I can remember the exact moment I swore off expensive hair salons for life. It was the afternoon of my year 12 formal (Australia’s version of senior prom) and I’d been booked to get my hair done at one of the fancy places near school. After months of careful planning and excited anticipation, I knew exactly what I wanted: A quick trim to neaten up the ends, and my long hair pulled loosely off my face in a low, messy braid—a simple style that surely wouldn’t set me back more than $60.
The entire appointment, from start to finish, took 20 minutes–including a dry trim, and before I knew it I was booted out of my leather massage chair and presented with a bill for $160. Horrified, I peeled off eight $20 bills—a small fortune by any high school student’s standards—and handed them over to the stylist, furiously thinking to myself, “never again.”
Needless to say, I was pretty scarred (financially, mostly) and my new hair mantra was born: Never again would I pay more than $25 for a visit to the salon—and in the eight years that have followed, I haven’t wavered once.
I mean no disrespect to stylists at expensive salons, but seriously, who can justify spending hundreds on having their split ends tidied up? Not me, and let’s be real for a minute here: Any money left over after essentials like rent, bills, and food, should really be going into a savings account, or towards fun stuff like travel or cute clothes. That $300 you just spent on a haircut could be half your airfare to Paris!
Maybe you think I got lucky and stumbled upon one cheap-but-reliable gem who I visit loyally, but not so—my story is proof that brilliant, budget hair salons exist everywhere. In fact, over the past eight years I’ve lived in three cities, more than a dozen neighborhoods, and switched hair stylists more frequently than some people change their bed sheets. I’ve become a walking database of all the best budget hair dressers from Sydney to New York, and trust me, they’re absolutely everywhere.
The secret to getting a great quality, low price haircut? Rely on reviews online and treat Yelp like a digital bible. Any time I walk past a salon with a sign boasting $25 or less cuts (usually in malls or around train stations), I jump online and look for reviews on the salon, and then walk on in for a trim—you rarely need an appointment at these places, which is another part of their charm.
My other major tip for anyone wanting to walk away satisfied with a $25 trim is this: Don’t ask for anything overly complicated, period. I’m not the kind of girl who’s ever been tempted by bangs or balayage, and there’s little risk in visiting a budget hairdresser when all my hair needs is a quick trim—and you can even hold the blow dry, thanks.
Admittedly, I know that having long, fine, fairly straight hair is easier to work with, so there’s less room for error—and most girls with thick, curly hair aren’t nearly as willing to play as fast and loose with salons.
“It usually costs $500 for cut and color for me,” StyleCaster’s super-curly video director, Melissa Haggerty, told me. “I don’t get my hair done that often so it’s worth it to me too spend more on it. Particularly with curly hair, it’s really important that someone knows what they’re doing. It’s not the same as cutting super straight hair. I don’t mind spending a little more to know that I’ll be happy with the results.”
Admittedly, my thrifty tactics haven’t always ended well—there was the guy who gave me grown-out bangs, and another who cut my hair on a noticeably wonky angle. But, at the end of the day, you just need to remind yourself that it’s only hair, and hey, at least it’ll grow back, right?
So yes: I’ve kissed those blissful head massages and reclining leather salon chairs goodbye forever. But knowing I’ll never be shocked by a three figure bill at the hairdresser ever again? Yeah, that makes it all worth it.