Hair To Dye For: Why I Pay for Professional Hair Care

We’ve done a lot of things over the last few months to save money: switching from Verizon to Cricket, cutting back to 20 channel basic cable, economizing at the grocery store, dropping our Y membership. However, there’s one expense that I took on a few years ago that I just haven’t been willing to budge on: Professional Hair Care. Every 5-6 weeks, I pay my hairdresser Angie $85 plus tip to get my hair colored and cut.

You might think that a professionally hair care is a discretionary budget item that I am easily costs me $1000 a year. I suppose it is. After all, I could dye my hair myself, as I used to do. I could find a cheaper source of cuts, like getting a friend to cut my hair (done that), cutting my hair myself (that too), going to a bargain haircutter (yep), or get my hair done by student beauticians. I could space my haircuts out more frequently.

I could do a lot of things that would cut that $1000 a year I spend on professional hair care down to something more manageable, but I don’t and at least for now, I won’t.

A History of My Hair

I have always had very straight hair, and that made it pretty easy to take care of…if you use that term very loosely. Until this decade, I pretty much had the same hair habits I’d been rocking since, oh, 1994. I’d let my hair grow long, then twice a year or so have my Mom cut it down to about shoulder length.

Long, short. Long, short. No real style, just straight hair that stayed relatively neat and manageable at different lengths, air dried in warm weather and quickly blow dried when it was cool.

The only problem was that it started going gray in my early 20s, and got progressively grayer as time went on. For a short while I tried dying my locks, but found it inconvenient and a bit irritating to my skin. So, when Little Bit came along, I was only to happy to drop the dye and go on my merry gray way.

I did start paying $45 every 6-8 weeks to get a shorter cut, because little kids love to grab on to hair. But I didn’t worry too much about the grays.

Oh, it got a little irritating that Jon’s hair was still youthfully dark while mine turned whiter. He’s 8 years older than I am, but he didn’t look it.

Finally, the day came when someone at Dollar Tree asked me if my daughter was my granddaughter.

Why I Pay for Professional Hair Care

I should have expected it. I was 42 when Little Bit was born, and yes, chronologically could have been a young grandma instead of an old mom.I’d always thought of myself as a low maintenance, non makeup wearing kinda girl, but being called “Grandma” as I chased my toddler through the aisles offended my pride and vanity more than I thought possible.

So I called up my lovely wonderful mother in law, who dyes her own hair, to help me. Welcome back, Miss Clairol.

Only this time, instead of a little skin irritation to go with my now youthfully golden brown hair, I had an allergic reaction. My skin turned red and swelled up wherever the dye had hit, and it took a week before the itchiness faded to normal.

I looked great, though. No one was going to accuse me of looking like a grandmother. I figured the satisfaction with my appearance was worth the aggravation, plus would improve my chances with the job hunt I planned after my MBA was finished.

We switched dyes next time, and my reaction was even worse. I started worrying about what would happen next time, fearing an emergency room visit if it happened again. Home dye was no longer an option.

I went to my hairdresser, and started getting a professional dye job. Angie uses a low-allergen dye, and now I don’t have to fear the swelling and rash to not look like I’m 60.

It’s About Choices

Our quest to save money is about a lot of things: being financially independent, paying down mortgages, not accumulating any more debt, saving for college and retirement. Most of all, our quest to save money is about providing us with choices, both now and in the future, that improve our quality of life.

We choose to eat most of our meals at home. We choose to have fewer channels and less sexy cell phones. We choose to buy less stuff.

But we also choose to take beach vacations, to have a comfortable home on a wooded lot with plenty of privacy, and to have at least one parent stay home with Little Bit. These may not be the most money-maximizing choices, but they improve our quality of life tremendously.

And that’s what we’re working for. A better quality of life. Part of that includes feeling good about myself. 

better hairI choose to have professional hair care. Maybe not the trendiest, most expensive salon care, but professional care nonetheless for a service that could be performed much cheaper at home.

