Spending in depth: The hair care budget

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:

  • Continuing to forgo color treatments
  • Not buying unfamiliar product
  • Not opting for whatever the monthly “special” is. It's a Want. I don't need it.

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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Micah
Micah
7 years ago

I gotta say that sounds insane to me, lol. Might be my natural frugality, simple style or belief in MMMs “Your debt is an emergency” idea. I dunno.
As for us..my husband is army so has to get his hair cut once a month, I also have 2 boys (almost 3) who need hair cuts every 4-6 weeks in the hot seasons and once during fall/winter. I get a haircut about once a year. Our whole families haircut budget is $20/mo.

Phoebe@allyouneedisenough
7 years ago
Reply to  Micah

I’m right there with you. When I was in debt my boyfriend (now husband) and I cut each other’s hair. Now that we have a significant networht I feel pretty extravagant paying $33 per haircut (including tip) every 4 months.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago
Reply to  Micah

I would agree with you, but Honey said her hair is curly, and from the rest of her post I get the impression that without product and good styling her head would be a giant ball of frizziness. Having known people who’ve struggled to tame their hair I can see where Honey’s coming from. One woman I knew said she was so relieved that now there’s product available to tame her hair. Before that, she just suffered with a bad hair life. Plus, keep in mind that having good hair can give you a much more professional appearance, and that… Read more »

Christine
Christine
7 years ago
Reply to  Micah

I think that everyone has that one thing that they do not want to compromise on when it comes to getting rich slowly. I mean, come on, it is not called getting rich slowly while you want to stab your eyeballs out because you are so miserable. For some people, that item is food. There have been plenty of posts/replies about wanting to eat foods and meals that are healthy and not too expensive. There comes a point when you have to identify that you may have two competing goals: saving money and eating nutritious, healthy food. And you may… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Christine

Christine, your argument in reference to Honey rings quite hollow to me. Firstly, she has shown over and over again that this isn’t her sole indulgence that supposedly keeps her from a life of misery. Read back through all her columns and you will find a well nigh constant conflation of wants and needs. Secondly, when J.D. spent all that money on getting fit, he was debt free. There is a world of difference between what he did and how Honey justifies her current expenditures in light of the mountains of debt she and her husband currently hold.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
7 years ago
Reply to  Micah

Personally, I agree with how surprising these costs are, esp since the author is trying to be frugal and cut back. I have very fair skin with freckles, but I look SOO much better with a tan. (Who doesn’t look better with at least some color in their skin?) But I’m not spending the tons of money it would take to keep with a spray tan. My hair would look SOO much better with highlights–I can tell who goes to nice salons for haircuts and highlights. But it’s a constant expense. As a female, I actually spend LESS than most… Read more »

quinsy
quinsy
7 years ago

Your hairstylist is expensive. I lived in a fancy Boston suburb and still only paid $50 for cut & style.

I would recommend finding a more affordable stylist and also using something like Clairol Nice & Easy or Garnisse hair color over the counter to cover the gray. Buy a few boxes of it when it’s on sale, it’s about $8 per box and it turns out just fine.

Debi
Debi
7 years ago
Reply to  quinsy

Having naturally curly hair myself and having fought it for years until I found the right stylist and product combination, I suspect that Honey is fearful of changing stylists and getting a haircut that is wrong for her particular type of curly hair.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Debi

I suspect that’s true as well. Being a curly/kinky girl with mid back length hair, it can be a nightmare with the wrong stylist. Not many people can work with this type of hair (depending on where you live).

Jordan
Jordan
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

My problem is that I found a good stylist and service that works with my hair, but it’s SO expensive. Right now my budget is $40/month for salon services that I put into a sinking fund and get a cut every 3 months, and I had been getting a straightener every 6 months. I recently tried Brazilian straightening and love it, and my hair looks healthier, but getting that done once per quarter (it’s not permenant like my previous straightener) would require bumping my salon budget up to just under $110 per month.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Yes, Jordan, that’s why I DYI (I know not everyone can). The last person that was able to cut my hair was about $80 not including tip in PDX. I learned to do my hair back when I was living in the Bay Area because I had to be a lot more there.

Wm
Wm
7 years ago
Reply to  Debi

A member of the “curly hair” club myself. I can relate to Honey’s concerns. It doesn’t just stop with taming your hair. It’s the whole “personal grooming” arena. Although yes, I agree, presentable clothes and perfumes and salon grooming can be done at a “relatively” cheaper rate than splurging mindlessly. But where and how do you draw the line between looking presentable and being frugal. Sometimes those two areas look mutually exclusive and both are important to me. Either you decide to be unkempt and remain frugal OR you decide to give grooming the importance it deserves and be willing… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago
Reply to  quinsy

I wonder if her stylist charges more for extremely curly hair. I know mine charges more for longer hair. My salon’s starting price for a cut is $45, but I get charged more because I’m usually getting 6+ inches chopped when I go. (I go once a year, but I’m blessed with simple wash-and-go hair.)

quinsy
quinsy
7 years ago

also, you mentioned how you struggle with your hair and need a lot of hair product or conditioner to get it under control. I can’t really identify with that because my hair is not like that, but would it be possible to essentially eliminate the shampoo costs, or do you think you need an expensive product for shampoo AND conditioner AND after-washing product like mousse? I use VO5 for shampoo and it is $1 per bottle. I wash my hair every 3 or 4 days. A bottle lasts me about 6 months, I’d estimate. I’m assuming you can’t get away… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  quinsy

I looooove the V05 Moisture Milks line. It has healthful ingredients and I get it from Walmart for 79 cents. I go through about 1/month, sooo….a whopping $9.48/year.

