Save by Going to Professional Schools

A great way to save money on a range of services, from car care to haircuts, is to patronize vocational schools.

Professionals-in-training often offer top-rate services at vastly reduced prices.

Money magazine's Ellen McGirt shared her tips for how to get automotive repairs, haircuts, massages and pet care at prices to fit tight budgets.

Auto Schools

Auto schools often have repair classes that need work projects, and offer prices far cheaper than the traditional mechanic. Because all work is supervised by a licensed mechanic, these schools are perfect for basic repairs and upkeep. The actual discounts vary, but the auto experts say you can generally get between 50 percent to 75 percent off a regular mechanic or dealership.

There are a few caveats, however. Only use these services if your car is not under warranty. Any unspecified repair work may void your guarantee. To be on the safe side, check the credentials of any instructors working on your project. For basic repairs, ask whether you can stick around and get a free lesson.

Beauty Schools

Today's beauty schools turn out a full range of experts from makeup to salon services. Most importantly, they turn out hairstylists and offer a complete range of services such as coloring, straightening and extensions. Prices at beauty schools can start as low as $3 to $9. If there isn't a beauty school near you , many upscale salons have assistant nights where future superstar stylists will cut hair for less than half of the regular price. Typically, these are Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Massage Schools

Some sort of licensing for professional massage is required in more than half of the United States. Many schools offer a variety of therapeutic massages by senior students often at as much as 75 percent off what you'd pay at an independent practitioner.

One caveat is that you typically have to go to the school facility for the services. Check with your health plan before you go. Many now offer discounts for wellness treatments like massage.

Pet Care

Check online to see whether there is a local veterinary medicine teaching hospital near you. You might get access to a variety of services that range from free to lower cost, or some that might not be available to you at all.

Examples of services include free public seminars, screens and vaccines, access to clinical trials, special diagnostics, services for critically ill pets, low-cost dental services, 24-hour emergency care, and affordable access to expensive diagnostics that might be unreachable in a smaller vet office.

If there isn't a teaching hospital near you, ask your vet whether you can have your pet's lab tests shipped to a teaching laboratory. If the tests are extensive or expensive, you may save a lot of money.

For more information, visit The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the Cornell University Hospital for Animals.

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