I’ve tried home hair care, and for me, it’s just not worth the hassle and it’s definitely not worth the allergic reaction. I’ve tried allowing my hair to gray, and it made me feel…old.

Sometimes I wish I had the confidence to rock my gray streaks, as I did when our daughter was young. Going from a professional cut and dye to just the cut would save at least $400 a year, even if I didn’t reduce the frequency of Angie’s services.

But $400 a year to not feel old? I’m not saying hair dye is the fountain of youth, but there’s a lot of benefit not being called grandma when my only child still has all but one of her baby teeth.

Professional hair care is a spending choice I’m willing to make. All things considered, $400 a year seems pretty cheap.

What are the things that you just aren’t willing to cut out of your budget, even though it might make sense in a strictly financial sense?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Femme Frugality*

15 thoughts on “Hair To Dye For: Why I Pay for Professional Hair Care

  1. I’m right there with ya. Though luckily the beauty school does a great job for $30 (cut and color). My hair is a relatively simple affair. It’s pretty straightforward layers. So worst case scenario I fuss about them leaving it too long (my hair, normally full of wave and body, is dead in the desert) and accidentally have them cut it slightly too short. It grows back out.

    Still, if the quality changed, I’d bite the bullet and get my hair colored at a normal salon. Because the grays annoy me. I’ve been graying since I was in my late teens, apparently. But the hairs had the courtesy to stay in the back. I couldn’t see them, so I didn’t care. Then they started being in the front. Did I mention I have dark, dark hair?

    Tim still fusses each time I get my hair dyed. He tells me he doesn’t care if I have gray. I gently remind him that it’s in no way for him. The same with anti-aging products. The fine lines are finally starting to stay even if I haven’t wrinkled my forehead recently. So I’m trying some low- to mid- price range products. Tim doesn’t care. I do.

    And by the way, if it makes you feel any better, my grandmother became a grandmother at 36. We start young in my family.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…Of potatoes and miscarriagesMy Profile

    • Wow, 36 seems incredibly young to be a Grandmother. I guess that just shows how much life has changed, because my mind knows that historically it wouldn’t have been that odd.

      Jon prefers me to dye my hair, and I kind of wish he was a bit more like Tim. My hair, my choice, but his opinion counts for something. On the other hand, he also has been suggesting that I get my dye job a little less frequently (8 weeks instead of 5-6) and No. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right and right now my grays are definitely showing (my next appointment is Saturday.) Not maintaining properly would definitely not contribute to the fountain of youth effect.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Emily. I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t want to pay for color but I pay for a good cut. That may change though since the gray is getting heavier as I get older. And I have red hair. When it was slightly gray it looked like I had blond highlights. Now the gray looks freaky!

    I’ll admit to you that 2 years ago I paid $350 for one of those keratin treatments! My hair was nice and straight for about a month and then the effectiveness began to wear off. I have extremely heavy, wavy hair. Stylists and other people say they would kill for my hair. But I’ve always wished it was thin and straight.

    Currently I pay $45 for a cut with tip, about every 7 weeks. My new stylist is trying to talk me into another straightening process that costs $75. I’m going to pass and probably go with a shorter, layered cut. I’ve been trying to avoid layers but I’m tired of the daily hot ironing.
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    • Oh, man. I know my straight hair is easier to maintain, and I’m glad the worst I’ve had to pay was for just dye and a simple cut.

      It’s too bad the gray staggers in like it does. Yeah, at first, mine looked like highlights as well, and I thought it was fine, and then poof….one day it was obviously gray. I know plenty of ladies with gorgeous silver hair, and maybe when I’m a bit grayer I’ll feel comfortable as a silver fox.

