How to Save Money on Hair Styling

This is a guest post by Julia Scott, who shares strategies to save on everyday expenses like back to school clothes at If you like her post, sign up for her email list.

My hair is completely wild, out-of-control, and never obeys, but paying to tame it is an expense I loathe. What’s the purpose of spending money on a cut, color, or style when I can grab a hair tie, whip my hair into a ponytail and be done with it? When I can’t stand the rebellion any longer, I put my hair into its place with these 12 tricks for getting professional help on a budget.

  • Host a hair cutting party. Invite over friends who also want to get their hair cut and negotiate a discounted rate ahead of time based on volume. You may be able to get 20% off or more per person, especially if you can pay in cash. Best to work with a stylist you or one of your girlfriends already knows.
  • Look for first timer specials. Many salons offer newbie discounts that really pay off. One salon near me charged $20 for a cut or style that normally starts at $60. These deals rarely include a wash and blow dry, and you still need to tip.
  • Turn to the almost-professionals. Yes, folks, I’m talking about students. Beauty schools across the country offer low-cost cuts that are often less than $15. Students lack experience, but they are eager to please. After all, you are a potential client once they graduate and get a job. Why not consider a student for a basic cut, simple color, or easy style? You can test them out without great risk. When you want to make a dramatic change, go to a student you have experience with or a veteran.
  • Get to know the salon owner. They may be more likely to extend a discount, free sample, or extra service to a friendly and loyal customer. Be sure to ask if they have any promotions coming up.
  • Find high-end salons that offer classes for professionals who want to learn a new skill. Sign up to  be a “hair model,” which is free or a fraction of the cost these folks would normally charge. I have gotten many fabulous cuts for $10-$20 through the hair model program at Bumble & Bumble in NYC. The downside is that each cut took two hours (every snip had to be approved by an instructor) and the appointments were on weekday afternoons.
  • Ask friends for a low-budget recommendation. You may have to pry the info out of them if the stylist is especially good and cheap. One of my most frugal friends confessed her stylist worked wonders on her hair for $20.
  • Skip the wash and blow dry. Unless you are going to a party or event, style your own hair to save a few bucks.
  • Pay in cash. Ask the person who books appointments or the stylish his/herself if there is a discount for paying in cash. You may have better luck if you’ve patronized the salon in the past.
  • Use a coupon. Bulk discount sites like Groupon, Tippr, SocialBuy, and FreshGuide have offered steep discounts on coloring and styling services in the past. I’m talking 50-90% off, which is hard to beat. Sign up for the site’s email list, monitor for salon deals, and by golly read the fine print.
  • Refer friends. If you have connections (think Facebook and Twitter), refer new clients liberally and make sure the stylist knows where their new stream of customers is coming from. It is impolite to expect a discount for referring friends, so be subtle.
  • Book during down times. A salon or stylist may be more open to negotiating a deal with you if they would otherwise be idle.
  • Do it yourself. Consider trying snipping your own locks if you want a simple cut or are extremely adventurous. If you mess it up, there is always Supercuts. Search for tutorials online or at the library. Use sharp scissors and work slowly. An alternative is to have a trusted and steady-handed friend cut your hair.

Mercedes here:  how do you save on your hair coloring, styling and more?  got any additional tips you would like to contribute?  Make sure to leave a comment.

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  • great tips, but they fall flat if you have natural curls. You have to find someone who understands your hair. Sadly, that’s expensive.

    • Jaime

      A lesson I have learned in the past….debating right now to go to the local beauty academy, but panicking about the outcome. Too many bad cuts in the past has made me paranoid when it comes to scissors next to my head!

      As for my son (15 years old), he actually prefers a buzz cut to anything else, so tonight I’m breaking out the new Wahl clippers (just received my $5 rebate yesterday)….which in the end I only paid $5 for . He seems to be accepting of the idea (though I haven’t done it since he was younger)….but when anyplace around here will charge $15 just for a buzz, I’m a bit miffed!

      DH is half-bald, and prefers to shave the rest to match, so with the cheap or free razors I’ve been getting, it’s a steal!

  • JLR

    A vocational high school school with a cosmetology shop is another inexpensive option. They also do nails and facials. My son attends the local vocational school and told me manicures are only $4.00. I’m not sure how much hair services are. I do know the students are supervised and the work is done by the juniors and seniors. The salon I use only takes $2.00 off if you skip the blow dry. It’s not that big of a discount.

  • DianeScraps

    I have gone to a local beauty school, it takes a LONG time but saves TONs of money.

    Right now I am actually bartering with a stylist for her skilss (and I supply her with groceries and other household items that I have couponed for)

  • Paula L.

    I agree with the beauty schools. They can do it all. I had not had my hair cut in years and went to a nearby salon to get it cut and then later spent a little extra getting it highlighted. Now, I have straight fine hair, so tried trimming myself this time, as i didnt’t like the layers, so the little trim job i did is not too bad . Also, went and got some Sun In to do my roots just putting it where i wanted. It took a couple of times , but, the roots are not TOO bad, so, who knows what I will do next , but for the rest of the summer, I think I can manage.

  • Sheila

    Honestly, my hair is something I don’t skimp on. I budget in my hair salon costs & go in every 10-12 weeks for a trim & color/highlight. My hair is something I “wear” every day, so I don’t mind paying for it. It makes me feel good about myself when I look good & frankly I feel like I get the most bang for the buck when my hair looks nice. I cut costs in other ways so I can afford the things I think are important for me. 🙂

    That said, I do trim my kids’ hair myself most of the time, although my 2 older kids are getting to where they want styles that I would butcher if I tried. Happily my hair stylist will do my kids’ hair for as cheap as it would cost to go to SuperCuts or Fantastic Sam’s as a benefit of being her client.

  • mary

    I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair for over a year now. I use a clipper on the sides and scissor on top. I bet I’ve saved $150 so far. I think it is worth anyone trying. The first time I cut, I tried to not make it too short so he could go to Cost Cutters if the results were that bad. He’s actually had two people say they liked the cut I did! It is a nice way to save. The clippers are pretty cheap, too. After a few cuts I went to a beauty supply store and got an $18 hair scissor, and it is much nicer.

  • Aubrie Williams @ Buzz 4 Moms

    I’m fortunate. I’ve only paid for one haircut ever. My mom cuts my hair and does a really nice job too. I have easy hair so I can go a few months between cuts.

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  • I cut my husband’s hair but I myself and my daughters go to the local beauty school. Haircuts are only $5 on Wednesdays and $8 the rest of the week. I haven’t been disappointed yet!

  • I LOVE that I have two friends who cut and style hair. I love having them cut the kids and my hair. It is usually cheaper for us, they are more flexible around our schedule AND I love that my money is actually going to someone I know and who will spend it wisely!

    I had a friend in California who did a mother’s night – it looked like so much fun. They all had a little job – from hair, to pedi’s, manis and massages. They just took turns and rotated to the different friends who were running the ‘booths!’ I definitely need to find some of those friends in Kansas!!

  • I know my barbershop’s owner, and I get the hookup. I’m a guy, but I get $12 for $5!

  • Claire

    I tried the beauty school haircuts tip and it took FOUR hours for a trim. My time has a value also and it’s worth more than the money I saved 🙁
    To be fair, I have difficult hair, it is thick and wavy. So the $$ I spend on a good stylist is worth it. Especially since I cut costs in lots of other areas.

  • Deb H.

    My hubby informed me about a week before our wedding, that his mom had always cut his hair and now I was to take over that job!!!! Yikes! I hadn’t been informed of that in the proposal!:) 26 years later, I’m still cutting his hair and that of our two sons. My daughter’s very long hair I kept trimmed and now she’s decided to layer and style it, so I’m paying someone to cut it. For myself, a dear friend in MN cut my hair for years there for free (I supplied her with homemade goodies) but now in WI, I’ve just gone to Great Clips and I’m happy with it. I’m not super fussy about my hair. I go with the natural highlights God gave me (gray hair:)

  • Sarah

    Deb H., that’s funny! I cut my husband’s hair too, and I tell him the same thing – I wasn’t informed of this before we got married! I’ve only been doing it for 11 years so far, but I am trying to quit; I just don’t want to pay good money for someone else to cut his hair. Maybe some day…