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Save Money by Embracing Your Natural Hair

Did you grow up loving your natural hair? I didn’t. During my middle school years, the gold standard for hairstyle among girls were pin-straight locks that fell like a curtain down the back (think Gwyneth Paltrow’s hair below):

My hair, however, was thick and wavy and unruly. Despite spending $30 on a straight iron and anti-frizz serums (a considerable sum when you’re 12 and have no income) at the local drugstore, my hair remained stubbornly wavy. 10 years later, I got a straight (magic) perm at a Korean salon. After sitting in the stylist’ chair for 3 hours, not touching, washing, or pinning my hair for 3 days, and paying $250 for the privilege, my waves were finally coaxed into submission.

The perm did its job. My hair stayed stick-straight for a year. When my hair finally grew out, however, I decided against spending another $250-$350 for a magic perm. That’s a fair deal of money, and besides, I’m no longer in middle school. The cool girls won’t pick on me because my hair doesn’t conform to their ideal.icon wink Save Money by Embracing Your Natural HairAnother reason is I’m afraid of the damage consistent chemical treatments will do to my hair. I decided to save money by embracing my natural, wavy, locks.

So, I went to my stylist and I asked her to give me a cut that will play up my waves. She did, and it looks great. Best of all, I don’t have to do anything – I let my hair air dry, scrunch in a bit of a curling creme at the most, and I’m ready to go. The fact that I save money every time by NOT doing the straight perm is another bonus.

The best way for me to keep both my hair healthy and my wallet happy is to get a cut that works with my hair length and texture (and when in doubt, go for longer cuts). This minimizes the time and energy I have to spend on my daily haircare routine, so I have more time and money to do other things. Though I can’t say I’ll never head back to the salon for treatments (this Brazilian Blowout sounds intriguing), I am happily embracing my natural hairstyle for now.

Do you like your natural hair? Does the desire to save money influence your hairstyle decisions?

image source: askmen.com

  • MoneyMaus - I highlighted my hair 2x a year from age 14 until just before my 23rd birthday. I recently turned 24, haven't highlighted my hair just over a year and I get a LOT of compliments on my natural "darker blonde" color. It also saves me over $100 per year on coloring!

    (In middle school I got a curly perm… hated it but my hair LOVED it, so that 3 years later I also got the "straight perm" you mentioned…but after a year, I was back to semi-wavy. Now I just use a flat iron!) :) ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Congrats on kicking the color habit! I had wanted to color my hair, but I'd have to do it professionally and bleach out all my natural hair color because I have such dark hair. I decided I didn't want to go through all that trouble (and damage) for a few highlights. ReplyCancel

  • Caity@Penny Couture - My hair is probably one of my favorite physical attributes as is — accordingly, I always try to cut costs! A couple bottles of Pantene and a $30 haircut every 9 months or so is my formula. I grow my hair out, then get a shorter cut, and have yet to have a problem with split ends. I think my best solution is to avoid damage from over-heated hair, which saves the strands and my time!

    Maybe my hair would be nicer if my regimen more expensive, but I love it (vain, I know) as is so why change? That being said, I definitely understand if someone chooses to use more expensive products — my sister, for example, spends considerably more on hair products to keep her curls under control… ReplyCancel

  • erika - I switched to henna… doesn't give me the brightness I get at a salon, but my hair is SO much healthier and henna is $10… I use it once a month. MUCH cheaper then every 3 months at the salon… at about $80/before tip. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - That's great.. I've heard good things about henna. My mom started using it when she became allergic to commercial dyes, but I think she became sensitive to henna too. ReplyCancel

  • @eemusings - I used to crave curly hair like you wouldn't believe. But I have coarse, straight Asian hair (which is ridiculously thin in front, so when I do pony tails I usually have bald scalp bits showing through). I've come to love it though – at least it's fairly low maintenance. I like to brush it and go, basically. ReplyCancel

  • @Ciawy - My problem is my gray hair (genes). I'm only 35, but I have to take care of my hair color so as not to look older.
    I used to go to the salon every 3 months for hair color and cut. But now that money is tight, I learned how to color my hair. I still color my hair every 3 months, but I only end up spending $10 instead of $100-$150 each time.
    As for the cut, I have straight hair, so a layered look will do the trick. I'm very thankful for my hair stylist. She knows how to cut it so that it still has body and style even if I haven't seen her for 6 months. ReplyCancel

  • StackingPennies - I highlighted and died my hair high school, college and about a year and a half after. Then I moved HERE where that kind of upkeep was just out of my reach! :)

    Now that I've been natural for so long, I found I have some cool natural highlights/lowlights and I embrace it. Even though I think highlights look a bit better (at least when I first do them — after that the upkeep just ruined my hair anyway).

