When I was 18, I decided I needed a tattoo. Very original, I know. But I was determined. A friend of mine and I went to a new tattoo shop in our college town. I had a coupon for 10% from the local Penny Saver-type paper. In my defense, I was a broke college-kid. My frend and I got the same tattoo. We were on the rowing team of our college, so the tattoo is crossed oars (in case you can’t tell what this mishmash is) about the size of a half-dollar. She paid $40 for hers. I paid $36.

Most ink stories have a happier ending. People plan, research artists, save up for high-quality work, and are extremely pleased with the outcome. Tattoos, especially good ones, can be very expensive. It is not appropriate to haggle with the artist over their prices, but there are some ways to save money on ink. Just remember, if you are trying to save a buck or two,  what I learned the hard way: with tattoos, you get what you pay for.

There are coupons for tattoos, though I don’t think the Penny Saver is the best place to look anymore. If you simply Google “tattoo coupon” and the name of your city, you will find whatever is online. Unfortunately, with a tattoo coupon you are held to whatever the parameters of the deal are; you may not be able to choose the artist, the size of tattoo you want and any number of other restrictions. Checking the website of the tattoo parlor regularly is a good way to stay abreast of any specials they are having. Here is an example of a tattoo coupon for a parlor in Chicago.

Unbeknownst to many, there is a slow season for tattoo artists. The winter months tend to be the slowest in many tattoo shops. This can be the perfect time to strike a bargain with a tattoo artist you might not always be able to afford. There are a lot of artists on Facebook these days and adding them as a friend and watching for their posts about discounts is a great way to get a deal. Again, asking outright for a discount is not the way to go, but if you get to know your artist, you may be able to find a way in.

If you can offer the tattoo artist a service they can use, like web design, haircuts, mechanic work, doing their taxes, babysitting, etc. can be a great way to barter yourself into a cheaper tattoo. This kind of arrangement is less rude than asking for a discount flat out, but if the artist is not interested, don’t push the issue. If they do accept, put something in writing so you are both protected.

Creative Freedom
Tattoo artists are…artists and they can get bored working on shamrocks, cartoon characters, and boring flash day in and day out. They may offer huge discounts for someone who is willing to offer up a large piece of flesh for something creative that they have been wanting to do. Of course, you are losing a lot of control in this scenario, but it may be worth it. Some artists will post bulletins/ads that they’re looking for a willing participant, but you can also ask your artist if they would be willing to offer a discount if you offer them creative freedom.

Many of these strategies for saving money on a tattoo will require a time commitment from you. You may need to get to know your tattoo artist and tattoo parlor and be part of the community. If you have plans for serious ink, this may not be a burden at all. Make sure you do your pricing research and have a strategy in place to save some dough on your ink.