  3. My wife’s hair looks great to me…I don’t see the grays that she insists are visible nor the damage she tells me is the result of her medications. But I do see how important it is to her to go to her regular hair stylist (the one she’s seen for 25 years) and get her cut and color. Being frugal means making cuts where it doesn’t make much of a difference (like my haircuts, which are done at the cheapest place when they have a coupon). But in the things that are important to us, for whatever reason, I don’t mind spending a bit as long as we can afford it.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Avoid Spending a Fortune on St. Frugaltine’s DayMy Profile

    • I love the fact that you think your wife looks great but support her choices, Gary! And I agree that smart spending is about making the choices that are important, and that sometimes that means spending.

  4. I am struggling with Hair Care cost myself at the moment, I get really annoyed at Salon prices, even if I only get a style and cut (no colour or treatments) it still costs $80-100NZ. I have work friends who are easily paying over $200 a visit for their cut and colours. I’m going grey and I have long wavy hair I’ve just bought some good quality hair dressing scissors so I can give myself a trim between cuts so hopefully that will save on visits. And i’m thinking of trying out the Hairdressing school in the city for my next salon visit.

    • The price I pay for my dye and cut is a lot less than what friends pay for their cuts at higher end salons. My stylist rents a room for herself in a place with a lot of other independent stylists but basically works alone and for herself, so her prices are reasonable. But when i hear of people spending $100 or more on cuts alone and more on additional treatments, then $50 or more a month on hair care products every month, my jaw drops. But they think they are getting good value, and if they are happy with their look I guess they are.

      Good luck on your quest to find some less expensive options!

  5. I dye my own hair because I’m gray all over. I had my baby at 43 and don’t like being accused of being her grandmother. As I said, I dye my own–I can’t tell the difference between my dye job and the one I get at the salon unless I do highlights. You obviously can (and If I had that reaction to home dye I wouldn’t use it either). I think that’s the trick–I can’t tell the difference so spending all that money on salon dye doesn’t make sense for me (and I think it is so much easier and more convenient to do it at home too); for you, it makes a difference and you know you are paying not only for the hair color but also for the lack of rash.
    RAnn recently posted…Should I Do My Own Taxes?My Profile

    • I think that’s a good way of thinking about it. Where things don’t make a difference (or much of one) I’m happy to switch to a less expensive option. I liked Verizon better than Cricket service, but not $1000 a year better. On the other hand, getting the pro dye job and missing the allergic reaction (which was getting worse over time) and avoiding the grays is definitely worth the $400 a year.

  6. I think it is so important that we find ways to take good care of ourselves while being frugal. My self esteem was very low after having my second baby. I had gained a lot of weight, and none of my clothes fit well or made me feel good. Eventually, it had such an affect that my husband insisted we do some un-budgeted-for clothes shopping. It was the right choice for us, just like your hair is for you.
    And why do we have to go grey so early?! I started in my early twenties too and have a nice streak of greys that I (sort of) embrace. If someone called me grandma to my kids you better believe I’d be sobbing my way to the hairdresser and reworking our budget though!
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    • I’m glad your husband helped you see the value of feeling good about yourself. A supportive family can really help you get a grip on when your drive to save is getting in the way of your quality of life, and self esteem is a really important part of that. I think that’s why my husband is supportive of my dye jobs.

      Early Grays for me and my brothers were a given, since our dad started going gray as a teenager. Now my little brothers look older than me, because they are grayer, but neither one feels the need to color of course. Oh well, at least I don’t have to fear going bald.

