Save money at the hair salon


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Katherine Boyle
Reporter June 27, 2012

This is the third of a four-part Beauty Saving series. We’ve discussed saving on makeup and skin-care products. Next week, we’ll discuss how to save on other pricey beauty regimens.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.

For some women, hair care is the most regular, expensive splurge each month. The quest for straight hair or perfect highlights can eat up thousands of dollars annually. But there are simple ways to cut corners at the salon without jeopardizing your hair’s appearance. Jean Chatzky, the financial editor of NBC’s “Today,” stresses the obvious key to saving: Cut down on your salon visits. “Go an extra month between hair cuts, or if you use color, intersperse your salon color with touch-ups at home. That’s how you’re going to end up saving money over the course of a year,” Chatzky said.

But can amateurs really color their own hair? Can you ask a stylist to touch you up without all the add-ons? You’d be surprised how much you can save by speaking up, saying no, and taking charge of your own flat iron.

Do your research

There’s a difference between Iowa and New York. Know the average prices for treatments in your city before you head to a salon, particularly if you’re choosing a new service such as color treatments. For a drastic color changes, you’ll probably need to touch-up every four to six weeks. Can your annual budget take the hit? Don’t try something new without considering the consequences.

Rock the suburbs

Chatzky, who appears regularly on national television, doesn’t hit the expensive salons to maintain her style. “I live in a suburb of New York, and a haircut costs a third of the amount that it costs to get my hair cut in the city,” she said. “It might be worth traveling to a suburb to get your hair done.” Washingtonians might save by leaving the city.

Speak up

We tell our stylists everything and should feel comfortable talking about budget restrictions. If you have to extend time between services, ask for help. “You need to ask, ‘What can I afford to feel the way I want to feel?” Chatzky said. “Your stylist is probably on a budget too, and they understand.”

Cutback on blowouts

Some women make a salon blowout an expensive weekly habit. “When you get on a roller coaster of blowout, they add up very quickly,” Chatzky said. “Buy a really good flat iron instead. You can’t spend $30 on a flatiron and expect professional quality, so spend $150 and know you’re getting a tool that lasts a long time.”

Maintaining your cut

If you have a complicated cut, there are ways to reduce salon visits by maintaining it yourself. Ask your stylist for tips on how to trim uneven parts yourself (yes, you can trim your own hair!) or visit a walk-in stylist who will trim your hair between splurges. Many stylists, too, will trim your bangs for the price of a tip in between visits to help you reduce your trips to the salon.

Home color touch-ups

While some women fear color from the box — and complicated highlights are best left to experts — there are many salon-quality products in beauty stores. “[There’s] this product called Hair Mascara, and it’s exactly like mascara for hair. If you’re just starting to gray, touch them with the wand before you leave the house,” Chatzky said. You’ll save money by avoiding the color. A good stylist can also teach you to touch up your own color between visits (if you have a simple, one-process routine). Trust us, a stylist would prefer you ask for tips than return with a terrible home dye job.

Blowout required? Don’t bother

Some salons now require you to pay for a blowout after cut and color, which can add $30 to $50 to your tab. “I would consider switching salons if that’s a policy,” Chatzky said. If you don’t like the requirements of a particular salon, visit another one. There’s no reason to pay extra for something you don’t want.

Visit a stylist in training

On certain nights, many high-end salons have training nights for new stylists where you can get a great cut and color for a drastically lower price. If there’s a swanky salon you’ve been wanting to try, call and ask for their best prices or training nights and say what you’re hoping to spend. Since some stylists set their own prices, you might find the rate you’re looking for.

Just say no (politely)

When the cashier at Staples asks you whether you want a loyalty card, you say no and move on. You should treat a stylist pushing services the same way. “A phrase that works for me when I want to get out of things is, “I’m sorry, but that’s not workable.’ No one knows what it means. Or you can simply say, “Next time,’ ” Chatzky said.

THE BOTTOM LINE Hair care is expensive, and few people have unlimited resources to spend on beauty. We tell our stylists everything, so be sure to talk finances upfront. Tell them your budget and what you want to achieve. A good stylist will make you a loyal client by giving you a regimen that works within your budget.

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