    My hair is mostly straight with a random bit of wave. All the stylists blow out my hair for me, but I'm way to busy (lazy) to do that every day. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I'd love to have natural highlights & lowlights. I think keeping your hair healthy is really what's going to make it look the best in the long-run. Save money & stronger hair = win-win to me. ReplyCancel

  • Bucksome - I have the opposite hair lust story. My hair is fine and extremely straight. Fortunately, I have a lot of it which weighs down if I let it get too long.

    When I was a teenager, I had hair like Gwyneths (only brunette) and it rocked. Then in the 80's I wanted curly hair and suffered through many bad perms before finally learning it was not possible to curl my hair without severe damage.

    Now, I get a cut that works with the hair texture and have God's highlights (strands of grey/white). ReplyCancel

  • FabulouslyBroke.com - Yes. I don't do anything to it now

    I used to dye it, cut it, think about perming it, cover it in oils and silicones

    Now I just leave it.. and it turns out all right & looks healthier as my natural colour ReplyCancel

  • me in millions - I've never dyed my my hair, even though I sometimes contemplate it. And I go with my natural curls. Maybe I'm just lazy though. Dyes and straightening take a lot of time… and money! ReplyCancel

  • Frugal Brunette - I am a natural brunette with thick, wavy hair and for YEARS (mostly during High school and College) I spent my entire income on making my hair look exactly like that picture above. It was gorgeous, for the first two years, until my hair eventually went on strike, dried out, fell out and left me with a sticky mess and 10 inches less of hair. Instead of growing, my hair shrunk. I finally had enough at the end of last year and went back to brunette. Let me tell you, I will never go blonde again. I let my hair air dry, wash it only every couple of days (benefit of being darker now) and the shine is unbelieveable. I finally have the hair I have always wanted – in it's own natural way! My wallet – and ego – are super happy! ReplyCancel

  • gingercorsair - I totally embrace mine :) I've never dyed it or processed it or anything because I know that women spend hundreds of dollars to get their hair to look like mine. (Even though sometimes I wish I were a brunette!)

    I don't mean to be a snob about it, but I've got great hair and I know it–so I respect what nature gave me and leave it au naturel. I just get a cut that compliments it and I'm good to go!

    The most I do to it is blow dry it straight and occasionally use a flat iron on it.

    I have long, thick (but fine) light blond hair with natural wave. ReplyCancel

  • Julie - I'm extremely curly! I haven't had a perm and I used to dye some of my hair. The thing I spend most money on is my flat iron (I bought one for about 90 USD, 900 MXN) and sometimes hair dye. Now I've left off the dye and just stick to flat ironing once in a while to save money on hair products (mousse and stuff like that to keep the curls in check). ReplyCancel

  • quarterlife girl - I think my hair maintenance is ruled more by laziness than anything else, but yeah, I typically don't like to spend anything on it. I've kind of worked backwards from you all….I've started getting professional haircuts every 9 months or so (my mom used to cut my hair before), and actually buying products to put in it.

    Now, if money was no factor, I'd totally get that keratin treatments my aunts, cousins, and sister have gotten (I think there's only two of us over 18 left that haven't gotten it done, lol)….it'd be the best for lazy old me. However at nearly $300 I just can't stomach paying that much for my hair. Styling products it is! ReplyCancel

