Maintain a great style that's easy on your wallet

Hair Care on the Cheap

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

How to Conquer Debt eBook

Shampoo and hair styling products go right down the drain along with the money you spent on them. And doesn't it seem like yesterday that your kids all had haircuts? Now they're looking shaggy already! The following tips can help you can maintain a great style that's easy on your wallet.

If you like expensive brands of hair care products, scan the weekly flyers for Rite Aid and Walgreens. Both drug store chains often promote free-after-rebate sales on premium shampoo and other hair care products. You can also apply manufacturer coupons towards them and, in essence, get paid to purchase your items at these stores. Instead of spending the approximate $30 on shampoo and hair care products for my family annually, I'm paid an average of $6 per year. Both chains let you enter receipts online so there's no need to clip UPC symbols or mail in anything.

Instead of springing for premium or salon brands, try out a less expensive one. A top sales representative for Nexxus once told me privately that if you can't afford her products to use Suave's line. When I can't score rebate shampoo and conditioner, I've also found that White Rain shampoo or conditioner does a good job at cleaning and conditioning my hair.

Some dollar stores accept manufacturer's coupons. Familiarize yourself with the brands they carry and use coupons accordingly for deep discounts on good brands.

As another strategy, send away for free shampoo samples (see sites below). Even if you have a favorite brand, several stylists have told me that occasionally switching shampoos will rev up your hair.

Don't over-use products. Many people over age 30 do not need to wash their hair daily. In fact, doing so can damage hair and dry out the scalp. Try skipping a day and see how it goes. Reduce the amount of shampoo and styling products you apply to your hair. Would a smaller dab of gel work just as well?

Consider re-purposing less expensive products to do the job of a more expensive one. Marlene, a mom of three girls in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, uses diluted conditioner in a spray bottle for her children's de-tangler instead of purchasing pre-made de-tangler. A few pennies' worth of conditioner is a far cry from the usual $3.69 for Johnson's No More Tangles.

Related: 7 Secrets to Beautiful Hair

Marlene's dad, another thrifty consumer, uses petroleum jelly as a styling aid. He's in his 70's and has a beautiful head of hair. I'm not sure that the petroleum jelly can take credit, but at least it doesn't seem to damage his hair.

Many hair styling smoothers and leave-in conditioners are very concentrated and if you dispense a small amount in your hands and thin it out with water, it works even better than full strength.

Without question, hair coloring, straightening and perms at salons cost more than doing it yourself at home; however, going au natural has become in vogue. Many top stylists urge their clients to work with, not against, their natural texture and color.

Consider all the celebrities sporting silver locks, such as George Clooney and Jamie Lee Curtis. With proper care, gray can be great. Since it's often dryer and coarser than the pigmented hair it replaced, it's important to condition gray hair more often and to treat it gently. Go easy with chemicals to straighten or curl it and skip tight hair accessories or braids.

Related: Homemade Hair Helpers

Your haircut can determine how much styling product you use and how often you'll need a haircut. Consult with your stylist as to what type of cut would complement your looks and require little maintenance. If you can go eight weeks between haircuts instead of the prescribed six, you'll save.

Complex cuts can also be difficult for less expensive salons to achieve because their stylists often have fewer years of experience. By switching from an inverted bob with a stacked back to a simpler, one-level bob, which the lower-priced salon can easily handle, I save about $150 annually (six $25 haircuts per year compared with six $50 haircuts).

During the summertime, I sometimes skip a few cuts since I put my hair up in ponytails and buns so much anyway. The extra length makes it easier to secure.

If you live in a larger city, consider surrendering your locks to a beauty school student. Many schools give free haircuts to allow their students practice on live clients. And don't worry. They're carefully supervised by an instructor, so you're sure to get a great look.

Ready to lose some major length? Some salons offer free or discounted haircuts if you donate the hair to organizations such as Locks of Love, which makes hairpieces for cancer patients.

Learning to cut your own hair and that of your family's can also reap a big savings. Again, simple styles will help out here. Invest in a good set of haircutting shears and clippers to keep your girls' and boys' hair looking neat. A $60 haircutting set will easily pay for itself within six months for most families. And perhaps your savvy with the shears will increase until you're cutting your spouse's hair, too.

Reviewed January 2018

Take the Next Step:

  • Stretch your hair color dollar with these tips.
  • Stop forgoing your favorite beauty treatments just because you're on a tight budget. Check out the TDS Guide to Beauty on a Budget and learn the tricks to pampering yourself for pennies.
  • Could your finances use a good makeover? The TDS ebook How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have can provide you with the tools you need to wash away debt and beautify your budget.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant writes from her home in Wolcott, N.Y. Her web site is

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.

Stay Connected with TDS


Little Luxuries

to the Dollar Stretcher newsletter and get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book