Columbia, SC

Save money by visiting a student hair salon for your next cut or color

The Planking Traveler

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I'm always on the lookout for ways to save money for travel and stretch my budget, whether it be by thrift store shopping, cash-back sites, or utilizing a high yield savings account. I like to call that multiple streams of frugality.  I have found ways to stretch my budget in a lot of areas, but up until a few years ago, I felt stuck paying too much money at hair salons and knew I wanted to find a way to reduce that expense.  After trying to find budget hair salons, I discovered there are plenty of student salons out there, but I was not sure if they would be worth the savings if I ended up with a bad haircut or poor quality color job.

After some soul-searching and wondering if I’d end up resembling my old Barbies when I used to hack off their hair for fun, I decided to give a student salon called Kenneth Shuler a shot.  Kenneth Shuler is a cosmetology school where student stylists are the ones working on your hair and earning credit toward their coursework in the process.   In exchange, you receive HIGHLY discounted prices. I was accustomed to paying upwards of $100 for foil highlights, but the Kenneth Shuler prices usually varied between $65-75 for highlights (depending on the length of my hair) and around $12 for a haircut.  Quite the savings, right?

Let’s move on to whether the significant savings come at the price of quality.    One key thing to understand is that each student is at a different point in the program, so it’s somewhat like a game of roulette as far as whether you’re getting someone with a lot of experience or someone who may be just starting out.   The thing that comforted me was that there is an instructor that regularly checks in with you and with the stylist to make sure they’re doing everything to your satisfaction, and the instructor often steps in to help with more difficult techniques.

I went to Kenneth Shuler for several haircuts and also got highlights done there right before I got married.  The student stylists did a good job, but I did have the instructor step in to help out with certain parts of the styling on each visit.
Photo byAdam Winger/Unsplash

Things To Keep In Mind About Student Salons

  • Since it is a teaching facility, be aware that the haircut or color service will take longer than at a typical salon.  If you are pressed for time, it is best to go elsewhere.
  • They do accept walk-ins on certain days, but you’ll likely have to wait a while with that option.  It’s best to call ahead for an appointment.
  • Their hours can be different than a normal salon as a lot of students work evening hours.
  • They may not be the best choice if you are looking for a complicated cut (with layering).  I only asked for blunt cuts and kept it simple.
  • I enjoyed helping the students learn by being a guinea pig, but if you’re not going to be ok with the potential of mistakes, it’s best to go elsewhere.  While I didn’t experience any mistakes, I have had friends who did not have a good experience here.

My verdict: saving almost 50% on the price of a cut or color is definitely worth it for me.  I understand that this won’t be the right option for everyone, and a lot of you probably already have established relationships with your favorite salon.  Just throwing this idea out there for those who may want or need to find ways to cut spending in this area.

Have you ever tried a student salon?  I’d love to hear about your experience, good or bad. 

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An avid traveler that is passionate about highlighting small businesses, outdoor adventure spots and unique food in the Carolinas and beyond.

Kernersville, NC

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