I used to get a haircut once every eight weeks. They varied in cost from $20 to $50, depending on the kind of place I went to. Yes, I know it’s a little crazy to pay $50 for a standard men’s haircut. That’s what living in Los Angeles and working in the entertainment industry can do to you. You’re surrounded by beautiful, perfectly coiffed people at all times. Part of you wants to try to fit that mold.
Regardless of my reasoning, the fact is I was spending a lot of money on haircuts. More than I knew was reasonable.
But, what were my other options? I had no confidence in my ability to cut my own hair. (Major kudos to TSD founder Trent for cutting his own hair and giving zero iotas about what people think.)
Everything changed when, about a year and a half into my current relationship, I got up the nerve to ask my girlfriend the big question: “Do you think you could cut my hair?” She agreed to give it a try, and the savings have been piling up like hair clippings on the salon floor ever since.
Cutting your own hair or letting an amateur have a go at your head is not for the feint of heart. There’s a reason people go to school for this stuff. If you’re attempting anything besides a standard buzz cut, the first couple of cuts can be a little rough. But as long as you own it and remember that hair will always grow back out, you’ll be fine.
Think about it this way: We frugal people are used to being judged! We already drive older cars, wear older clothes, and eschew expensive hobbies. Being confident in your ability to look and feel great without having to go to a hair salon can be one more tool to help you get out of the rat race.
I would just advise against doing this for the first time right before a big job interview or important social event.
Crunching the Numbers
There are startup costs, but thankfully, they are low. All you need is a clipper set. This is the one I got, which set me back about 20 bucks. The reviews say that it should last a very long time if taken care of properly. So for less than the price of one standard men’s haircut, I got a device that should reliably give me hundreds if not thousands of cuts.
Let’s conservatively say I was spending $25 per cut on average after tip. At my rate, that adds up to $150 per year on haircuts. So, from the time I started paying for my own haircuts at age 18 until my last paid cut at age 28, I probably spent about $1,500 at the barbershop.
But, that’s not taking into account the opportunity cost associated with getting to a hair salon every two months. If it takes me 20 minutes to drive to the salon, 20 minutes to wait in line, and 20 minutes to drive back, that’s an hour of my time devoted to each haircut that doesn’t even involve any trimming. Assuming you, your partner, or your friend can cut your hair at home in the same amount of time it would take a stylist — given my simple hair style, I don’t think that’s unreasonable — you may be losing an hour’s worth of productivity per haircut.
I did some digging and found an in-depth Lifehacker article that goes into how you can calculate the value of your time. When you run the 2014 census numbers for men in the United States, the average works out to about $24 per hour.
Adding in the value of my lost time (assuming I would have done something more productive with that hour), I can say my haircuts have “cost me” $2,940 in the last 10 years. That means I can assume savings of $2,940 over the next 10 years now that my girlfriend cuts my hair in our apartment. I think most guys out there would accept a check for three grand as compensation for foregoing trips to Supercuts over the next 10 years.
If you took your savings at the end of each year and invested it, you can really start to see the benefit. In my case, I will have saved approximately $372 this year once you factor in opportunity cost and the price of my clippers. If I put just my savings from this first year into an account that averages a 7% return, I’ll have an extra $2,800 in 30 years. I’ll take a sometimes irregular cowlick for that kind of money.
If you live in a major city, the savings are even greater. The average men’s haircut in San Francisco costs $49! In my current city of residence, you basically need a side job to afford yourself the luxury of outsourcing your basic grooming needs.
Money Isn’t the Only Benefit
To be honest, I never liked any aspect of going to a discount hair salon. For one thing, there’s the conversation. I never feel more compelled to talk to someone than when I’m getting my haircut. Maybe it’s a natural instinct to engage with people when they are using sharp instruments close to your head. You feel powerless, and like you better pretend to be interested in their dog’s recent digestive issues, or else.
I’m not saying I don’t like human interaction; I sometimes enjoy talking to strangers. But I don’t like being put in a situation where I’m forced to make small talk whether I like it or not.
But, you know who I pretty much always enjoy talking to? My girlfriend! I love our time chatting during haircuts. Sure, she’ll sometimes cause me slight discomfort by being a little rougher with my neck than any of my previous stylists, but I just assume that means there’s something I did that I forgot to apologize for. Maybe couples therapists could promote cutting each other’s hair as a means of seeing what subconscious problems are simmering between two people.
Self confidence is born from working hard and seeing results. It’s not about how you look. Style is completely subjective, and changes over time. If you’re clean and presentable, that’s all that really matters.
Do you want to spend $10,000 over the next 30 years on haircuts, or do you want that money to be growing in an investment account? I think a lot of guys out there are ready to make the leap, and I wish you the best of luck on your haircutting journey.