How to save money on looking (and feeling) good

It’s good to pamper yourself once in a while. Here’s how to do it without spending money like a celebrity

How to save money on looking (and feeling) good

Source: Best Health magazine, May 2013; Image: Thinkstock

Earlier this year I had the rare and wonderful opportunity of a few unexpected hours completely to myself, smack in the middle of the week. As a working mom with a baby daughter, I was giddy at the prospect of indulging in some "me time," and decided I was deserving of a personal splurge that afternoon. I had just three hours at my disposal’and became paralyzed by options. Would I get my hair cut and coloured? It was in a desperate state (and don’t get me started about my brows, which had taken on a life of their own).

Or maybe I should go to the gym and restart a workout regimen; post-baby, my mid-section definitely needed help.

I ended up wandering around a nearby mall. And that personal splurge? I bought some discounted pillow shams. Not the most rewarding "me time" I’ve ever spent!

Looking back, I realize I was overwhelmed by how out of touch I was with myself: Here was a chance to do something about it, and I didn’t know where to start. I realize I am among millions of women working hard as devoted mothers, wives and businesspeople. But after I smartened up a few years ago about my spending habits and made it a personal, and now professional, mission to save money, I found I was losing touch with some of the things that make me feel good about myself. I’m not talking about spending tons on getting that perfect body or hair the way celebs can. For me it was about finding inexpensive ways to take better care of myself.

I started by tackling fitness. Between work and my family, I hardly had time to go to the gym. I’d been lucky to get back to my original weight relatively soon after my daughter was born, but my midsection was out of shape. I explored taking Pilates classes a few times a week’but soon learned that with instruction and use of equipment, a single class could cost $75 or more.

Then a friend in a similar situation told me about an alternative called "clinical Pilates," which offers physiotherapist-supervised Pilates classes that are often covered by extended benefits. I was the perfect candidate because I had a prior neck injury and was recovering from a C-section. My extended healthcare plan covered $700 worth of these special Pilates classes, and I soon began to see a remarkable difference in my posture, core strength and overall tone. I took classes offered through Treloar Physiotherapy in Vancouver, but clinical Pilates is an option in other parts of the country, too.

When it came to my hair, there was no more painful reminder of how little attention I was paying to it than the three or so inches of dark regrowth on top of my head. My hairdresser had recently retired and I was in the market for someone new’and more affordable. I decided to take a chance on a cut and colour by a student hairdresser at the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy.

My gamble paid off, and though I had to invest nearly four hours in the chair, I had a beautiful head of highlights and a chic new cut for less than $80’including tip. Anyone who gets salon colour knows this is a fraction of what you’d pay in most salons (and would not even include the cut). From massages to pedicures to electrolysis, check out to find beauty schools across Canada (and the U.S.) that offer inexpensive or free services so students can gain experience in their craft. Simply visit their websites and contact local schools for a list of student services and pricing.

Months after my post-baby "me time" meltdown, I’ve made a commitment to once again prioritize embracing an exercise regimen and making time for hair and esthetics appointments to keep me feeling (and looking) my best. Applying the financial ingenuity that helped me get out of debt over six years ago has helped me save hundreds of dollars a year on things that have given me a new sense of confidence.

This article was originally titled "Feel your best’for much less" in the May 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!