smart spending

14 ways to save on your spa experience

 9. Use a destination spa as a day spa. If you're lucky enough to live within driving distance of a resort or destination spa, you might be able to purchase a little pampering there for less than full fare.

"Even some of the destination spas may have day programs that you can take advantage of off-peak," says Nathaniel Altman, author of "The Cheapskate's Guide to Spas." "And they may not be a lot."

 10. Ask about specials. Yes, sometimes it is that easy. Just call ahead and ask what kind of specials or discounts your favorite getaway spot is currently offering.

 11. Spread the word. Want to get a discount or free treatment? Refer a friend or co-worker to your favorite spa. Many will offer discounts or free services for both the new customer and the person who made the referral. With so much competition for spa customers, "there are a lot of incentives for referrals," says Leavy.

 12. Try something new. Many times, if a spa is introducing a new treatment, it will offer it at a discount (or even free with other services) to get people to try it, says Leavy. So if you ask what's new, instead of sticking with the old reliable, you might get a great deal.

 13. Buy in bulk. "If you buy a whole series of treatments, you may save some money," says Leavy. Different spas will work it different ways, but the bottom line is that if you are a repeat customer for certain services, you may be eligible for a discount.

At some spas, you buy a number of sessions for the same treatment (massage, manicures, etc.) in advance and either get a discount or a number of the treatments free. The downside: You have to pay in advance of using the services. If you don't use them all, you don't get your money's worth.

Other salons have "frequent flier" programs: Complete a set number of the same treatments and earn discounts or free treatments.

Often, that's a better deal for consumers because you don't have to pay in advance, but you're still getting a volume discount, says Weiner. At the Brass Rose, after customers get their fourth facial, the fifth one is free. End result: a 20 percent discount on each facial.

 14. Ask about prices before you go. "I always suggest if you're going to go to a spa, find out what the prices are beforehand," says Altman. Ask friends, co-workers or relatives for recommendations -- not just to a particular spa, but also for specific aestheticians. "Find out who they like," he says.

Remember that price and quality are not always linked, Altman says. With some spas, you'll pay extra for the atmosphere, he says.

"You're paying for the furniture, you're paying for the marble, you're paying for the towels imported from Turkey," he says. "I tend to focus on places that are less fancy.

"You have to pay a lot for all of those extras," he says. "And if you want to do that, that's just fine. But the quality of the massage may not be all that different."

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