When I started this journey on GRS, I included hair care in my category of irregular expenses. At that time, I estimated that I spent about $600 per year on service and $300 per year on product. However, I thought that since the year is over it was time to visit that category in depth and see what I am really spending so I can assess these costs, much like I did with the bagel budget.

I feel like I need to preface this by saying that (like many women, I think) my relationship with my hair is complicated. I have thick curly hair, and when I was growing up I had to get product you could buy at the grocery store. In those days, it took half a bottle of conditioner to even be able to comb my hair and a third of a bottle of hair gel or mousse to get my style under control. I felt like I was fighting with my hair my entire life — everything was a battle and I was NEVER happy with how it looked.

The first time I splurged and got my hair professionally styled (when I was 24 or 25), it was a revelation. The quarter-sized amount of shampoo or conditioner recommended by the package directions actually worked. The salon-quality product actually got the tangles out of my hair, so styling it wasn’t painful. Plus, my hair actually looked NICE. Prior to that, I seriously didn’t know any of these things were actually possible for me. And now that I know my hair CAN look good, it’s important to me that it does.

Service

When I estimated $600 per year, I was assuming that I got four haircuts per year at $150 each (color and cut, includes tip). I actually started eliminating the color from my service around the time I started writing for GRS, so I did start realizing some savings at that time. My actual spending for 2012 was:

  • January: $167.95
  • April: $140
  • July: $62
  • November: $84
  • TOTAL: $453.95

The base prices are $140 for cut and color and $62 for just the cut. The other amounts mean I was brainwashed into buying something additional (either hair product or their featured “special” for the month, which are things like a mini-massage or facial waxing).

This means my original estimate was pretty good — if I hadn’t started eliminating the color, I would have been right on track to my projected $600. Eliminating color was a tough decision; I have visible grays and am self-conscious about them because I am short enough that most people can see the top of my head.

However, no one’s said anything since I stopped, and the longer I go without, the less I miss it. So going forward, my saving strategies include:

If I can keep my service costs down using these strategies, my hair service expenses will be $248 for the year. This is a reduction of approximately $350, as I mentioned here.

Product

Here is a breakdown of my product costs for the year. I included how much the product cost as well as how much I paid, for a couple of reasons. The first is that I used gift cards from credit card rewards a couple of times to pay for the purchases. The second is that, much to my surprise, the cost of product varied a lot more than I thought it would.

  • February: $54.92. Three cans of hairspray at $15.04 ea. (non-Amazon seller, I paid shipping).
  • March: $18.47. A bottle of leave-in conditioner and bottle of hair creme, Target.
  • June: $37.17. Three cans of hairspray at $12.39 ea. (from Amazon, free shipping).
  • June: $43.83. One bottle of conditioner at $43.83 (from Amazon, free shipping).
  • June: $41.44. One bottle of shampoo at $33.50 (non-Amazon seller, I paid shipping).
  • July: $47.51. Two bottles of leave-in conditioner and two bottles of hair creme, Target.
  • September: $32.22. Two bottles of leave-in conditioner and one bottle of hair creme, Target.
  • September: $0 (gift card). Three cans of hairspray at $18.05 ea. (from Amazon, free shipping).
  • December: $6.74 (gift card). One bottle of conditioner at $38.88 and three cans of hairspray at $10.88 ea. (from Amazon, free shipping).
  • December: $47.78. One bottle of shampoo direct from the manufacturer at $39.
  • TOTAL: $330.08

I was just over target as far as my projected amount, but only because I got almost $120 worth of product for free with my gift cards. If I had paid for those, I would have been over by almost $150.

Based on the information above, I use one can of hairspray per month. The leave-in conditioner and the hair creme last three  to four months each. A bottle of shampoo or conditioner lasts about six months.

Since I am happy with the way my hair looks (and have experimented with enough different products at this point in my life to know I’ve finally settled on a combination that works for me), I don’t intend to change the product I use. So the question becomes, how can I strategize my purchases?

The first strategy is pretty obvious; I was very surprised to see how much the price of the hairspray varied. At its most expensive a can was $18.05 versus its cheapest price at $10.88. That’s almost twice as much! Whether or not I pay shipping also made a significant difference. Now that I know how much those things can affect the price, I can stock up when I see the price is low and I qualify for the free shipping. Other strategies:

  • Continuing to use gift cards (obtained from credit card rewards) towards these purchases when possible.
  • Comparing the drugstore price to the online price.
  • Comparing these prices to the salon price of the hairspray, leave-in conditioner and hair creme (although it’s not a line my salon carries, it is a salon line). I always assumed it would be more expensive at the salon, but I’ve never actually checked.

Final thoughts

If I had paid full price for all my product ($450) it would have worked out to $37.50 per month. How does that align with your spending? What other strategies do you use (or would you suggest to me) to keep hair-related costs low?

I am mostly talking to the other ladies out there, though I am curious to see what guys spend also. Jake’s haircuts are $12-15 each although he probably has to go once a month or so (though I wonder about buying clippers and cutting his hair at home). All his product is from the grocery store so it comes out of that budget and I end up paying for half, lucky duck.

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