ball - MilitarySpouse.com

Military Ball Fashion and Etiquette - MilitaryOneClick

5 Things to Know Before Attending a Military Ball - Veterans United Network

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