I use it as a detangling cream before shampooing, and sometimes use it to “wash” my hair if I need extra moisture, or if I’m in a rush and don’t have time to do the whole detangle, shampoo, condition routine.

Jenne
Jenne
7 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

This is where product “your mileage may vary” comes in. I have long hair that I rarely have cut, and only wash every 2 days. I can use one bargain brand– but the others leave *my* particular hair feeling like straw and looking like a haystack (and yes, I’m sure: my mom buys it and when I visit her I occasionally end up using it). Unfortunately, the brand I can use doesn’t work for others in our family, so we compromise on a more upscale brand bought on sale. Honey is clearly buying the economy size bottle if the shampoo… Read more »

victoria
victoria
7 years ago
Reply to  Jenne

“(Most of the commenters here don’t quite grasp, unfortunately, that not taking care of hair that responds that badly to cheap product is probably like wearing a burlap shirt you can’t take off, simply because it’s cheap.)” YES. I’ve lived both sides of this — I went into the hospital to deliver my daughter with oily, slightly wavy hair that responded well to any clarifying shampoo on the market, and came out with dry, kinky, curly hair that seemingly responded well to nothing. And then developed a sulfate sensitivity to boot (which rules out most inexpensive shampoos). I’ve found less… Read more »

ARP
ARP
7 years ago

This does not align with my hair-related spending at all. I use store-bought hair care products and just have experimented over time to find products that work for me but are also affordable. I buy on sale or with coupons and I get my hair cut at an Aveda school for $20 about every 6 weeks. The cut is reviewed and touched up by a teacher, and I’ve had great luck with it.

Overall, I would say I’m spending about $250 / year for service and products.

Kathleen
Kathleen
7 years ago
Reply to  ARP

I used to go to the Aveda salon too! There was one right by the University I attended. I have to say for the first few times I was really pleasantly suprised. Then I got a few really really bad cuts. cuts so bad the teacher couldn’t just “touch them up” so just kinda did what she could with the 5min or so they allot per person. I live in Philly now and have a super short cut that could really look bad if cut improperly. So now my hairstylist costs $75/cut, but it’s so worth it because I get… Read more »

Rob
Rob
7 years ago

This is absolutely ludicrous.

irene
irene
7 years ago
Reply to  Rob

Well that’s a useful comment, isn’t it?

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago
Reply to  Rob

Odds are, like most men, you have short hair which, relative to women’s hairstyles, would be considered very short. Very short hair = little to no styling product. My boyfriend has a typical men’s cut and can get away with using cheap shampoo and no conditioner. But, when he was in college he had shoulder-length hair and had to use conditioner. Even then his hair wasn’t “professional” looking, but he didn’t need it obe – he was in college. Even a frugal women with easy to manage hair probably spends more on hair care than the average man. For example,… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
7 years ago

I don’t see how one can determine whether this is a “frivolous luxury” without considering current debt, income, actual needs, and long-term goals. This is just about determining the value one places on obtaining a certain look. But so much fits under that category: Clothing, make-up, hair care, lotions, plastic surgery, tans, the list is endless. That isn’t to say one can’t spend money on frivolous luxuries–but let’s just call it what it is.

Frugalapolis
Frugalapolis
7 years ago

Crazy high costs for you! I spend $12 for a haircut ($15 w/tip) about four times a year, A perm is $47 two times a year, and shampoo and conditioner are free with coupons, my annual cost is $115 a year. If I were you I would consider switching stylists and products. I used to use the high priced products from the salon, but there are very good commercial products in the grocery store too.

Wendee
Wendee
7 years ago

It sounds pretty reasonable to me. I’ve also stopped coloring my hair in order to grow in the gray, and I love the $$ savings. However, just like Honey, I’ve reached a point in my life where I know what works and what doesn’t (rarely any product at all, so plenty of savings there), and I’m willing to pay for a great cut. A well-done haircut makes everyday styling easier, faster, and less stressful, not to mention the value of feeling more confident in the image I project to the world–especially in the workplace.

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  Wendee

I’m pretty darn cheap, and I honestly don’t believe there is much difference in expensive/cheap beauty products.

But I’m going to come down 100% on Honey’s side here. If she feels this stuff is working for her and it makes her feel attractive, then go for it and save somewhere else. Life is short.

Tom
Tom
7 years ago
Reply to  Wendee

I loved her thought process on eliminating coloring

“However, no one’s said anything since I stopped, and the longer I go without, the less I miss it.”

That’s a great example of hedonic adaptation

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

Man am I glad I keep my hair long. I get a trim + layer shape-up once/ year ($30). I trim split ends myself throughout the year as the mood strikes. I don’t color my hair and don’t plan on it ever again.

I probably spend about $150/ year on products and styling tools. Sooo, less than $200. My hair is waist-length and super curly so I use a lot of product, but it’s very basic, cheap stuff. The only thing I splurge on is my conditioner because my hair type is “biracial typical”.

