I have dark hair - so dark it looks black. Growing up, I was always into experimenting with my hair color. I had caramel highlights, reddish brown highlights, super black, and brown hair. I went to expensive salons, cheap salons, and tried at home coloring boxes. Finally, for the past 4 years I have found something that works for me - gives me a little bit of a fun lighter color, is very cheap, and doesn't damage my hair! Having had highlights, this is something I will never do again. The bleach did nothing but ruin my hair. On top of that, the maintenance involved in going that light is just too extreme and expensive. Now all I use is Garnier Nutrisse in Truffle. This can be bought for around $8, but there is always a coupon or sale around! Nutrisse is fail proof. Since the color I choose is only a couple shades lighter than my own hair, the end result is very close to the box. Believe it or not, I only dye my hair 2-3 times a year! This, along with deep conditioning, not using flat irons, and using a heat protectant has allowed me to have healthy, shiny, long hair.
One tip for those of you that dye at home is to not wash your hair for 2-3 days before dying- this will allow the color to penetrate better. I would also wait a day or two after dying your hair to wash it again with shampoo. Protect your hair from the sun and deep condition frequently!
Here is a picture of my freshly done color: