The truth is, it doesn't matter where you live or what you do for a living, the recession is forcing us all to reassess our expenses. When it comes to our hair, though, deciding to cut back is a monumental undertaking. So before you entrust that friend who swears she knows "how to cut hair" with a pair of scissors, give colouring at home a go first. And leave the cutting to the pros!

The first and most important step to a successful colour session is choosing your colour. If your purpose is simply to cover some creeping greys, then opt for the box colour closest to you own. If you are looking for a different shade, then let your more conservative side win out. You can always go more extreme after colouring, but fixing a colour disaster is difficult and expensive.

Now that you've selected your shade, the next step is to test it. Start with dry hair and drape a dark towel over your shoulders. Use the gloves that come with the kit – you'll be glad you did! The best place to test is your crown and at the nape of your neck. Colour reacts and holds differently on different areas. Choose a strip of hair about an inch wide, apply the colour and allow to process. Make sure you like it before you proceed with the rest of your hair.

A great tip, before you apply the colour, is to cover the skin all along the hairline with a layer of petroleum jelly. This will keep the dye from staining your skin. To begin applying the colour, part your hair down the middle, from your forehead to the nape of your neck. Squeeze the dye out of the applicator and apply it to one-inch sections at a time, starting at the back and moving forward. The ends of your hair are porous and will absorb the dye more quickly, so wait until you've worked all the hair forward before running your fingers through the hair, distributing the colour through to the ends. Set a timer for the specified time and wait.

The last step is rinsing. Let the water run through your hair until it is clear. Use the conditioning treatment included in the kit, leave on for five minutes and rinse. Style as usual. Remember not to shampoo for at least 24 hours.