Mable
Mable
7 years ago

I live in Europe and have longer fine curly hair which was also a mess learning how to style. I go to the highest-end salon in my small city and pay about 70+ Euros for a cut and highlight every 3-4 months. My husband likes the highlights and I do too. When I was a broke student I once went almost two years just doing self-trims with no highlights to save. Now that I work I am not willing to do that. With products I wear my hair back in a ponytail at work so I can go with pretty… Read more »

discountchica
discountchica
7 years ago

I can totally relate to your haircare issues however, unlike you, I am unable to give up coloring. I mean I could… but I don’t want to. Honestly, the feeling of having “good hair” (in my opinion) is worth it to me and I would MUCH rather cut out things that aren’t as important to me. For my lifestyle and what is important to me, I would rather give up eating out or other treats. Washing my hair once a week with a $1.00 shampoo is not an option for me (thick dry hair on my head!). Kudos to you… Read more »

Peggy
Peggy
7 years ago
Reply to  discountchica

I color my own hair using L’Oreal Excellence for grey..costs about $8/box and I do it every 2.5 t 3 months and don’t worry about the roots showing 🙂

Eliza
Eliza
7 years ago

I understand about having difficult, unruly hair. I have it, too. Once you find something that works for you, it makes sense to stick to it and avoid frustrations. My strategy, though, has been to just “go with” the type of hair I have and NOT fight it (I did fight it for many years). I am extremely frugal and always have compliments about my hair, and I’m 50 years old and have quite a lot of gray mixed in with the brown, and my hair is long, thick and wavy. I can wear it up for work if I… Read more »

s. jones
s. jones
7 years ago

Sounds reasonable to me, many people don’t realize how expensive good hair care is! I highlight and cut my hair every ten weeks for $130, including tip. Worth every penny to feel confident and not struggling with styling every day!

JanJ
JanJ
7 years ago

I am currently on a path to eliminate color because the financial costs are rediculous and colouring agents are unhealthy. Slowly but surely, I am using less color each month so that the grow-out is barely noticeable. My hairdresser weaves it through but she is reluctant to do this and always attempts to talk me into full highlights and a change in the base color. It’s very difficult to resist, especially knowing that I will be the only female in my office with natural color when all is said and done. Will I look less professional? Less put-together? Less capable?… Read more »

JuliaR
JuliaR
7 years ago
Reply to  JanJ

Jan, I’m only 27 so am not going through this quite yet (but I am starting to find a grey here and there so I’ve started thinking about it!) but my mother decided to do the same thing you are when she was in her late forties/early fifties and now that she’s 100% grey it really looks gorgeous. She gets compliments all the time! Her sisters, mother, and daughters all discouraged it when she was gradually lightening up on color and now we all love it…in fact her older sister ended up doing the same thing. Now I notice other… Read more »

Anje
Anje
7 years ago
Reply to  JanJ

I’m from Europe, so we might think differently, but I always go the other way: professional and put-together is a must, but overly groomed suggests to me that this person will spend most of his/her time grooming, and charge me too much in order to afford their lifestyle. (Learned by experience.)

Peggy
Peggy
7 years ago
Reply to  JanJ

The perception depends on the beholder–when I think of some women with natural graying hair, I see their confidence in aging gracefully, which is attractive in its own way.

Tori
Tori
7 years ago

I cut my husband’s hair at home. I hated it at first, because I had no experience and it took forever. But now it goes really fast and I know we save a lot of money that way. He cuts my hair, too, but my style is really simple.

MelodyO
MelodyO
7 years ago

I’m a little stunned by your numbers, I admit! I pay about $40 for a good cut (four times a year, I’d say) but don’t get it styled, for a savings of $25. I just go home after the cut and style it myself like every other day. I have fragrance sensitivities so have to pay extra for fragrance-free hairspray and mousse and it’s STILL cheaper than the products you buy. Are the results really that much better than what you’d see with the middle-of-the-road products? I’ve bought expensive shampoos and conditioners in the past, and my results are exactly… Read more »

Jenn
Jenn
7 years ago

To each their own, but for me, my hair is not a luxury. I spend far, far less than that on my hair. I’m “lucky” enough to have straight hair so I can skip a lot of the styling issues, and to be blunt, I really don’t care about my hair too much. It takes too much time to do anything with it, and since it’s thick, it doesn’t hold a style for very long, so anything other than combing it is a waste of time. I wash it, comb it, let it air dry, and tie it up when… Read more »

Kacie
Kacie
7 years ago

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with spending “a lot” on appearance. Depending on a person’s hair type, it could be necessary to simply look presentable. I haven’t had a haircut in over a year (I’m way overdue) but my last one was at a beauty school. I plan to go to a regular salon when I get around to it, simply because they are faster and better. My husband hasn’t paid for a haircut in something like 4 years. He has his own clippers and does it himself. Saves a ton. We do our son’s hair at home,… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Kacie

I’ve tried to get my husband to let me cut his hair….but he won’t let me near him!!! =)

Guillermo
Guillermo
7 years ago

Give Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo and Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner a try. It is formulated to be sulphate free just like the salon brands but costs only $3.99 for each 8 oz bottle and leaves my hair feeling great.

Mary
Mary
7 years ago
Reply to  Guillermo

Yes! I have wash-and-go hair but only with the right shampoo and conditioner. I’ve been through many, many brands trying to save or splurge and avoid the oily-on-top, dry-on-bottom, flat and staticky mess that is the curse of people with straight, fine hair like mine. The TJs Tea Tree Tingle is THE BEST, and mercifully cheap.