  7. Seeing the grays popping up was a big deal for me as well. I am in my mid 40’s and my husband is older. He looks hot in the salt and pepper, but that is not for me. When I mentioned to him I needed to color my hair he said the silver streaks are natural highlights, I said nice try, but no. I have sensitive skin and I read about the toxic chemicals in the hair color that not only destroy your hair, but cause cancer and birth defects. http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1111869/hair-dye-could-pose-risk-to-unborn-babie-and-female-fertility
    So I did my research, looked at different options as I was not going to burn my scalp each time I colored my hair. So my husband and I considered the options and henna was the smart choice, 100% plant based, all natural and it is beneficial to my hair. So I ordered the Light Mountain henna online, two kits as my hair is elbow length and we got a coloring cape and brush at Sally’s. My husband has been cutting my hair since shortly after we met, I know it sounds crazy to some, but he does a fantastic job, he has never given me a bad haircut, so I am happy with skipping the salon. I watched a couple tutorials with him on youtube on using henna. He felt he was go to go. He mixed up the henna adding apple cider vinegar & coconut oil to the henna powder. He used the vitrile gloves as I have a latex allergy, he started by sectioning my hair and then working the henna into my roots first, then the rest of my hair. A bit messy but all hair color is. I left it on the allotted time and then washed it out. The results were fantastic! The color is vibrant, great shine and it left my hair feeling soft and silky. We took before and after pics, which I posted on Facebook. I got a lot of likes, one friend in her 20’s said, “I want your hair”, and a couple others asked if my husband would take appointments. So my husband admitted my hair was far more beautiful with the henna color than before. He has agreed he will do a full application every three months and root touchup at the six week mark. We moved my trims from every other month to correspond to my coloring cycle. To me it was a win-win-win. I continue to have my husband take care of my hair, it looks fantastic and I spend less than $40 a year on the henna to do my hair. I figure it saves me over $1500 a year. I had a woman who runs a salon, stop me in the grocery store to compliment my hair and ask where I had it done, she was impressed and offered to hire him. I told her he did not have a license to do hair, he already has a good job, but he will pleased to hear his work gets praise from pros. My neighbor, who had worked in a salon, stopped over to chat one day when he was doing my hair and she told me he was good and I was very lucky to have him do it, her husband refused to help when she tried to DIY and she pays $130 every six weeks for cut and color, $200 if she gets highlights. I would say I am blessed to have such a supportive husband to do it for me, he says that he is lucky as he gets to have such a beautiful wife. I don’t argue that point with him 😉
    I do encourage anyone who has concerns about the toxic chemicals that are present in both the salon and box color to look into going the henna route. I am a firm believer, I have seen how great the results are.

    • That’s awesome, Cheryl! When I started having the reactions I read about Henna, and it was going to be my next attempt if the professional hair dye had not worked for me. I ultimately didn’t try it, but it’s good to hear that it worked so well for you. I might have to give it another look.

      • I would say it is definitely worth a look. The chemical that is the worst in both box and salon colors is PPD. It may not bother you at first, but over time people get more sensitive to it and can have a reaction. The MSDS on the chemical warns to avoid skin contact. Hello, how close to your roots can you get and not touch the scalp? It has been linked to bladder cancer both in people having it put on their head and hairdressers exposed to it regularly.
        My husband is frugal, has an organic garden and reads ingredients in the grocery store, so being I have sensitive skin, he actually suggested the henna to me. I have seen some youtube videos where women apply it themselves with good results, but being I have my husband believing that the best results come from having someone apply it for you to avoid missed spots and provide the best coverage, I am not going to tell him that I could do it myself. My hair is very long so it would be be more difficult, I love it long and have no intention of ever chopping it off. He likes it long as well. The nice thing about henna is that it coats your hair and protects it, it doesn’t chemically damage it. I find I have far fewer tangles. Having been able to grow my hair long was a big deal for me after being forced to have it short as a child and my 1st husband wanting it kept short. To me having my husband not just be supportive of me having my hair long, but helping me take care of it is a big deal to me, he even does an awesome job of braiding my hair for me, I enjoy the pampering. I’m not sure if your husband would be willing to help you with the henna, but I think it would be awesome if he would try. I’m sure he would not complain about the savings, especially knowing it is a healthier option. For me, I actually enjoy the bonding time with my husband, we get a little silly at times, so it doesn’t seem such a chore. Sure it was a mistake when he got the vaseline in my ear rather than just around the outside portion when he was doing my forehead and neckline to prevent staining, and yes I did take his phone to make sure he deleted the pictures of me with my head covered in henna with a plastic cap on, I didn’t want that up on Facebook. OK, maybe my mom is right, we are weird, but we are weird together.

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