Updated on 04.26.07

A Friend Of Mine Spends Less Than $10 A Year On His Hair. Here’s How.

Trent Hamm

CombI recently had a conversation with an old friend of mine about frugality and the choices that people make, and he made an off hand remark that he thought the money that people spent on their hair was ridiculous. I asked him what he spent on his and he said, “$10 a year at most.”

Now, to put this in perspective, I spend about $75 or so a year on my hair. I get it cut every three months almost on the dot by a barber who is an old family friend, plus I probably buy three bottles of shampoo and conditioner a year, usually whatever’s on sale or that I have a coupon for. Compared to what others spend in my immediate social circle (hundreds of dollars), I considered this to be quite frugal.

How does he do it? I asked him to explain how he could keep his hair looking good and clean on such a tight budget, and here’s what he offered up.

Keep it short. The shorter, the better, according to him. He keeps his hair very short, but in a style that could actually work on people of both genders. He recommends having a barber or stylist indicate what a good short cut is for you, preferably one that is quite simple to do.

Do it yourself. As his hair is quite short, he does the needed maintenance himself with a pair of clippers with attachments. He just adjusts the attachments for different areas on his head and uses a safety razor for any needed trimmings.

Do it frequently. He also indicates that frequent maintenance is good, because it becomes much easier to continually match the pattern of your hair if you do it often. He says it takes him about five minutes once a week with the clippers and razor to keep his hair looking solid.

Throw out your shampoo and conditioner. He washes his short hair with ordinary soap by just heavily lathering his rag and rubbing it vigorously on his head. The shorter the hair, the better this works. I will admit to having done it this way myself for several years when I was keeping my hair extremely short (my “athletic” phase).

Keep it clean. This means conducting basic hygiene and washing your hair each time. Shower at least daily and be sure to scrub your hair down each time. Cleanliness is the biggest factor in nice hair appearance.

In short, don’t spend money on what you can quickly and easily do yourself.

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  1. Bill K. says:

    Good post Trent… but this is one of those things I’ll always spend a couple of bucks on at the barber. There’s nothing better than having someone else shave your neck with warm shaving cream after a fresh cut. :)

  2. Jamie says:

    I can truthfully say that I’ve never paid for a haircut in my entire life. When my dad stopped cutting my hair, I started doing it myself. Of course, lately there isn’t as much up there to cut…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I spend about $1500. This is not because I have an obsession, but because I have alopecia areata. I buy hair systems because I am bald :) No one knows I have one because they are so real looking and look great.

  4. Lana says:

    Any tips for women?

    Throwing out the shampoo/conditioner is a recipe for disaster for any longer hair…luckily, Suave makes pretty cheap “designer-brand” equivalent shampoos and conditioners for just a couple bucks each.

    And while I agree that hundreds of dollars spent on highlights, coloring, expensive cuts, salon shampoo, etc, is frivolous, I think for women, taking good care of our hair is a way for us to maintain that feeling of looking pulled together, clean, and presenting a good image. And I just don’t see $10/year happening anytime soon…

  5. eR0CK says:

    I spend about $300 a year. Once my girl-friend moves-in, I hope to sell her on cutting my hair :-)

  6. PurplePig says:

    I cut my husband’s hair using a combination of electric clippers and scissors, about every 4-6 weeks. I also cut my own hair (shoulder-length, no layers, no bangs).

    There are articles online about how to go “no poo” (stop using shampoo) but I haven’t tried this myself.

  7. Anne says:

    I agree these are good tips for men, but this would never work for most women. My dry curly hair and scalp hate shampoo and would hate soap more. I actually use conditioner *instead* of shampoo to “wash” just my scalp most days, and only use actual shampoo twice a week. This really helps me out and my hair never looks greasy. Also, curly hair rarely survives looking good without some sort of product.

    My mom cut my hair until I moved out and now I pay about $17 for a haircut every 2-3 months which is about as cheap as I can go. I also do use the cheaper Suave and VO5 shampoos and don’t color or highlight my hair. And if I get a coloring urge, I do it myself for $7.

  8. HappyRock says:

    I have been cutting my hair for 13 years, and just need to buy a new set of 20$ clippers every few years.

    My wife convinces me to get a professional cut every few years, and then she realizes that I do a better job most times.