Jean
Jean
7 years ago

Anyone who has naturally curly hair knows that you can’t just walk into Great Clips and get a good haircut. But I have to think that there are stylists out there that can cut curly hair for less than you’re paying. I found a cheaper stylist (still $35/cut) and people rave about my hair. This is one of the things that I will never be frugal about. The one thing I am frugal about – because I choose to spend more money on a good haircut – is my color. I buy boxes when they are on sale & can… Read more »

Renee
Renee
7 years ago
Reply to  Jean

My hair regimen is almost exactly like yours! I too, wash my hair only twice a week or so (it’s very long) and sometimes I find a thorough warm-water rinsing can serve just as well. I also don’t “shampoo twice” – what for? Because you didn’t work it in properly the first time??!!. Never did understand that. I get my hair professionally cut about twice a year, a really good baseline cut from a stylist who works magic with my curly long hair. I trim my own bangs monthly. I also colour my hair monthly and too, buy Nice N’… Read more »

Tiara
Tiara
7 years ago
Reply to  Renee

Ditto for me – on the vitamins and on stocking up on home hair colour kits when on sale. I also buy hair spray when it’s on sale, go through about 4 cans a year. I cut my own hair, it is long and all one length, very easy to do. My yearly expenses are around $150 per year including shampoo/conditioner/hair spray/colour kits.

joan
joan
7 years ago

I guess it’s a personal choice as to how much one spends on hair care, but I have to agree that sounds insane. I’m happy with Cost Cutters, $20 every 4-8 weeks. Been going to the same 2 Vietnamese gals for years, they do a real nice job on my short bob. And guess what, I have naturally curly (Italian) hair!! Product-wise, I spend $8 ea. or so on Nature’s Gate PABA free organic hair products. One bottle each of shampoo & conditioner lasts a few months. I could get the Suave stuff for $0.99 ea., but I don’t compromise… Read more »

Kay
Kay
7 years ago

That is a lot of hairspray that you then pay money for shampoo to wash out of your hair every day! Is there a different, cheaper style to maintain? I also have curly hair and find that bangs are completely impossible. Would love to go boy-short if I had the courage… you’re brave, Honey, so maybe you should look into it!

Marla
Marla
7 years ago
Reply to  Kay

Short hair probably needs to be cut every 4-6 weeks, and hair stylists will still charge you the “women’s cut” rate.

Tonya
Tonya
7 years ago

I appreciated seeing an article about realistic costs for hair care. I don’t pay as much as you do, but my hair isn’t too difficult to manage. I do pay a lot for haircuts, because without a good haircut, my hair won’t do anything! I like Paul Chavez Plump ‘n Thick products for my limp hair. And I get highlights two or three times a year (I push the limits on my coloring till I’m desperate and seeing lots of gray). They are expensive, but they are an expense that is WORTH IT to me. I know you feel the… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Tonya

EBay is a good idea! I’ll have to investigate that.

Diana
Diana
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Just wondering what brand of hair products you actually use. I also have thick, curly hair, and have been unable to find anything that works for my hair for the last 2 years…since the products I was using previously are no longer being made. I waste more money on trying products that are supposed to work for curly hair, use them once, dislike them, and throw them away. Thanks

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  Tonya

I agree with the above. We all don’t have the same hair style and texture, so what one person needs to spend to maintain their hair might be way more than someone else. And that’s ok. My hair gets super frizzy, and I’m overdue for a haircut. I like to go to this one particular salon that’s a bit pricey, but the stylist I have can work the magic. She’s worth every penny, and more. While I don’t spend as much as Honey, I can see how the expenses add up very quickly. Honey, is it possible to stretch the… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

I keep my hair in a pixie cut, so it needs to be cut every 4-5 weeks, at ~$40 per cut, but product lasts forever for me with so little hair. I don’t have thick or curly hair, but mine is very fine and tends to break easily, so it never looked very healthy when it was long. Keeping it short not only is a style I looooove, but my hair finally looks good on the balance of days.

To each their own – if you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with spending money. 🙂

Laura
Laura
7 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Same here. While I’d blanch at spending the amount of money Honey does just on hair, I agree with other comments that to each their own, and what works for one won’t work for another. Like Sarah, I have thin, fine hair that looks best short. I get it cut about every 4-6 weeks at Cost Cutters ($19 with coupon and including tip). Shampoo is what I have from the bathroom closet that I stocked up when on sale (I forget the brand, something middle-ish in price). My brown hair is slowly going gray, but seems to be doing so… Read more »

MelodyO
MelodyO
7 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Ha, that’s why everyone loves to freak out when Honey posts stuff like this – she and her husband have HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS in student loan debt. Can she afford hair care like this? You tell me.

Tonya
Tonya
7 years ago

I’d like to hear from some African-American women. I know their hair can be difficult to deal with and requires a lot of effort/money.

jlf
jlf
7 years ago
Reply to  Tonya

Tonya, I am a black woman, and I have never really calculated how much I spend on my hair, so this is an estimate. (Also note that I am not one of those women who cares about having really nice hair.) Every 8-10 weeks, I go to a salon and have a relaxer done on my new hair growth to straighten my hair. This costs ~$90, not including tip. Every 2 or three relaxers, I also have my hair cut. This adds an additional $30 or so to the price of the relaxer. I use fairly expensive Redken shampoo and… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  jlf

It was shocking the first time I added it up, too!

