14 ways to save on your spa experience

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Want to de-stress for less? You can get a bargain at your local spa if you know where to look.

In exchange for a little online homework, a few smart questions and some flexibility in the days and times you book, you can earn free services and score great discounts. Here’s how:

  1. Take advantage of off-peak times. For spas, Saturdays are usually the busiest days. If the spa is located in or near a business area, lunch hours and right after work are popular, too.

But spas will often offer specials if you’re willing to come when they are not as crowded.

“At the beginning of the week, spas are very much in favor of discounting their services or giving an additional service,” says Hannelore Leavy, executive director of the Day Spa Association. “It’s always a good idea to check off-hours.”

  2. What’s your line? Some spas give discounts to teachers, while others will give discounts to members of the armed forces or their families. Ask spas about any job-related specials, says Leavy.

  3. Put yourself on the list. If you have a favorite spa, sign up for the e-mail list. Just as with last-minute travel deals, some spas notify customers of superspecials for unbooked times. So if you can rearrange your schedule on short notice, you’ll reap the benefits.

At the Brass Rose Spa in Blairstown, N.J., owner Rosemary Weiner sends e-mails offering discounts of 10 percent to 40 percent to customers who are willing to sign up for unbooked times. The catch? The appointment may be set for the next day or two. The slots are usually gone within about 10 minutes of the e-mail blast, so you have to move quickly.

  4. Cruise the Web. Many spas will put coupons for services on their own Web sites. Other sites, like SpaAddicts.com, will offer discounts and specials to encourage you to visit their member spas.

  5. Don’t go it alone. Often, spas offer discounts or free extra services when you visit with a friend, significant other or group. Call ahead and find out what kind of deals they offer if you’re not going solo.

  6. Ask about self-serve. “The best deals are the self-applied treatments in a circuit,” says Kim Marshall, who runs The Marshall Plan, a consulting and PR firm serving the spa industry.

Many spas have circuit treatments where you steam, soak, apply mud or scrub in a set order for a prescribed period of time. “It’s always cheaper because the spa doesn’t have to pay a therapist,” she says.

Marshall tried this herself at the Body Blitz in Toronto. The self-applied treatment included several different kinds of mud, soaks, baths, steams and scrubs. Afterward, she booked a half-hour massage. But it “felt like an hour because I’d already been melted,” Marshall says.

  7. Bundle your treatments. “Look for spa packages,” says Weiner. Just like your phone or cable plan, if you combine a few services you might get a better deal than ordering a la carte.

One hot option for spas these days: two-for-one deals, where you pay for one treatment and get a second service at no charge. Not only do you get more for your money, but it also allows you to sample new services.

  8. Celebrate the holidays. “Around the holidays, spas will usually do special treatments that are discounted,” says Weiner. So if you indulge in a peppermint scrub during the Christmas season or a chocolate-infused skin treatment around Valentine’s Day, you could also enjoy a tasty discount.

At the Brass Rose, Weiner offered a pumpkin facial at Halloween for $50 — a third less than the standard price.

  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.”

Written by
Dana Dratch
Personal Finance Writer
Dana Dratch is a personal finance and lifestyle writer who enjoys talking all things money and credit. With a degree in English and writing, she likes asking the questions everyone would ask if they could and sharing the answers — along with smart money management tips from the experts.