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Stop Dyeing Hair and Transition to Natural Gray to Save Money?

I converted my hair dye money into this Puerto Rico trip! (Pictured here: El Yunque Rainforest.)
I converted my hair dye money into this Puerto Rico trip! (Pictured here: El Yunque Rainforest.)

Can Transitioning to Natural Gray Hair Help Finances?

Money for travel is hidden in all sorts of strange places. It turns out, there’s even travel loot sitting on top of your head!

Did you know that our recent Puerto Rico trip was funded by my decision to stop dyeing my hair? Calculate it like this: Hair coloring can cost between $80 and $200 per salon visit, and needs to be done at least eight times a year. Therefore, by cutting dyeing out of your life, you suddenly gain hundreds of free dollars a year! What would YOU do with an extra $1,000 a year?

Relaxing in Puerto Rico, funded by skipping the dye.
Relaxing in Rincon, Puerto Rico, funded by skipping the dye.

Why Transition to Natural Gray Hair?

I come from a family of early gray-ers: fine folks who were silver foxes by college (as shown from this photo of my little brother). When I began to notice white lines peeking amid my brown tresses, I resisted coloration for a few years before succumbing to dyeing pressure.

For a while, coloring my hair made me happy. I felt fancy sitting in the salon chair, and sleek upon emerging with newly darkened locks. As the years of dyeing continued, however, I began to see the ugly facts.

First, it takes HOURS to get your hair dyed. I would go into the salon at 3pm and emerge at 6pm. Think of what else one could do during that time instead! Then there are the chemicals. Hair dye smells! You sit there with the goop on your head, inhaling and exhaling chemical compounds that dizzy the mind. It doesn’t feel especially healthy.

Finally, there was the money. After a bad episode with home-dyeing kits, and two nasty encounters with a low budget salons, I had started to shell out big bucks on a high-end salon. The color work was impeccable (see my wedding photos for proof), but my budget was burning!

Can you see where the orange-brown dye meets the natural silver? (Pictured here: San Juan, Puerto Rico.)
Can you see where the orange-brown dye meets the natural silver? (Pictured: San Juan, Puerto Rico.)

Saving Money and Time by a Salon Choice Switch

Given these three elements, when I got pregnant in February of 2013, I used the pregnancy as my excuse to stop dyeing my hair. Sure, having the chemicals near the fetus freaked me out, but mostly I was just sick of the whole coloration process.

That money and time were needed elsewhere! Happily, although my hair was ridiculously two-toned for the next year and a half (see the photo above!), I was able to use the excuse that I was pregnant, then that I was a harried new mother, to justify why I wasn’t “taking care of myself” to the full extent of society’s expectations.

It’s now been 21 months since I stopped dyeing, and, thanks to a drastic and kind of awkward new haircut, I now only have a tiny tip left of the orange-brown that remains from my coloring craze. The rest of my hair has become what it truly is: 20% silver.

Baby Devi playing with my non-colored hair tonight.
Baby Devi playing with my non-colored hair tonight.

Effects of Having Gray Hair

Now, while I’m glad of my decision to stop coloring my hair, and especially thankful for the extra time and money the choice has produced, having naturally graying hair brings up some funny things.

First, my hair now acts and looks really different. It’s unrulier, and the silver streaks show my frizzies more, making my head look more unkempt than it did before. See this funny photo for proof:

A shot of my hair being particularly unruly in its new silver wiry-ness, captured on a Boston Harbor cruise.
A shot of my hair being particularly unruly in its new silver wiry-ness during a Boston Harbor cruise.

Seeming Older from Gray Hair

Second, I now “read” as older to the casual observer. I’m catcalled less, because catcalling and silver hair don’t seem to mix, which is nice. However, sometimes I also feel a little less youthful and zingy, simply because I see myself at times the way I think others might see me due to the salt-and-pepper hair.

I mean, I wouldn’t say my current mane looks amazing, but the silver is worth it for me because I can focus more on living my life! And when I’m really living, I forget what my hair looks like. At some angles, I even think the white streaks look cool-ly unique!

"I like pulling Mommy's hair no matter what color it is!"
“I like pulling Mommy’s hair no matter what color it is!”

Should I Start Dyeing My Hair Again?

This makes me wonder, however: Will there come a point when it WILL be worth the time, money, and smell for me to dye my hair again? When my hair is 90% silver but my heart is still that of a young pup, will I begin to yearn to have the outside match what’s inside again? And will my passionate refusal to wear makeup change over time for the same reasons?

In a way, it’s neat that humans have these magic tricks (hair paint and face paint) to seem more youthful than nature intends, but on the other hand, I hate the idea that what people are meeting is a mask.

I get this image of them becoming used to me with dyed hair and makeup, then one day seeing the “real me” and shrieking. I’d rather just put the face (and head) forward that I actually have! And if I can save time and money in the process, even better.

