8 Budget Hair Hacks To Make Your Mop Look Good For Cheap

I have a tendency to go all-out with clothing and makeup, but the part of my ~lewk~ where I let my true laziness shine is my hair. I cut it once a year, or less if I can get away with it. (Terrible, I know – but for some reason I can’t be bothered with this.) I wash it rarely. (Which is good-ish for your hair, from what I hear, but perhaps a little gross.) I don’t really style it, except for a French braid or a bun here or there on a “bad hair day”. It just kind of hangs, lifeless, in a way that doesn’t at all frame my almost perfectly spherical chubby-cheeked face. I need to work on this. But the thing is, while I can justify spending a little extra on clothes (which I love) or makeup products (which are super fun for me to play with and test out), I for some reason have a hard time shelling out for hair-care. Good shampoo costs a shit ton, hair color is sometimes over a hundred, and a cut and style at a salon that isn’t a mall barber shop usually costs around $45. I used to cut and color my hair regularly, and it was exhausting – not to mention expensive – to keep up with. So I decided hair care would be a place where I’d trim down my budget (lol @ that hair pun) and save some cash.

However, when brushing through my disastrous mop recently, I realized I needed to switch it up a bit. I decided to ask around and see if anyone in my life had some expert, budget-friendly hair care advice to give me so I can fix this situation without blowing my budget at a salon. Here is what everyone had to say.

1. “My favorite low-maintenance and low-cost hair tip is to just loosely braid it instead of heat styling it with a curling iron. It is so much cheaper and easier and better for your hair to not really deal with hair tools if you can find a way around it. I totally get why they are used, and I used to use straighteners and curling irons/wands regularly, but a good-quality one is usually over $80. And they last, but not forever. I found myself replacing them every two years or so. Becoming someone who doesn’t use those things definitely saves me a good chunk of money on a semi-regular basis.” – Jamie

2. “Give up hair elastics and replace them with no-crease ribbon hair ties or those springy ones that definitely have a name I’m blanking on at the moment. I am a ponytail girl, and it is kind of crazy how noticeably switching to these has changed my hair. Tying it into tight ponytails with elastic hair bands is so bad for it, and makes it weak and causes lots of breakage and damage. I feel like I’ve reversed a lot of the shitty things I did by tying my hair into buns and ponies by switching to these holders, which are much gentler on the hair. Bonus, they are really cute.” – Taylor

3. “I say the best tip is always to go to a local hairdressing school. Getting haircuts from students who are in training is often free, and if it costs anything, it usually isn’t over $10. (Plus tip, I suppose.) They are under the supervision of their teachers and professional stylists, so I always feel confident trusting them with my hair. Plus, they have to learn some way! It is a win-win because they get necessary hands-on training, and I get a free haircut or color.” – Rachel

4. “Get yo damn hair products at T.J.Maxx. They carry a lot of high-end salon brands and other amazing products for like, super cheap. I regularly buy shampoo, conditioner, and dry shampoo there. Also, they sell really good quality hot tools like CHI straighteners for like, less than 50% some times. Obviously it is hit or miss at those stores, but you often find really awesome things for good deals.” – Celeste

5. I am all about the DIY for hair, because it is so delicate and I want to avoid putting chemicals on it as much as possible. I love olive oil or coconut oil masks, avocado masks, and banana/honey masks for hair. Egg yolks are also amazing for repairing damage. And these are all things you pretty much always have on-hand and often in excess, so it is definitely cheaper than buying an expensive mask that is full of chemicals and unknown ingredients.” – Ana

6. “Well, as a hairdresser, my best advice is to not go it alone. I’m not saying you can’t trim your hair sometimes, but for real styling, it will save you money to get it done professionally. Messing it up will cost you a lot more. Especially for coloring, too. Those box dyes are so drying and damaging, and they fade so quickly. The longevity of a professional salon hair color is so much better than a box, it balances out the price difference.” – Kaitlin

7. “This is a thing that we women of color have been doing forever, but honestly you white girls should get on it too: silk or satin pillowcase. Something that isn’t rough and won’t damage or dry out your hair. It helps keep the frizz down, retain moisture, etc. And is usually cheap on Amazon.” – Kim

8. “If you’re already not washing your hair every day, you’re already on the right track. I think this is a problem if you decide to cut out washing your hair, but replace it with a ritual of daily dry-shampooing. This is really just as bad for your hair, maybe worse. Wash once or twice a week, and dry shampoo only once or twice as well. It keeps my hair in much better shape than when I have something sucking all the moisture out of it every day.” – Corey

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

  • Court E. Thompson

    Yes to 6! I don’t color my hair and rarely use curling irons (it’s super straight) or hair dryers (air dry), so I invest in a good hair cut twice a year (sometimes less than that if my ends don’t look too bad). I’ve found that it’s better to spend $80 on a good haircut that will grow out well than $20 on a bad one that looks terrible in 2 weeks. I tried a name-brand institute here in Chicago and it was not worth the money or having to go back for another cut a month later.

    I also use a hair serum and a cream for the ends to minimize split ends. The serum is beauty store but the cream is TREsemme and not pricey!

  • Anna Yugova

    Only did No. 3 once, and even though I’m not picky at all and my haircut is very, very basic, what that trainee did to my head was an utter disaster. My hair looked bad even in a ponytail and a ballerina bun. It’s a huge risk unless you are willing to go and immediately undo it at a high-end salon, but also go through embarrassment of explaining who did THAT to your hair. Pretty embarrassing. So, weigh your pros and cons. No 8 – I use DIY dry shampoo (mostly cornstarch) and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done to my hair. I won’t disclose how (in)frequently I now wash my hair. It’s good for the environment, and it saves me so much time!

    • Hailey

      I tried No. 3 too – they did a perfectly fine job, it just took FOREVER. Like well over 3 hours for a trim. All of my friends who have gone have had the same experience. It was cheap, though!

      • Anna Yugova

        I agree, it’s a total toss up! I just wanted to emphasize that it’s … well, a tossup=)))

  • Summer

    I feel like even if you are shelling out $80+ every couple of years to replace a flat iron or curling wand or whatever your styling tool of choice is, it’s still a pretty good deal. Let’s say you drop $80 on a decent upper mid-range straightener and use it for two years, that breaks down to a cost of $3.33 per month for something that is likely used multiple times a week. Worth it, imo.

    • jdub

      100%. I dropped $200 on my salon quality straightener, like 7 years ago. I’ve used that thing on my super thick hair at least once a week since then, and it’s still going strong. Every so often, it makes sense to just make the investment.

      • Holly Trantham

        Same — my nice straightener from my freshman year in high school lasted a solid 9 years!

  • nancxpants

    It’s amazing what beauty routines you can do with stuff from your kitchen! I went a whole year without commercial shampoo (baking soda, apple cider vinegar/lemon, and egg yolks instead), and LOVE doing egg yolk or olive oil masks when my hair needs a little extra TLC.

  • Violaine

    My best cheap tip was to never replace my blowdrier when it stopped working… I wash my hair in the evening and let it dry while I sleep after first drying it with a towel. My hair looks so much healthier. It was hard to imagine not owning a blowdrier a few years ago, but it’s been 8 years now and I’ve never looked back.

  • Carolyn

    Box hair dye is nasty not only to your hair but contains toxic industrial chemicals that cause cancer. The salon color contains the same ingredients and bladder cancer has been lnks to stylists who handle the color daily. I have gone the henna route. I get a full apllication every three months and root touchups once a month. The cost to me is under $75 a year as I have my husband help me, well I guess apply it for me is a better description. I take a seat and he does the full job. I get great color, shine and it leaves my hair really soft. I get stopped and complimented on my hair and to ask where I had it done. Henna does not contain the toxic chemicals and it is all natural. I have my husband trim my hair for me every other month to keep the ends neat and remove the splits. So needless to say I am not a money maker for the salon.