Prom spending myth: Turns out, parents aren't totally nuts

May 10, 2012 at 3:25 PM ET

Last week, many of you were shocked by a survey that said the average U.S. family with teens would spend more than $1,000 on prom this year. "Crazy!" was the consensus on our Facebook page.

Turns out you were right.

A closer examination of the data by shows that the widely reported Visa survey, conducted by GfK Roper, has some serious flaws. For starters, the survey results "based on 1,000 telephone interviews" actually ruled out 741 of those interviews because they had no teenage children, and 85 were eliminated from the results because they were "not sure" how much they were spending. The Visa survey also ignored the responses of 55 people who said they planned on spending nothing for their teen's prom.

That left just 119 survey respondents -- not nearly enough to draw conclusions about the average spending of all American parents. And 61 percent of those people said they would be spending $500 or less on prom.

So how did Visa come up with the eye-popping figures on average spending? It's possible a few respondents skewed the results by saying they were spending $5,000 (the survey's maximum value). Roper and Visa did not respond to questions about why the average excluded those who said they are spending nothing.

TODAY Moms regrets the error, and we wanted to set the record straight. So if your teens have been telling you that everyone is spending a boat-load of money on a high school dance, now you can tell them: No, they're really not.