Flashing my white side-streak in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Flashing my white side-streak in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Color Your Hair to Match YOUR Heart

I share this story not to command all folks to stop dyeing their hair, but rather to point out that we have more money for travel than we think. Each of us makes choices on how we spend our moolah, and a key in finding bonus moolah is identifying something in your life that you’re spending money on which is not actually bringing you happiness or real value.

If dyeing your hair brings you happiness, please continue! (Whether that dye is brown or gives you bright purple and orange hair.) But if it’s just a pain and you’re doing it because you think you “should,” why not try to allocate that money towards something more adventurous for a year to see what happens?

Baby using my hair as the most ridiculous wig ever.
Baby using my orange-tipped silver hair as the most ridiculous wig ever.

What Are YOUR Thoughts on Coloring Your Hair?

So now I’m aching to hear your thoughts and experiences. What choices have YOU made about beauty treatments versus putting money towards travel? What’s your take on hair dyeing? Do tell!

2019 Update: I’ve started coloring my hair again! I want my outside to match my inner zest, and get annoyed when people “read” me as older than I feel. We’ll see when I transition to gray again. My budget definitely looks forward to it.

2021 Update: I’ve stopped dyeing my hair again and am loving the silver streaks — and all the money and time I’m saving!


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Saturday 7th of March 2015

This has never occurred to me! Stumbled. :)


Saturday 7th of March 2015

Thanks so much, Beth!


Sunday 22nd of February 2015

This post brings up a variety of great points! First off, I love your hair! When I see gray on a woman, I always think of Rogue from the X-men (she's my favorite cartoon heroine)! This makes me think of my own hair dying ways. I tend to do it once a year and I'll do something totally freaky with it like dye it black with blue high lights (I've contemplated purple ombre). I think this just comes from a place of wanting to stand out in my own way or maybe just from feeling stuck in a rut. But you are definitely right, hair dying is expensive and the money would be much better spent on fun experiences like traveling! My family is actually experimenting with "minimalism" right now. We are decluttering out "stuff" and not bringing in more of it. Now we ask ourselves, "do we really NEED this?" We want to spend more money on having experiences with our kids than just wasting money on an item that gives us a fleeting sense of euphoria when we first get it and then will sit on some shelf only to be used once in a while. Great food for thought with this post!

Somewhere down the line can you do a post on how to save on accommodations? We use a lot because we find renting a cottage or cabin is really budget friendly. But sometimes I dream of staying in a luxurious setting like Hotel Viking (yes, I just read your post ;)) but I'm not sure how to make it work. Thanks!


Sunday 22nd of February 2015

I love the Rougue connection! I never thought of that before, and I love her!

Regarding how to save on accommodations, here are some options:

1. The low season (when many luxury hotels have discounts) -

2. Online specials or bulk packages (ex: a Groupon that bundles airfare and a resort for cheaper than the airfare alone)

3. Being in a country where the dollar gets you more. Ex:

4. Exploring the luxury side of home share services like AirBnB, FlipKey, VRBO, Homeaway, Windmu, etc. Ex:

Sometimes, though, I just think it's worth it to do what it takes to earn a little extra money (ex: Tutoring, re-budgeting) and then spend the big bucks on amazing experiences instead of focusing entirely on getting rock-bottom prices.

Good luck!

Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Saturday 10th of January 2015

Like you, I greyed very young. I started dying my hair in my 30s, when a male told me I looked "distinguished." I continued dying it until last year (I am now a grandmother), when I grew unfond of the salon I was going to and had trouble finding another one. During that upheaval, I looked with worry at the growout and noticed that my hair was almost completely white! As it grew out more and more, I decided I liked the platinum color and fortunately even liked the way it looked as it was growing out. It has been more than a year now and I have become a platinum blonde and I'm not disliking it. It is very freeing not to have to go to the salon every 5 weeks, 4 if I want to look really good. And I don't think it has aged my appearance. In fact, I wear my hair a bit like that horse with braided mane, in order to tame it a bit because it is very fluffy and gets in my eyes. Go grey! Of course, I realize not everyone likes their color of grey. I believe every woman should do what feels right for her, but sometimes it takes a bit of serendipity disguised as a problem to set you free. All this without even mentioning all the money I save. :)


Saturday 10th of January 2015

Thanks so much for writing this! Love it!


Friday 9th of January 2015

I don't dye my hair as I'm allergic to hair dye. It's a real bone of contention. I really enjoyed your blog post as I to also have curly hair and I think of the silvers as nature's highlights. Thank you for writing this post.


Friday 9th of January 2015

I love that! "Nature's highlights!" Silver is a precious metal, after all...

Stephanie - The Travel Chica

Sunday 14th of December 2014

An excellent choice!

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