  9. avlor says:

    I cut my family’s hair. Started after hubby got several bad haircuts in a row. I figured I couldn’t do worse. Family didn’t mind being guinea pigs and I’ve enjoyed learning. For myself, I keep my hair all one long length and I cut it myself too. Not every woman would look good with this simple style, but I lucked out. :) I’ve even loaned out the clippers and scissors to friends – who, I think, ended up cutting their own hair too.

  10. Gal Josefsberg says:

    Heh Jamie, when I noticed I had less and less hair to cut every year I just decided to shave it all off. It’s the cheapest hair cut you’ll ever have. Every weekend you add 5 minutes to your normal shaving routine and include your head. No need for shampoos, conditioners or hair stylists.


  11. Tubaman-Z says:

    I bought a set of clippers for $20 about 10 years ago and did my own hair – which has been receding since I was 18. About a year ago I quit that and now just shave it all. I shave both face and head in the shower daily, and change blades for both about every 2 months (the heat of the shower softens whiskers and head hair). I probably spend $20-$25 a year on blades, shave gel, and after shave.

    My wife does color her hair and I support this. It makes her feel better about herself and this is good for her and me.

  12. lorax says:

    Cutting your own hair to a super-short style is something that 1) may not agree with your personal ascetics and 2) may not fit into your work environment. I’ve worked at several places where the written rules stated not to shave your head. Men are not allowed to grow hair past the collar and women were supposed to have “styled” cuts. I’m not sure how this could really be enforced, but no one argued – we were glad to have these jobs. (Of course, these places had dress codes too.)

    Now out of the rat race a bit, I have my hair in a pony tail and wash with baby shampoo – hey we have a baby so it’s around – or a mild soap. I go to a cheap franchise barber to get it cut for less than $20/year. It’s much warmer than a short baldie cut, which is great for the cold north country. It’s easy to care for and looks decent too.

  13. Ian says:

    Cutting your own hair is good advice. I started doing so about six months ago. But, I’m not convinced that giving up shampoo is really worth it. How much extra soap do you use doing this? Just because the money comes out of a generic “soap” fund instead of a “hair product” fund doesn’t make it cheaper.

  14. jake says:

    I have the fortune of having a mom that was a hair sytles for many years, she sinced changed careers, but I still benefit :). I have only spent a total of $30 on hair cuts my entire life. The two times that I went, yes exactly twice, was because my parents went on vacation.

    I have very short hair, and I am in the process of learning to cut my own hair. I have a friend who picked up hair cutting in the military and believe you me, he can get hair in 15 max.

    Saves a bundle of money each year.

  15. A says:

    I have shoulder length curly hair and have stopped using shampoo. Instead I use baking soda and diluted apple cider vinegar (baking soda on the scalp, vinegar on the ends) every other day, just rinsing on the off days, and my hair has never looked better. Styling products that claim to hold curl never worked for me, but now if I let it alone while it’s drying the curls stay all day with no help at all!

    Here’s the link where I first read about this idea:

  16. Erica says:

    I cut my husband’s hair with clippers and have done so for the last few years. He was paying about £10 ($20) every 8 weeks before.

    It’s actually really simple, and he prefers it to the hassle of getting to the barbers, nobody has ever suggested it looks any different to a barbers cut either.

  17. HardwareGuy says:

    I’ve been rocking a short hairstyle for a few years now and it’s so much nicer having my wife cut my hair every few weeks than getting myself to a barber.

    Wouldn’t regular soap dry out your scalp?

  18. ck_dex says:

    I’d actually been feeling pretty good on what I spend (around $200 per year, products included) after reading about Laura Bush ($1,000 PER CUT) and John Edwards ($400).

    But your friend has shamed me. On the other hand, back when my husband used the flobie to cut his hair, everyone thought he looked like a Beatle, including his mother who begged him to go to a barber.

  19. Greet says:

    Frugality is one of the benefits of doing self-educational historic re-enactment. Since I’ve grown my hair long and keep it braided and tied around my head (2 ribbons – yearly cost: pennies – thousands of compliments on the look) I don’t need to wash it very often. I wear a kerchief when doing really dirty gardening. It’s long enough to trim the ends myself. And since I don’t have to worry about ‘body’ or ‘volume’ – the cheapest shampoos are fine. I think I only refill the shampoo container every six months, and two other more contemporary people use it.

