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7 Ways to Save at the Salon

Keep your hair looking glorious for less — even if you’re high-maintenance.

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When I stopped relaxing my hair years ago, I turned to two-strand twists with extensions. I found someone who crafted unique styles using multiple textures and colors. I loved my new hair, but it came with several costs: dishing out $300 per style, sacrificing most of my Saturdays, hiring a babysitter for my son and traveling downtown to get my hair done.

I was spending way more time and money on my hair than when I straightened it. After a while, I decided enough was enough. I no longer wanted to dedicate two of my most precious resources — time and money — to my hair. My solution? I cut it all off.

Fortunately, there are less extreme ways to save money on salon visits than cutting it off (although, if you're remotely interested, I say go for it!). And since I’m a personal finance blogger and coach who investigates ways to save money for a living, I’ve uncovered them for you. No matter what style you rock, who does your hair or what your curl pattern is, these tips can help you maximize your hair care dollars.

1. Ask about perks and discounts.
If you get your hair done at a salon, you may be passing up savings at each visit. Nicolette Dennis, a New York City-based colorist and stylist, suggests calling ahead to ask what offers are available. “Every salon will have their perks that you may not know about,” she says. For example:

Buddy services: At Arrojo Studio Soho, where Dennis works, clients who book identical services along with a friend get a 50 percent discount on both bills.

Prebooking: Some places give a discount on your next appointment if you make it before leaving the salon. “Prebooking is a good way to consistently get a percentage off [your appointments],” says Dennis.

Additional perks some salons offer include referral incentives, senior discounts, off-peak specials, discounts for booking online, discounts for booking a cut and color at the same time (which saves the stylist some steps) and promotions on discount sites such as Groupon or LivingSocial.

2. Get free or discounted services through cosmetology schools, apprentice programs and model demos.
If you’re flexible with your time and preferences, these are great ways to get your hair done for a fraction of salon prices. Search online for beauty schools in your area, or sign up on sites like to find model opportunities and apprentice services.

3. Communicate with your hairdresser.
“Having a good conversation with your stylist or colorist can save you money,” Dennis tells Sisters. Many times, they will build your services to keep you within your desired budget.

4. Get regular trims.
It's cheaper to maintain healthy hair than it is to correct damaged hair. Dennis says trims are a must, especially if you wear twist-outs or high-manipulation styles. “Getting a trim every once in a while will stop the split ends that lead to more breakage,” she says. This will also prevent single-strand knots, which are prevalent with kinkier hair textures.

5. Consult with your stylist about a low-maintenance 'do.
Wearing your hair in a way that requires minimal upkeep, products and salon visits is one of the best ways to reduce what you spend on hair care. Neisha Tweed Bell, a creative director from New York who has natural hair, maintains a very low-key hair care routine since her “big chop” 14 years ago. She says, “I’m a working mom and hate washing and doing most things to my hair, so I stick to a few simple things.” Her routine includes regular trips to the hairdresser for trims, getting braids when she feels like a new look and sticking to tried and true products like shea butter with lavender oil.

6. Take home the right products.
The “professional” product you found online for less than at the salon may be expired or a counterfeit and leave your tresses looking a hot mess. If you like what your stylist uses on your hair, consider buying it from him or her. You can reduce spending by streamlining what you use. “Find what works for you and then stick with it; no need to buy every new product that comes out,” says Tracey Coleman, an entrepreneur and a cofounder of Curlfest. Generally, by buying a larger-size bottle, you will pay less per ounce. It also pays to ask if your salon will be running any buy one, get one free (BOGO) promotions on hair care products.

7. Save money by using products as the pros do.
Shampooing: “Thoroughly rinse your hair with water before adding shampoo,” Dennis says. Water alone is cleansing, and if your hair is completely saturated, you’ll use less shampoo and it will lather properly. “Start with a small amount, focus on the scalp and repeat only if necessary. The shampoo will automatically clean the ends of the hair while rinsing,” she says.

Conditioning: “Condition ends first, and use it liberally as long as your hair is not too short or fine to withstand it,” Dennis says. “Hair that is well-conditioned usually requires less styling product.” After conditioning, she says to rinse your hair with lukewarm water, followed by a cool rinse. This can help your hair to be shinier and stronger.

As you consider ways to maximize your budget, remember that self-care is not about how much you spend. As Bell says, “Taking care of your hair and yourself, in general, is an investment, but it doesn’t really have to be expensive.”