Home > Saving Money > Great Clips + Sally Beauty Supply Vs The Salon

Great Clips + Sally Beauty Supply Vs The Salon

hair-colorI have another confession to make. It’s probably the number one reason why I never fit in as a true Southerner growing up in Kentucky. Ready?…. I hate to have my hair done. I have naturally straight, thin, brown hair. My Mom always loved big hair, even before big hair was a thing. She started me on perms when I was in 5th grade. Highlights followed. Until I was in my early 20’s, I had a standing haircut, color, or perm appointment every 3 months. It was more regular than the dentist!

I gave most of that up a long time ago, but I do still enjoy the results of a good color job and a new haircut. We all know it’s easy to spend a small fortune on personal care, but I don’t think it has to be that way. I though it would be fun to compare the cheap  DIY routine of Great Clips and Sally Beauty vs going to the actual salon.

In A Perfect World

If life were as it was supposed to be, I’d just cut my hair really short and let it go gray. I am OK with getting older, but I’m not ready to let it go to that just yet. Although brown is my natural color, I really believe I was meant to be a red head. It’s hard to find a stylist who is willing to dye my hair red. I’m not sure why, but that’s my experience. Let’s just say I have had some interesting colors over the years, either from home experimentation or from stylists who could not commit.

The Salon Experience

I’ve mostly used the same hair stylist for over a decade. I found Sandy through a recommendation years ago. She really understands me and is not afraid to dye my hair red. She looks the part too, with her hair always styled and nails done. When I go to her salon, it’s a very relaxing environment. She has background music, filtered water, and a shabby chic decor. In the evenings, she even offers wine or champagne. Her salon is full service and offers any sort of hair treatment, manicures, pedicures, waxing, tanning, extensions, etc. It usually takes about an hour and a half to two hours to get a shampoo, color, cut, and blow dry. It costs around $100 including tip.

I realize BFE, Colorado is not the most expensive place to get a hair style. Back in our spending days, I once went to a fancy salon in Las Vegas. My stylist was a very tall European fellow who had his own army of shampoo girls. Mostly, I remember his enormous shoes. They were those pointy toe kind that most American men could not pull off. I remember thinking they could double as gondolas at the Venetian. Anyway, that appointment took over 2 hours, set me back $250, and I didn’t even get a color.

Great Clips

As of last week, I hadn’t had a hair cut in over 6 months.  I looked like a shaggy dog and my hair color was kind of between brown and hay yellow. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Great Clips is kind of like the McDonald’s for haircuts. They don’t do coloring or any other salon services. I got a coupon in the mail for a $7.99 haircut and thought I’d go for it.

You never need an appointment at Great Clips. I walked in and had maybe a 3 minute wait. You get  whoever is the next stylist in line. There were two ladies working when I went in. One of them looked normal. The other one, well, I’m not sure if she cuts her own hair, but it reminded me of a cross between a mullet and Mohawk. It was dark at the roots and bright orange at the tips. Maybe that’s cool with the younger set? Let’s just say I was relieved when I got the normal looking one.

The decor at Great Clips is gray, literally. All the chairs, counters, floors, and cabinets are gray. The furniture could have come from a box at Office Depot. The overhead lights are super bright fluorescents. The most colorful thing, aside from the one stylist’s hair, was the display of hair products for sale.

My stylist asked me how I wanted my hair to be cut. I asked just to have the ends trimmed up, maybe one or two inches off the bottom. She wet my hair with a spray bottle and went to work. We chatted a bit about our kids. She was nice and efficient. It took about 10 minutes. I went up to the counter to pay and was charged exactly $7.99. I gave a $2 tip, which felt cheap, but I’m never sure what to do with tips on low cost services. She did try to sell me a conditioner from the store, but I declined. It wasn’t a memorable or particularly relaxing experience, but it was fast and cheap.

Sally Beauty Supply

A Sally store opened up in our town about 6 months ago. I was anxious to try it out. If you are unfamiliar, Sally sells hair and cosmetic products like a stylist would order. I do color my own hair from time to time, usually when I need to look presentable and haven’t been in to see Sandy in forever.

