Cutting my own hair during the pandemic saves me $340 a year, but there are 3 reasons it might not be worth the savings

  • When the pandemic closed barbershops, my wife agreed to cut my hair at home.
  • Her haircuts save me $40 each time, but they now take 90 minutes versus 30 at the barbershop.
  • Going forward, I’ll consider the time it takes and the quality of the haircuts to decide where to go. 
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During quarantine, I started cutting my own hair.

Well, actually, my wife started cutting my hair for me. At the time, it was a necessity — barbershops were closed and I was unwilling to let my hair grow long. It was also a creative way to save money, even though I was more or less forced into it.

Going through the process of cutting my hair at home had a secondary benefit besides saving some money — it also taught me (and in some cases reinforced) valuable money lessons.

Lesson 1: Time is money

The first lesson reinforced was a classic one: time is money.

One common way experts help people spend less money is asking them to view each expense not as a dollar amount, but as an increment of time. 

For example, if you make $10 per hour (after taxes), when you spend $500 on a TV, you are actually spending 50 hours of your time.

You can also flip the framework when looking at how much time something is going to take. If mowing your lawn takes an hour and hiring someone to do it costs $20, you should mow your lawn yourself using this math, since you’re spending the value of two hours of your time.

You can also reframe this as how you value your time. If you value your time at $30 per hour, use that number instead, and in this case, it makes sense to outsource the lawn work.

My haircuts cost about $40 (I know, it’s expensive, my excuse is that I live in Chicago). It’d be easy to look at this as saving $40 every time I cut my hair at home. However, my haircut at the barber only took 30 minutes, while my haircut at home was taking close to 90 minutes. There is a learning curve for cutting hair fast.

It got me thinking, was the $40 in savings worth the extra hour it took? Especially considering that it not only took up an extra hour of my time, but also a full 90 minutes extra of my wife’s time as well. Saving that $40 suddenly seemed a lot less important.

Lesson 2: Small savings can add up

I’m not a believer in the “cut your morning coffee to save three bucks a day” movement. I’d rather focus on big wins and savings.

But, saving money by cutting my hair at home did enforce the lesson that small savings can add up.

At about $40 per haircut every six weeks, I was spending over $340 on haircuts throughout a given year.

While your housing, transportation, and food (typically your three largest expenses) are going to be the best and most significant places to save, ensuring you are getting value out of your small purchases as well can add up to some sizable savings.

Again, that doesn’t mean you need to drink every cup of coffee at home or cut your own hair, but you should look for areas where you are spending money on things that you don’t value as much as you thought. These small wins can add up.

Lesson 3: ‘Sunk costs’ should not dictate future decisions

Now, looking forward, I’m faced with a very tough question — should I continue to cut my hair at home or should I return to a barbershop?

I had a fleeting thought that I spent about $50 on clippers and scissors, and now I own them. I should continue to use them to “get my money’s worth,” right?

Short answer: no.

Everything I bought can be categorized as a “sunk cost” — money that has already been spent and cannot be recovered no matter my path forward. It should not factor into my future decision outside of the fact that cutting my hair at home is free (since I already own the supplies needed to do so).

I need to think about the time it takes to cut my hair at home, the money saved by doing so, and then decide how to proceed.

Right now, my decision to stay home and continue to cut my own hair is based on not unnecessarily leaving my house. 

In the future, I’ll take these three money lessons into account (along with the quality of the haircut I receive at home vs. the barber, which is improving every time, as well as my wife’s willingness to cut my hair) to help decide if a haircut is worth the cost or if I just found a new source of savings.

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