A-L
A-L
7 years ago
Reply to  Tonya

I’m biracial, but my hair is more black in nature than anything else. Here’s what I pay for: SERVICES Relaxer (which includes a trim): $70 (including tip) about every 8ish weeks A hair cut: $30 (on top of 1 of my relaxers)…probably about once a year PRODUCTS: Biosilk Silk Therapy: $40 for a giant bottle that lasts over a year. I use about a quarter size product amount once or twice a week. For 1/week shampooing/conditioning I’ll use Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo & Conditioner (or something like that). I think it runs about $10/bottle (smallish bottles). Probably use 2 bottles… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Tonya

I have a comment on page 2 (#72) regarding my hair – hopefully that’s somewhat helpful. In terms of hair type, my hair is curly and a little kinky and about mid back length, thick, tangles easily, fine to medium strands, natural and needs a lot of care. I understand most of the comments here about “only” needing to do this or that doesn’t apply to most of us, especially if our hair has any kind of length to it. As I mentioned in my post, having the right tools makes all the difference in the world since I do… Read more »

Kay
Kay
7 years ago
Reply to  Tonya

I heard this too, Tonya… and as a white woman, I wanted to understand the struggle, and appreciate my simplistic view of hair care.

Watch Chris Rock’s documentary, “Good Hair”… definitely a ton of what you wanted to ever learn on the topic, presented quite well!

imelda
imelda
7 years ago
Reply to  Tonya

Thank you for even asking! So many posters criticize Honey without taking even a second to think about how someone else’s reality might be different from theirs. Looking good isn’t just about some abstract idea of “feeling good.” It also is a requirement for women in the workplace. If your hair is, like mine, a giant ball of formless frizz (I’m biracial; don’t have curly or straight hair, just coarse, frizzy puffiness), then it’s just not going to look professional if you don’t do anything with it. I do the Japanese thermal straightening 2-3 times a year, at $400 a… Read more »

K
K
7 years ago

These expenses seem a bit outrageous to me as well. I just could not imagine spending so much on my hair.

I probably spend $10 every few months on a new bottle of shampoo and conditioner, and then a $30 haircut at Hair Cuttery once or twice a year. I’m still young so do not have to worry about coloring my hair yet. I also do not use any styling products.

But if your hair looks great and you feel good about it, and you can afford it then spending this much is acceptable.

Martha
Martha
7 years ago

This sounds way expensive to me. I like kinda higher end hair products and am willing to splurge on them, but I wait until there is a coupon or special on them and then stock up. Also, I’m not sure if there are any beauty-type schools near where you live, but there’s an Aveda Institute in the city where I live. Cuts by very competent students range from $15-$20. Congrats on tracking your expenses and figuring out what you are actually spending on your hair. At least that’s step 1. I wonder what is the vetting process for GRS posts.… Read more »

mike
mike
7 years ago

Honey, I sympathize. My wife probably spends about $117 per visit for a cut and color plus $20 tip. She goes about every 8 weeks, so it adds up quick. This is something she refuses to reduce as long as her income dictates she can do it and so I let it slide because we still hit our savings goals even though we have a mortgage. Plus its where she chooses to allocate her extra money. My hair cut as a guy is no more than $13, $8 with coupon at great clips every 6-8 weeks. Hair care products, mainly… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  mike

Happy to be shish kebab’ed, haha. I have tried everything the grocery store carries at some point or another. I actually never wore my hair completely down (from the time I was in middle school through my mid-twenties, so 10+ years) because I was so mortified at how horrible it looked. The conditioner I use, especially, CHANGED MY LIFE. It’s hard to even say because it sounds so shallow, but when you are embarrassed by your appearance for that long and then suddenly you feel pretty, it makes a huuuge difference. It was the same when I went to the… Read more »

A-L
A-L
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Honey,

You mention trying the grocery brands. Have you tried the generic brands at Sally’s (or other beuaty supply stores)? They’ll say, the generic of Paul Mitchell or Nexxus or whatever salon brand it’s supposed to be. Might be more expensive than Pantene, but a deal in comparison with regular salon prices.

Dina
Dina
7 years ago

Age: 52, with curly, thick hair, shoulder length. Cut and color $90 including tip. I go every 2 months. Worth every penny since it makes me feel good about myself and feel I look my best for my age. I don’t go crazy on products. I DON’T use shampoo, curly thick hair does not need it. I just use a decent conditioner like Panteen and work a small amount of olive oil into my hair after washing. This is followed by a product by Dove for frizzy hair and some mousse. I never use or need hair spray with mousse.… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Dina

It’s fairly obvious that women put forth all this effort to please themselves or other women. Or to keep the catty comments of other women at bay. Most men hardly notice these things and are rather baffled by the amount of effort we put into our appearances. I long for a societal sea change in which women realize they don’t need to perpetually color their hair. That pick me ups and self esteem boosts can come from other areas of life. My husband is 38 and salt and pepper. Nobody cares. I’m fully aware of the societal double standard, but… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Part of how I knew I found the right stylist was that when I said I’d decided to discontinue coloring, she said, “congratulations, that’s awesome” instead of trying to talk me into it.

celyg
celyg
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

It’s not just about “pick me ups” and self-esteem — if you are in the workplace, there is a tangible and financial benefit to looking good and looking young — statistics bear this out, and it applies to both men and women. I went prematurely gray and I spend a lot of money to cover that up. Yes, it also makes me feel good because my complexion looks better, color makes my hair softer, but I view it as a career benefit. I’d spend money on suits if I worked in an industry that valued them, I view this in… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  celyg

I have definitely noticed that since I started getting my hair professionally cut and using higher-quality product, I am more outgoing. I never thought of it in terms of being willing to talk in meetings at work or that sort of thing, but I bet there is a correlation.