I bought a color and cream developer with a bottle to mix them in. I also bought a pair of disposable gloves. The grand total came to $8.14. You can actually get cheaper colors, but I chose to try the soy based one. I’m glad because it didn’t smell nearly as bad as the regular ones.

It took me about 10 minutes to get everything mixed and on my head. I did some laundry and scheduled a blog post while I was waiting the 35 minutes for the color to set. Then, I jumped in the shower and rinsed it all of. For a type-A, it’s really, really hard to sit for over an hour to get your hair done. I loved being able to multi-task while doing it at home.

Final Verdict

The salon wins hands down for atmosphere. Great Clips is very utilitarian while Sandy’s place feels like a warm cocoon.

Great Clips and Sally win hands down for price. If you want a basic hair cut and don’t mind getting dye on yourself, it’s awesome. If you are someone who would freak out if your hair comes out a different shade than you thought, I would not try this at home. Also, if I wanted a more elaborate haircut or hairstyle, I would not go to Great Clips. For under $20, you kind of get what you pay for.

For the time involved, the cheap approach works much better as well. I like being able to walk in without an appointment, and I love being able to get housework done while my hair was changing colors. I’ll probably always go to the salon off and on, but if you’re on a budget or just don’t have much time, the cheap route is certainly more than adequate. After all, hair always grows back and dye always fades. What do you have to lose?

Do you DIY for hair care? Ever had a bad hair cut or color job?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I don’t DIY my hair cuts, but since they only happen once every couple of years at about $50 per cut, they don’t really break the bank. =)

  2. I get $2-3 haircuts around here. They are not very elaborate but they do the trick. Rarely do I color and I do it at home, but for a wedding or something nice I’ll go straighten and even braid or do a hairdo, which was $7 last time, for a brushing and a nice braid. In France I would straighten my hair, you make up the cost of the straightener with two visits to the salon.

  3. I do my own hair color at home and the haircut at the salon every 3 months. When I first started coloring I had a few mishaps but it’s all a matter of practice. Another thing is not to get too fancy with coloring or hilights. For example, I have dark brown hair so if I wanted to lighten it and do some hilights I would see a professional because that would entail several processes. At home I just keep it simple.

    • I have done highlights with friends before, but I’d never try that on myself. Simple is much better, and I really don’t have the patience for highlights anymore anyway.

  4. I have mostly always colored my own hair (yup red) using Feria. I don’t know if one day my hair will fall out since I do it every 8 weeks, but the color turns out great every time. As far as a cut, well that’s something I’m terrified to go cheap on, but I almost am going to have to do something like great clips now because of my income, but at the same time I need to be presentable if interviews come up, and I can’t grow my hair long because it looks terrible. I’m so terrified I’m going to walk out with a mullet or some other cut I don’t know what to do with. I know it’s just hair, and I think if you have longer hair it’s not as noticeable if people mess it up, with with a shorter bob like mine. Yikes, I’m scared! 🙂

    • I would avoid stylists with a mullet for sure! I love your color and would have never guessed it was DIY. I think shorter hair is much harder to maintain. I can always just put mine up if it is a really bad hair day.

  5. I DIY colored my hair in college and came out looking like a leopard with wacky blonde spots throughout, and I have not tried it since. I did pay $250 for a cut a color back in the day, but now have a much less expensive lady who does the job. To save money, though, I have spread out my visits to her. Where I would have typically gone every 8 weeks in the past, I am now only going 12-14 weeks between visits. My son goes to Great Clips, though, and I love it for him. They also have an app where you can sign your name up to avoid any potential waits.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wait at our Great Clips. We always take our daughter there. She thinks it’s awesome. I did have a DIY hair color that come out looking like a flaming hot Cheeto once. Jim woke me up screaming on Saturday. I though something was really wrong and he says, ” I thought your hair was on fire.” It was kind of funny.

  6. Thanks for this story! I’m glad you were satisfied with your outcomes and that your expectations were calibrated to the cost.

    I have fine, straight, brown hair as well but I leave it as such – don’t hate! 😉 Thankfully my parents always told me how beautiful my hair was so I didn’t get into the high-cost maintenance as a child.

