We'd rather go broke before going gray, survey finds

March 23, 2011 at 12:48 PM ET

The economy is barely afloat, but at least our hair looks great.

Nearly 42 percent of adults say haircuts and hair coloring is one spending category they refuse to trim from their budgets, according to a 2010 survey (.pdf file) sponsored by Stores magazine, a retail industry publication. The study examined what spending areas are "untouchable" and what are "expendable" in consumers' budget.

As the economy improved last year, many adults were a lot quicker to say hands off to certain areas of discretionary spending, the survey found. A few luxuries, including casual sit-down dining, department store shopping and haircuts made their way back onto the untouchable list after falling victim to America's flirtation with frugality as the recession unfolded.

Related story: Going gray to save money? No way!

"Small luxuries such as gourmet coffee, casual dining and even high-end cosmetics were among the things many consumers really had to learn to live without,” said Susan Reda, editor of Stores magazine. "Though most Americans are still quite focused on maintaining a budget, many are once again falling in love with the things they had to temporarily say goodbye to."

Luxuries deemed "untouchable" by Americans:

  • Internet service: 81 percent
  • Basic cable TV: 61 percent
  • Hair cuts and coloring: 42 percent
  • Charitable contributions: 38 percent
  • Casual sit-down restaurants: 32 percent
  • Upgraded mobile devices: 23 percent
  • Organic food: 17 percent
  • Daily cup of gourmet coffee: 17 percent
  • Facials: 11 percent
  • Maid service: 9 percent

What luxuries do you refuse to cut from your budget?