  • Investing Newbie - Oh no. I'm the former you. I prefer my hair straighter. As an African-American, my hair is naturally curly. And we're taking about thick curls that break combs. I did spend one year without relaxing my hair. Beside being cheap, it was the healthiest my hair was. However, at the end of the day, I preferred the straight hair look. So I'm going to continue shelling out $40 a month, and $60 every month and a half for my treatment and upkeep. Ah the price of beauty… ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - The price of beauty indeed! I've also read that women with curly hair spend more money on haircare than women with straight hair. Can you find treatments that will last longer? I'm thinking it'd be a big time commitment to go the stylist every month. With the magic perm, at least it holds out for 6 months to a year+. ReplyCancel

      • Investing Newbie - I've heard that Japanese Straightening will set me back about $600 a year, which is only about $100 cheaper than what I do now. That's all I know though… ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - I have found that the key to my wavy/curly/frizzy, thick, coarse hair is to leave it alone! I've stopped shampooing and conditioning daily, for just twice a week and I'm finally loving my hair. I have dabbled in highlights, low lights and overall color. I don't mind doing the overall color, but just every other year when I feel like I need a change of pace. As was mentioned above, though, I've started to notice some natural reds, golds, and ACK…grays in my medium/dark brown hair. So I've decided to just pull the grays and love the rest for awhile.

    The biggest key, however, is to NOT over wash. Get a shower cap (or swipe a freebie from a hotel!) and let it be. It'll take a bit for your hair to adjust, so start by washing every other and continue to pare it back as your hair adjusts. I'm getting closer to only washing once a week, as the longer I can go, the happier may hair is in between. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I'm trying to get in the good habit of conditioning every time I wash, and using sulfate-free shampoos. My hair is really thick too.. I remember a few years ago my grandmother touched my hair with a pained expression on her face. Then she went out and bought me conditioner. Haha. :) ReplyCancel

  • Red - When I was in middle school and high school, I thought I looked better as a blonde. I paid for all-over highlights, about $60 every three months. ($240 a year, not including care products or hair cuts!) In college, I realized highlights were too expensive to be included in my budget. I spent another $60 to dye my hair as close to my natural color as we could get (I didn't want that gross half and half look that happens when you let your hair grow out with highlights.), and I've not dyed or highlighted it since! I love my natural hair color. And, to save even more money, I'm letting my hair grow out with the plan that I'll donate it to Locks of Love after it gets so long. $40 hair cuts and $60 highlights just seem outrageous to me now! ReplyCancel

  • WellHeeled - Good for you for donating your hair! I don't think I can grow my hair out that long. ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie - LOL, since I'm a child of the 80s (and I assume you were a child of the 90s), the preferred middle-school look was BIG and CURLY (preferably with a perm). Thankfully my mom would not give in to my begging to perm my straight-wavy-ish hair. But I've colored my hair off and on since I was 16, usually doing it myself, occasionally having it colored at a salon. For the past few years, though, I have something some women might envy: a boyfriend who is a hairstylist! So, now I get great cuts and color for free. I could never afford his services as a paying customer! Still, it sometimes turns into a case of the 'cobbler's children have no shoes'! :) ReplyCancel

  • PurpleGirl - I've always been really low-maintenance when it comes to my hair; it's partly financial, because I know if I got a perm there'd be all sorts of upkeep, etc. It's mostly laziness, though! I use Nexxus products and let it air dry. I do own a blow dryer, but I've never used it on my hair–I bought it to put that shrink wrappy stuff on my windows in the winter!

    I will get bored and dye it red (at home) every couple of years, then use clarifying shampoo to hasten the fading when it starts to go. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I'm low-maintenance when it comes to hair too. The only time I blow dry is when I go get a hair cut. ;) ReplyCancel

  • MoneyHoneySF - I straigthen my hair every 1.5 year as well. The only thing I don't like is spending 4-5 hours of my life in the salon. But it's well worth it since it remains straight for quite sometime. Thank god the price to do this has dropped to around $100 which is not bad. That equates to $25/hr worth of work and it will last many months. ReplyCancel

  • Meg - I embrace my hair. I highlighted it for a year in college, but quickly got tired of paying $120 every few months to maintain it. I have that 'dishwater blond" color but my hair gets naturally highlighted in the Texas sun in summer.