Even aside from how others receive your appearance and treat you because of it (I do understand the point you are making), if you ACT differently because you feel more attractive, that can have benefits, too.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  celyg

This. I dye my hair for business reasons, since I am in a youth-dominated industry and wonder if “gray hair” equals “this woman has nothing to say to me.”

Wrote a post about that very topic recently:
http://donnafreedman.com/2013/01/24/the-bottle-blonde-at-the-dmv/

That said: Honey, does the stylist wind up using as much hairspray as you do? I don’t use the stuff myself, so perhaps other readers can enlighten me: Is a can of hairspray a month what a curly-headed person can expect to use?

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  celyg

Donna, the salon where I get my hair cut doesn’t carry the product line I use, so what she puts in my hair has no correlation to what I do at home. I also think my hair looks significantly better when I do it than when the stylist does it (unless they blow it out straight, which I sometimes have them do because it doesn’t cost any more and I NEVER do this at home.) Usually my hair looks fine when I leave the salon (though not as good as when I do it), and by the time I get… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  celyg

I don’t disagree with you, Celyg, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wish it were different. And the only way for things to change is for some women and men to buck the trend and refuse to comply with the standards of youth. And there is most definitely a double gender standard, even if men feel the pressure as well. I guess I can’t expect anyone to sacrifice their own personal success to make a point, but oh, how I wish things were different. Plus this is all so confusing. On the one hand, supposedly women need to… Read more »

irene
irene
7 years ago

I have found good things with a grocery store brand in a formula for thick wavy hair, shampoo + conditioner is about $12-15 together (depending on sales, coupons), 2-3x yearly. I get my hair cut twice a year at $40 a pop (very long hair – mid back), so $80 for cuts and $45 for product ~ $125 per year for “regular” stuff. I am still using a $25 bottle of smoothing spray I bought years ago, not sure how to factor the cost of that in but it is negligible at this point. The key to my frugality was… Read more »

al
al
7 years ago

I am a 22 year old female, and I probably spend ~50 dollars a year on haircare. I have long, straight hair that is easy to manage. Free cuts at work from a coworker every three months, or trim at home + $3 Aussie mousse (3x) + $3 hair dye (4x) $5 Aussie shampoo + $5 Aussie conditioner + $? miscellaneous couple of dollars + I always get Aussie shampoo and conditioner at Christmas I look at my acquaintances who spend hundreds each year, and I wonder if my hair could look better if I spent more money, even though… Read more »

amelie
amelie
7 years ago
Reply to  al

I am in a similar position and feel like I spend next to nothing. I have pin straight, fine-to-medium hair. It’s very long and I only cut it about once every two years. When I get it cut, I spend less than $20. Then I donate whatever I cut-off. My hair is very easy to maintain but I need to wash my hair everyday. My hair gets very greasy/oily insanely fast. I usually use a 2-in-1 because sometimes conditioners weigh my already relatively flat hair down even more. I need to use mousse or else it looks like I’ve been… Read more »

Peg
Peg
7 years ago

Everyone has their indulgences, but I’d be horrified to spend that amount of money on my hair. I usually spend $20 every 4 to 5 weeks for a haircut (that includes a tip). However, due to a move back to our home state-and no work-I’ll now be checking out the price at our local beauty school. Daughter just had her’s highlighted there-2 colors and hair below her shoulders-and it was $55.

Also, women struggle so much with their hair because we wear it in hairstyles that don’t work with our hair type. Just a thought…

Judy
Judy
7 years ago

Did I read this right? Nine bottles of hairspray a year! Oh goodness me. I’ve been nursing the same bottle for four years now. This is a great post to show women exactly what we spend on our looks…even if I still think it’s a little high. Every now and then I have my accountant look at my budget and once he asked me what I spend at the salon. Turns out another client (who’s budget he just went over) spent close to $2,000 on cuts and color a year! Crazy! My personal style can probably be dubbed as bohemian… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago

Approximate cost: $0. Katie seems to think it looks fine.

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

Tyler, do you wash your hair with water only? (I ask because some people do, and they have good results).

Or are you shorn? Can’t see the photo at work.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I do wash it with water only because it’s only 3/8 of an inch long.

Kelly@Financial-Lessons
[email protected]ancial-Lessons
7 years ago

This is probably funny for guys to read and realize just how much it takes to maintain appearances as a woman. But I can understand justifying these costs because its personal care that adds to happiness and contentment. I have straight, fine hair so I don’t need to really spend a lot on serums or high-quality products to keep my hair manageable. My only thing would be to maybe try to find a store brand shampoo and conditioner that is quality enough to use in your hair and then still buy the other products at the salon- might save you… Read more »

Paularado
Paularado
7 years ago

Kelly, I also have straight, fine hair. I guess we’re lucky! I buy a large bottle of Aveda conditioner every year because it really works well. I use store-brand shampoo and get a cut about 2x year. My annual costs are under $100.

