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How to Save Money While Competing in a Pageant

Queens and finalists at the Miss Teen Galaxy Australia pageant orientation. Photo courtesy: Bonita Sorrentino
Queens and finalists at the Miss Teen Galaxy Australia pageant orientation. Photo courtesy: Bonita Sorrentino

The “pageant bug” bites us all at some point or another. Like an itch that won’t go away, we are drawn to so many aspects of pageantry: the camaraderie, elegance, personal development, and community involvement, just to name a few. Like so many sports and hobbies, pageantry comes with a price tag.

Rest assured, there are many money-saving ideas to consider while competing in pageants. Before choosing a system, it is wise to ask questions and understand the pageant’s financial requirements and also over-prepare yourself for your own expenses. Check out these tips before pulling out that credit card!

How to Save Money While Competing in a Pageant

Pre-Pageant

Do your homework and select a pageant system with fees that fit within your budget. Follow the pageant on social media and join mailing lists to watch for any “early-bird” promotions they may be running.

Once you’ve registered, it’s time to start preparing a budget. Be sure to have a solid understanding of the total amount you owe between sponsor fees, required opening number outfit or dress, ad page fees, optionals, photography, videography and any other miscellaneous fees.

Opening number dresses at the 2017 Miss Washington USA pageant. Photo courtesy: Miss Washington USA/Miss Washington Teen USA/Jerry and Lois Photography
Opening number dresses at the 2017 Miss Washington USA pageant. Photo courtesy: Miss Washington USA/Miss Washington Teen USA/Jerry and Lois Photography

Also, make note of your additional expenses that may not be covered by the pageant.

“When it comes to saving money on competing in a pageant, factor in some unknown expenses when you set your budget,” said experienced pageant mom Paula Leach. “Think of alterations, travel and food. Those little things can add up.”

Once you know how much to budget for, it’s time to get to work!

Securing sponsors is one of the best ways to save your own money. Having sponsors on your team is win-win because it allows them the opportunity to advertise and for you to allocate your budget elsewhere.

Don’t limit sponsors to just monetary contributions. Think big picture and consider approaching sponsors to make in-kind donations towards your tanning, hair and makeup, nails, attire, fitness, etc. Always be sure that sponsors are thanked, advertised and promoted properly. (Read: 4 Creative Ways to Thank Your Pageant Sponsors)

Lauren Boswell, Miss Indiana Teen USA 2016 with sponsor, Bridal Elegance & Pageantry. Photo courtesy: Bridal Elegance.
Lauren Boswell, Miss Indiana Teen USA 2016 with a sponsor, Bridal Elegance & Pageantry. Photo courtesy: Bridal Elegance.

If the pageant you’ve entered has advertising perks, consider utilizing this underutilized aspect of saving money. Selling advertising pages may come with rewards such as free nights at the host hotel or even a title! Check with your pageant to see if they offer these types of incentive programs.

One of the largest expenses incurred in pageantry is wardrobe, but it doesn’t have to be! If that beautiful new wardrobe just isn’t in your budget this season, don’t fret. Consignment shopping is an easy, affordable way to supplement some pieces. Plus, bargain hunting can be a lot of fun!

Some popular places to both buy and re-sell pageant gowns are through websites like Poshmark and eBay. There are also numerous pageant resale groups on Facebook. The chance to make a best offer on many items makes sites like this a truly viable avenue for saving money. Don’t forget local consignment shops; you’ll be surprised at the treasures you may uncover during a good bargain hunt! (Read: Top 5 Best Pageant Resale Sites)

“The fit of the gown is important, so try spending less on the actual gown and shift your expenditures to the alterations,” said Paula Leach. “My daughter’s gowns have never been more than $200. I can change the look of a gown just by adding a colored sash or extra beads. I have also put an old bodice onto a new skirt. That was a fun way to change a look with things in our closet.”

Maggie Leach, International Junior Miss Minnesota Preteen 2016 in her fun fashion outfit. Photo courtesy: Maggie Leach.
Maggie Leach, International Junior Miss Minnesota Preteen 2016 in her fun fashion outfit. Photo courtesy: Maggie Leach.

Finally, consider renting or borrowing an evening gown from a pageant friend. We all have that one friend who has a few extra gowns! Offer a set fee to rent one of your favorites, and always return items better than you found them. Having a rental contract in place never hurts, either. (Read: 7 Lessons Learned for Selling and Renting Your Pageant Wardrobe)

Pageant Week

If the pageant does not cover travel expenses, consider alternate modes of transportation other than flying. Besides the cost of an airline ticket, pageant contestants typically haul quite a bit of luggage. This subsequently comes with a price tag. The costs can really pile up as you place your 12th bag onto the scale!

Miss Teen of Missouri 2016, Michaela Scott, ready to hit the road for Miss Teen of America. Photo Courtesey: American Pageants, Inc.
Miss Teen of Missouri 2016, Michaela Scott, ready to hit the road for the Miss Teen of America national pageant. Photo Courtesy: American Pageants, Inc.

If the pageant location is within reasonable driving distance, grab a few friends or your family and make it a road trip. Save money by packing a cooler with healthy snacks to eliminate fast food stops, and have your travel buddies mock interview you on the way!

Think about sharing a hotel room with another contestant if the pageant does not cover lodging and split the cost of the room in half each night. Not only does this save a significant amount of money, but you’ll likely make a lifelong friend!

Eating three square meals a day at a hotel can be both time consuming and costly if the pageant doesn’t supply meals. Call the hotel ahead of time to see if you’ll have a refrigerator and/or microwave. Stop by a grocery store for healthy snacks and meals to put together when you make it into town, or utilize a grocery delivery service. (Read: How to Stay Healthy on Pageant Weekend)

Post-Pageant

Make smart decisions with any monetary wins. Deposit funds promptly into interest-bearing accounts to save for the next pageant. Also be sure to apply any scholarships received to your tuition or student loans.

Take some time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in regards to your budget. Where did you go over or under? What unexpected expenses came up? Leverage these learning experiences and apply them to successfully budget your next competition!

This collection of money saving pageant tips will help keep that piggy bank a little fuller this pageant season.

Good luck!

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