    It's pin straight even if I just let it air dry, which I used to hate before I realized how many other girls actually blow dry and straighten their hair every day. My hair lacks volume/body, but at least it's low maintenance! I only get it cut only 2-3 times a year but because I don't put many products in it or style it that often, it stays in great shape. ReplyCancel

  • WellHeeled - They get to take credit for everything, don't they? ;) ReplyCancel

  • Kim - I have always loved *almost* everything about my hair. The one thing I don't like is the frizziness. It has been slightly more under control ever since I learned not to brush it (it's not curly, just wavy, though sometimes it's straight if it's being weird), but I am constantly on the quest for that perfect shampoo/conditioner/leave-in combo that will banish the frizz forever!

    I use: head and shoulders (not so much for dandruff as for just liking it), whatever super frizz-control conditioner is on sale (used to be Pantene, now it's John Freida), and occasionally some sort of leave-in conditioner…but let's be honest here. I am a "wash and go" girl. Styling products and blow driers do not work for me (see above about brushing)!

    Does anyone have a rec for a great leave-in conditioner that will banish the frizz (I wash my hair at night, btw) without being greasy and heavy? ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - If you find a great leave-in conditioner, let me know too! :) ReplyCancel

      • Melissa - Kim! We have the same hair. I found that if I stopped washing it so darned often, it behaved much better. I suggest starting by not washing it Friday or Saturday night. See how it reacts by Sunday.

        As far as a good leave-in conditioner, I used Biolage once or twice a week for quite awhile. ReplyCancel

  • Financial Samurai - As a dumb guy, I never knew that there are rarely ANY natural blonds! I had NO IDEA women spent so much money on hair, which just gets longer and needs to be maintained, forever.

    I do think having great hair is great for appearances, but wow… hundreds of dollars a year to dye one’s hair another color… what’s the point?

    If i could shave my head off, I would, but I’m kinda scared. However, if I had a really deep receding hairline, I’d definitely buzz it all off!
    .-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..The Most Important Tip For Job Hoppers: Join People, Not Firms =-.ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Guys certainly do have it easier in the beauty spending department! Although I think you guys are catching up… I see a lot of ads for Bowflex, Rogaine, supplements, etc., and those can't be cheap. ReplyCancel

  • WellHeeled - Isn't it funny how the grass is so much greener on the other side? My hair has tons of body and volume, but for the longest time all I wanted was flat, pin-straight hair. ReplyCancel

  • PrettyinOrange - I do now. It took me years to get there, because I grew up in the 70s and 80s and naturally curly hair was not a fad AT all. I also didn't know how to properly style it nor did I know what products to use ( and I am sure that there wasn't much choice out there at that time, either.)

    But now I love my curls. I wish I didn't have to color, but as another commenter said, this is where your genetics come in. I was completely gray by 27. ReplyCancel

  • Carnival of Personal Finance #243: Valentine’s Day Edition- Financial Eyes & Ears - [...] Well-Heeled Blog argues that you can save money by embracing your natural hair, and says, “I used to spend $250+ and 4 hours in the stylist’ chair to straighten my [...]ReplyCancel

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  • Sara - Every time I've ever opened a fashion magazine, it seems like the hair advice consists of: if your hair is straight, make it curly; if your hair is curly, make it straight. I've always wondered why they don't just tell people with curly hair to leave it curly and people with straight hair to leave it straight (well, other than the fact that their advertisers sell more hair products when people change their hair). ReplyCancel

  • Mary - What a post that I can Totally relate to!!!!

    My hair is Thick, naturally curly, and coarse, to boot! Growing up, I HATED my hair. Then in my early twenties, I kept it real short, like as short as Halle Berry used to have. But, after I turned 30 I began liking my hair more. I started growing it out. I do occasionally Flat Iron it straight, if I have time. But, now most of the time it is curly and I'm okay with it. It is much longer than it ever was. I am more comfortable with it, than I ever was. I think as I get older it just doesn't bother me as it did when I was a teenager. ReplyCancel

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  • Vayla - I'm 22 and I've never colored or did anything to my hair beyond the rare curling iron moments. I have dark brown, kind of like Rachel weisz. I just air dry and my wavy hair looks fine the way it is. I've never understood women who took hours on their hair and spent so much money on it. Embrace your natural hair ladies! Be it straight, wavy, curly, black, brown, blonde, or red! ReplyCancel

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