Carolyn
Carolyn
7 years ago

Honey, you are so brave and diligent in everything you have done so far! My one question is what products are you using!! I need some too! Your hair seems to be just like mine so what I did was I got a boy cropped cut and that has made hair expenses much higher, but managing it has been blissful. My hair grows so fast and it just makes me feel like a chia pet, so my $120 haircut has to be scheduled every few months. I use mixed chicks leave in and nexus shampoo and conditioner. I know how… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Carolyn

The shampoo/conditioner I use is Kerastase, and the styling products are all Tigi’s “Curls Rock!” line.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Honey, I was soooo hoping it wasn’t $$Kerastase$$ you’re using, LOL! Did you know L’Oreal is the parent company? L’Oreal has a new line called L’oreal Advanced Haircare that I swear is very comparable to Keratase. I’ve used both and the Advanced Haircare line (they have about 3-4 different “child” lines within that sub-brand) and I love it.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I did know L’Oreal was the parent company though I have used their grocery store lines before and been disappointed. If you think their new line is really good then I would be willing to give that a try, for the shampoo at least (the conditioner is super important, especially since I have D-R-Y hair and live in the desert).

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Most of the grocery store lines are, IMO, crap on my hair – that particular line is one of the better ones. You can always take it back if it doesn’t work for you and the investment is so low it probably wouldn’t matter so much.

AnnW
AnnW
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

L’Oreal has lower priced lines that are identical to Kerastase. You can google that to find the exact name. I think some of them are Vive Pro. My hairdresser told me this. You can also compare the ingredients. I used to work for Revlon. When we had a hard time meeting sales projections, we would enlarge the holes in the caps to increase the “use up rate.” Also, you can dilute most products with water. Try it, in an empty container and shake it up well. You should try coconut oil on your hair, it might work, and Trader Joe’s… Read more »

Carolyn
Carolyn
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I will be trying this out ASAP! I have used curls rock before, but have opted to use more leave in conditioners so my hair doesn’t get hard. Have you used any of the daily hair cleansers? Just a really mild version of shampoos and that way if you use leave in you don’t have to have another conditioner and it leaves your hair so nice and smooth! I know sometimes I have to wash my hair just for styling purposes…

SavvyFinancialLatina
SavvyFinancialLatina
7 years ago

I am not going to advocate going cheap on hairstyles or products. Frankly, I have curly hair and it doesn’t work.

Have you tried shopping at Ulta? They are my number one choice for hair products!

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago

You know, there is an Ulta right next to the Target where I buy a lot of the product I use currently. I have never been in there, I didn’t know they carried hair products! I thought it was just a makeup store. I’ll have to check it out.

Juli
Juli
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Ulta has a great variety of stuff. If you go, sign up for their free club. I get coupons mailed to me all the time from them.

lucas
lucas
7 years ago

Sounds crazy expensive to me. But I am a guy so what do i understand about difficult hair right? Free haircuts from my wife and one $12 bottle of hair gel that lasts me an entire year. So I average about $1 a month on hair.

jxm
jxm
7 years ago

Haircuts in Boston are more costly than where I moved from. Heck! Everything in Boston costs more than my previous city. My cuts including tip went from $15 to $20.

As for frequency, I tend to push my limits by going in once every quarter or whenever I feel as though I look like a LEGO action figure. Other than shampoo I don’t by any products. My hair “care” costs per year is less than $100. I’m a dude though and probably don’t give much thought to my hair so long as it’s growing…evenly across my dome.

Annie
Annie
7 years ago

I feel like I’m being trolled, honestly. In debt, and still spending this much on a want?

Becky
Becky
7 years ago
Reply to  Annie

Annie –hair care is not a want. Just because you may have nice and simple hair that requires no effort (or you’ve decided not to give it any) doesn’t mean all women are that lucky and sometimes it requires money to look professional.

Ian
Ian
7 years ago

From a guy’s view: Let’s see… how about $0/year? Yup, zero. I cut my own hair, bought my first clippers almost 15 years ago. Those first $20 clippers lasted me 10 years; I splurged next time went for the $50 cordless setup. Figure that cost in or not, whatever. I buzz my hair down about monthly, keeping it fairly short. And for ‘product’? None. I don’t use shampoo. Haven’t for years now. And don’t say its because of my short hair either, my g/f has shoulder-length hair and she stopped using shampoo a couple years ago. Her hair has looked… Read more »

Roxanne
Roxanne
7 years ago
Reply to  Ian

Just curious, if she doesn’t use shampoo, what does she use? Just conditioner? Just water and then styling products? Or truly nothing at all? I can’t fathom this and I’m really curious! Thanks.

amy
amy
7 years ago
Reply to  Roxanne

I have thick, wavy hair just past my shoulders and I stopped using shampoo about two months ago. I clean it every few days with baking soda and a vinegar rinse. There are a ton of blogs out there with information on going without. One of my good friends has super curly, long, dry hair and she only uses conditioner. Her hair looks great.

