06/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Upside: Cost Cut Your Haircut

I have a Frederic Fekkai habit. It wasn't always like this. I used to get my hair done by a friend, for next to nothing. We'd sit in her apartment, drinking cucumber enhanced martinis -- zentinis -- and swap stories . It was fun until she gave me tiny black highlights that looked like bug antennas. That's when I rushed to what I always heard from my mother, who grew up on the Lower East Side, was the Holy Grail for hair: Frederic Fekkai. (She'd never been there, but always talked of it like it was some Golden Hollywood movie). Oy vey! It was like when Sid met Nancy! Fekkai is fantastic, reliable, they pamper you like you're Mrs. Dick Fuld, but it's a death blow to my budget.

There is a way to get a great haircut for super cheap or next to nothing. The first way, which I haven't tried yet, but seems extremely promising, is to be a model at the Toni & Guy Academy. On Friday, I asked this striking blond who wandered into a bar full of French people dressed in '80s jazzercise getups, where she got her smart, chic, just-below-the-shoulder cut. She gets it all done for free, the highlights, the cut, at Toni & Guy, as a hair model. If I wasn't so emotionally involved with my colorist, I might try it.

UPDATE: To be a hair model at Toni & Guy, you've got to attend an open "casting call." The location on Madison Avenue in New York has them every Friday. And you have to be open to getting your hair styled--something modern and edgy--not just trimmed, but you can request a certain kind of look out of their catalog. Models get their hair done for free and Toni & Guy's salon prices are just a little cheaper than Fekkai. If you're like me and your last luxury left standing is the salon, save up money for the trip by refreshing your wardrobe for free through clothing swaps in place of shopping for new clothes, swear off Starbucks and get your coffee at home, and, hopefully if your hair can handle it, try going three months between cuts/colors. (The farthest I've stretched it, in recent years, is 3.5 months. You can especially get away with the root/shaggy look now because its beach-going season).

Now, another option is cutting your hair yourself. If you've got the steady surgeon hands of Sanjay Gupta, the eye for style like Valerie Jarrett, and cojones of steel like Wanda Sykes, this could be a good option. Marc Acito, for WalletPop, spoke with a couple of professional stylists about the best ways for men and women to cut their hair at home. Marc, an acclaimed novelist living in Portland, Oregon and regular NPR commentator, will be writing The Upside for Walletpop and looking for the silver lining in how we're living now. He thought hair was a good one because, if you can cut it yourself, that's quite an accomplishment and money saver. To read Marc's self-grooming tips, check out Walletpop. Happy shearing!