  20. Debbie says:

    I think this advice does apply to women, but I do the opposite and go long.

    I have fine, curly, dry hair which I fear will look like witch hair, Roseanne Roseanna Danna hair or cotton candy if I’m not careful. It definitely frizzes in the humidity. If it was short, I fear it would look like Little Orphan Annie hair, and at age 44, I’m not sure I could pull that off. Plus I just love, love, love long hair (on all genders).

    So, I wear it as long as I can grow it without it looking ratty at the ends. (No bangs.) Gravity and the weight of my hair thus keep it hanging down instead of sticking out to the sides.

    I trim it about once every six months. Now that I can only grow it halfway down my back, I can’t reach it very well, so I just ask someone at random (roommate, whoever) to cut it straight across the back. If you have straight hair, you will need to find someone a little skilled or careful, but with wavy hair like mine, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

    I need conditioner, otherwise my hair is a tangled mess, and I really don’t like having to deal with it. I also use shampoo–perhaps soap or baking soda/vinegar would work as well.

    Curly hair, unlike straight hair, looks better if you don’t brush it again once it has dried. (It took me decades to learn this.)

    I part my hair on the side and use a barrette to keep my hair out of my face. If it’s hot or I’m exercising, I also use a scrunchy to put it into a ponytail. If I’m swimming or doing anything involving lots of wind, I braid it. None of these hairstyles is appropriate for people with jobs like lorax used to have, but a French twist would probably be acceptable as would a ponytail held with one big barrette. A friend of mine who has to look more professional than I do puts her hair up in a French braid. (She has straight hair, though, and doesn’t have a million curly small hairs sticking out on the sides!)

    My only other strategy is to decide that I like my current hair color. I think multi-colored hair (regular color + grey) looks really good on short hair, and I’ve just about convinced myself that it looks good on my hair, too.

    My total hair costs include shampoo and conditioner, a comb, a boar-bristle brush, scissors, subtle hair-colored barrettes, scrunchies and elastic bands. I also use V05 conditioning goo in the kind of tube that toothpaste comes in. Probably vaseline would work just as well. And I’m not sure it makes any difference at all. But you just use a small amount, so it lasts a long time.

    I haven’t found any cheap shampoos or conditioners that have no scent (which I seem to have become allergic to lately), and with long hair you need more shampoo than with short hair, so I definitely spend more than $10 per year. But I still get off cheaper than many people.

  21. Kevin says:

    My wife does my hair. http://www.kmull.com/2006/12/28/haircut-cash/

    $30 investment over two years has saved us hundreds. And it looks great, too.

  22. Cindy says:

    I’ve cut my husband’s hair for probably the last six years using electric clippers. He decided he liked it cut very short in a crew cut & it didn’t make sense to pay $18 a pop for someone to run the clippers thru it. I’ve only had one OMG moments when I forgot the blade guard! Luckliy, it was summertime so everyone thought he was just getting a “summer” cut! On the rare occassion when I want to color my hair, he does it for me in the kitchen.

  23. Alex says:

    From high school on I always cut (clippered) my own hair. The only time I paid for haircuts was overseas (often after blowing the motor in my clippers with cheap power adapters.) Recently we moved back to the States, but to a new area. I had been getting great haircuts which I couldn’t duplicate myself, so I decided to try the professionals here. I tried several places and every haircut was awful and overpriced. I bought s new set of clippers. I’m wondering if it might be a state (lack of) licensing issue? Could that really make a difference?

  24. Frugal Babe says:

    My husband cuts his own hair, or has me do it for him, using a pair of clippers with a couple different attachments. We both use vinegar as a conditioner – we just keep a spray bottle in the shower filled with vinegar, which is also useful for spraying down the walls of the shower before we get out (keeps mildew from growing).

  25. Schwamie says:

    Since I am in the National Guard, I have to get my hair cut every month. About three years ago, my wife and I invested in a set of clippers (with a few differing attachments) for a grand total of $12. They are still in use today. This has saved me over $350 to date! We are not eagerly anticipating the day that we will have to replace the clippers as every cut is yet another savings that would have otherwise gone to the barber. On top of that, my wife has actually become quite good!

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