    I only started going to salons a couple years ago when I decided I wanted a slightly more complex haircut than the one-length deal. I have had two bad haircuts from salons, though, and never a bad one from an inexpensive place! The most recent one was just a few months ago – there was about a 2″ length difference between the two sides of my head – and I was so embarrassed for the stylist that I never went back to get it corrected, but I did schedule my next haircut much sooner than I normally would have. Maybe the lesson is to give the inexpensive places another shot!

    I cut my husband’s hair at home and that’s pretty simple, though for the one right before his defense he went to a low-cost professional just in case I would have screwed it up!

    • I think your hair is beautiful and I only wish my Mom had been OK with natural. I’m sure mine looks fine as is, but I have a complex that I have to blow dry it and use a curling iron to make it look presentable. My daughter has my same hair type but a lighter color. I will never tell her it is anything but awesome!

  7. I go the DIY route. My wife cuts my hair every few weeks. She isn’t trained in that area but it’s still good enough for a cut. I used to go to Great Clips but they never seemed to cut it short enough so I’d either have to be rude and ask them to go shorter when they are basically already done, or I’d have to have my wife do a quick trim OR just be upset about it : )

    • I love it when they cut your hair like they think it should look instead of how you tell them. I’d hate to have to get a trim after my haircut.

  8. I won’t pretend that I am not high maintenance with my hair and I’m okay with that. I do go to a salon and it’s not cheap but I budget for it. Like you said, it is relaxing and sometimes it’s the only time I really get to relax! 🙂 I also consider my hair budget, clothes budget as luxuries that we can currently afford but one of the first areas that I would decrease or outright eliminate if need be too.

  9. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    I rather not get my hair done at all than go to great clips!
    I like my girls to keep long hair but my husband likes it shorter. He took them to great clips once and he didn’t notice that the person only cut one side of her hair! Took like two inches off the whole right side and nothing on left! Shame on him for no noticing but seriously??!!

  10. What a great post. Thank you for all the details about your hair adventure.

  11. Nice! I cut my husband’s hair at home and I’ve gotten pretty good at it! But, I’d say my hair is currently in a state of neglect… it’s realllly long and needs a trim. I can’t stomach salon prices and we don’t have any cheap-o Great Clips-esque options close by. I want my husband to cut it for me, but he’s hesitant–I’m sure it’ll be fine though :)!

    • Too bad he is hesitant. My guy cuts my hair for me and it has saved me hundreds. Perhaps the next time your husband wants his hair cut, you could tell him you need one too and it will save money. Don’t ask for anything too elaborate, just a trim and watch a couple YouTube videos first. Hopefully it will ease his concerns about screwing up your hair. I know I have received far too many bad haircuts at the salon. Good luck, I’m sure he will do fine.

  12. I have been purchasing cut and color groupons for the last year or so. It is a huge savings and I still get to go to a real salon. And no bad experiences so far! =)

    • I would love it if Groupon was in use here. There are a few places in Durango that are on there, but that’s still an hour away.

  13. When I was in college, I went to great clips every 4th Thursday and saw my “regular” lady. We did get to know each other over time and she did a good job with my hair cut. Then, my BFF would color my hair every 6-8 weeks (to touch up the roots, not all over, YIKES!). It was pretty cheap and my hair looked decent. Then after graduation, I moved back to my tiny hometown and had to either really DIY it or go to the salon. I’ve been going to the salon ever since, though I stretch it as far as I can between visits and try not to go to complicated with my color to cut down on costs.

  14. I was just talking with a friend about this the other day; she colors her own hair with supplies from Sally’s. As I approach my 40’s, I am thinking of it but as of now, I’m highlighting and getting my hair trimmed a few times a year. As of today, it hasn’t been done (cut or color) since the beginning of January and I’m certainly due but not willing to fork over the cash.

    I was glad to read about your experience.

    • We have had lots of travel this summer and fall, and I am with you. I just don’t want to fork over an extra $100 that would buy a hotel night somewhere fun.

  15. I admit, I go to Great Clips. I’ve gone the salon route in the past and didn’t really feel like there was much difference other than the price. Maybe I just visit bad salons! 🙂

    I really enjoy having my husband color my hair using supplies from Sally Beauty Supply. I went that route after a Feria box dye gave me a funky color not advertised on the box.

  16. I would love to try it out once!

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