Ruth
Ruth
7 years ago

I understand what it’s like to fight with your hair but I have the opposite problem. I have wavy baby fine hair with a couple of cow licks and it has a mind of its own. I can’t grow it out long because it looks crappy. I can’t cut it too short because I look like either a little boy or an escapee from a mental institution :). I’ve been going to the same stylist for 10+ years and would not even think of changing — I had too many bad haircuts before I found her. She understands my hair… Read more »

Erica W.
Erica W.
7 years ago

I have followed this site for year, but rarely comment. I, however, had to lend my support to your article. I have ethnic curly hair and it is all but unmanageable without the right cut and products. This is not a want for me, this is a need. It’s not vanity, it’s necessity. So long as my hair care costs fit within our larger family budget, I can hold my head up high with regards to these expenses. Just because difficult hair isn’t something that everyone must manage, doesn’t mean that my (or your) budget is out of control. I… Read more »

Tina @ My Shiny Pennies
Tina @ My Shiny Pennies
7 years ago

Have you considered homemade conditioners? I do buy pre-made hair masks for the convenience, but I’ve also had good luck with homemade masks using olive oil and honey. The only thing that stops me from using it consistently is my own laziness.

CaliGal
CaliGal
7 years ago

Of all the writers on GRS, Honey is the one writer that I personally have a hard time relating to. I appreciate her honesty and cost cutting stories but I find it hard to understand justifying buying hairspray at $12+ per can and $40+ shampoo/conditioner while having $80K+ in personal debt. A strategy to use gift cards from credit card rewards could be better used to other necessities such as food, clothing etc. Although I do not have the same hair type as Honey and I can understand the feeling that when I look good, I feel good. I truly… Read more »

The Norwegian Girl
The Norwegian Girl
7 years ago

haircuts are so rediculously expensive, so my way of dealing with the cost is just to stay away from it all. I.e I have long hair! I rarely use any products, only some hair-oil that I got for free once.By using budget shampoo, conditioner and sometimes hair mask. I let it air dry most of the time. and well that`s it. I think it`s the best way for my hair to stay healthy. I do of course cut my hair, but I do that about once or twice a year when I`m in Spain, as it`s much cheaper than home.… Read more »

Abigail's Mom
Abigail's Mom
7 years ago

This was a timely post because I have been delaying going to the salon and since I have extensions right now, I hope to keep away from professional hair care for at least another month. I am a black African woman with hair that is naturally coarse, dry, curly, frizzy and everything in between. Years ago, like so many black women, I had my hair straightened (with chemicals) and once that is done, the only way to get back to natural hair is to let the chemically processed hair grow out and then cut it off once you have a… Read more »

ChicagoGirl
ChicagoGirl
7 years ago

Honey, Do you have any beauty supply places near you? Many offer discount cards and have products similar to the salon products you may be using at a discount. Do you always get the same haircut when you go to the salon? If so, have the hairdresser do just the cut and skip the style, sometimes that is cheaper. You have already made a dent in your hair care costs, I think over time you will find a way to cut them down more…one thing at a time. I am a massage therapist and barter a massage for a cut… Read more »

Shari
Shari
7 years ago

I have naturally curly hair, and have found that the quality of the haircut makes all the difference with my hair. I finally found a stylist that I like. I get my hair cut about every 2 months at $40 each visit. I used to color my hair (from a box) but I stopped doing that about 6 months ago and I love it. Less money and time, and my hair is in much better condition now. Since my husband went grey young and is now completely grey, I figured I could let my grey streak show. If anyone around… Read more »

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago

This post makes me feel like such a tomboy! I get my hair cut every two years or so. If I pay for it it’ll be about $70, but I have a lot of friends who are stylists, so I usually have one of them them cut my hair in my apartment in exchange for dinner. I get the cheapest shampoo and conditioner from the store. They range from $1.50 to $5 (It’s usually $1.50, but I just got $5 containers of each and boy-howdy did I feel like a city girl!). These last me about two months. I use… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

Are you kidding me? This article sounds way more like you justifying your lavish lifestyle than giving personal finance advice. If your hair habits are more expensive than every single one of the comments by your readers, it’s clear that you’re missing the mark. Your hair habit is a WANT. Not a need. I’m not sure you really grasp the concept of financial discipline and stewardship.

Priswell
Priswell
7 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

I think your comment is pretty harsh. I agree that there are bargain ways to put yourself together, and personally, I’m pretty economical when it comes to my hair and makeup, but if we aren’t so careful about how we put ourselves together, would you be the first one to say “She ought to DO something about her appearance!” behind her back?

If the rest of her financial house is put together, and she’s found a few doo dads that make her LOOK and FEEL put together, why is that a problem?

Annie
Annie
7 years ago
Reply to  Priswell

I think the implied accusation that the commenter would judge Honey for not looking like she does this if she didn’t is unfair. For instance, I agree that this is a want and not a need. I use baking soda and vinegar for my hair and wear no makeup. I look fine. Yes, I have fine hair, but if I have curly I would like go short if necessary to control it. As it is, if my hair gets too long it gets very flat and ratty-looking. I find ways to deal with that until I hit my normal hack-several-inches-off… Read more »

Munch
Munch
7 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Sarah: Completely agree with you. Honey is merely justifying WHY she spends rather than taking concrete steps to serious reduce spending. Honey claims her goal is to eliminate debts and save for retirement, but this article showcases exactly how her words and actions do not match. The reality is she chose the hair length and style. It is all in Honey’s mindset. Honey: Please cut back on your expensive hair treatments. Your older self free of debts will thank you. You claim you are serious in your desire to become financially stable and plan for retirement. So ask yourself is… Read more »

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