Budget fashion: save money on hair salon visits

I didn't become a salon junkie until two years ago, just after I published my first book. I would schedule an appointment to get my hair colored pretty much every time I had a book signing. Since I didn't want to be photographed wearing the same outfit at every event, buying new clothes also became a necessity. After this became a pattern, my husband pointed out that I was spending more money on my hair and clothes than I made selling books.

To commemorate National Hairstylists' Day, I'll share the many ways I've tried to save money on my salon bill since then--something I suspect many other women have done to cut back on spending in recent months. First let me share a brief haircutting history:

Two decades ago, I moved to California and worked as a counselor in a homeless shelter as part of a full-time volunteer program for recent college grads. My $65 stipend couldn't cover my monthly salon bills now. Anyway, I got my hair cut at the Vidal Sassoon Salon in Santa Monica, where student hairstylists gave free cuts.

When I moved to New York City, I worked at a magazine called American Health. Most of the young staffers went to the salon at Barney's New York, where once a week after work student hairstylists cut hair, again at little or no cost (it's been so long I can't remember, but I think it might have been $10, plus tip). A senior stylist supervised and fixed any mistakes, and by the time it was done, it could take up to two hours but it was worth the wait. I spent the next chunk of time in Washington, DC, where I could get a haircut at a nice Georgetown salon for $50 or so. That was a decade ago and I understand that prices there have skyrocketed as they have elsewhere. My neighbor, a British hairstylist, also occasionally cut my hair after work. For $20, I got a haircut and a beer in her backyard.