DIY: Your Barber is Stealing Your Wallet

I love to make my own stuff- I’ve made my own boats, bed, cheese, maple syrup, wine, Mrs. MilitaryFire makes greeting and holiday cards and we grow a garden. I hunt and fish. While functional and edible items are a useful side benefit of these activities, I’m hard pressed to say any of them really save money, especially if I value my time at greater than $0/hr. Most of the time I spend on these hobbies is meditative, quality time in nature, good exercise, or a creative outlet.  Even our urban garden yields only limited profits given the constraints of our suburban back yard.

A few tasks are real money savers. In this category, I put barber services at the top. While many people in-source the cleaning of their homes or mow their own lawn, a vast majority get their hair cut by a professional barber.

Examine the costs. I’m in the military, so my hair has to remain short and neat- this requires a haircut about every 15 days. Since I don’t have a military barber in my area, I used to pay $20 for a haircut (fee and tip).

On its face, $20/cut, $40/month doesn’t sound too bad especially if I’m always satisfied it the condition of my hair afterward (I’m not, but that might just be the shape of my head).

But consider the costs calculated over a ten year period:

$40/mo X 12mo X 10yrs, or $40 X 120 = $4800

This assumes the price of haircuts never changes. If we assume a barber will raise her prices $1 a year, then we are looking at a total of just over $5,000!

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By the way, when you consider the cost of anything, always look at the long-term costs in this manner. Its terrifying what little recurring expenses cost you.

Leaving aside the potential value of $5,000 if it were invested, here is what we decided to do instead.

The Family Barbershop

My father cut my hair since I was a child, and I owned a cheap trimmer from my shipboard time when barbers could only be found on precious liberty time ashore. When we got married I convinced my wife she should cut my hair. Because we were paying off her loans we were cutting expenses massively- I vowed never to go back to the barber! So we picked up a few things and upgraded some others.

  • Trimmer set, original: $30
  • Youtube education: $0
  • Barbering infrastructure (mirrors, chair, etc)= $0. A broken side view mirror on the side of the road provided a nice convex mirror, helpful for viewing the back of your own head to check your barber’s work. A liberated hospital gown forms our barber-cape
  • Scissors and comb = $14
  • Really nice trimmer set with clips for wife’s smaller hands=  $12
  • Total Cost of Goods: $169

Time to cut hair = 45mins/ cut. (Update: Mrs. MF has cut my hair to perfection in 15 minutes twice now, big improvement!). This is a little longer than the regular barber, but the commute to the kitchen is better and there are no bad magazines in the waiting room. We value our time at $25 an hour around here. I won’t get out of bed for a side hustle or try to sell something if I can’t make at least $25 an hour. My free time spent with my family is worth more than that to me.

So, if my haircuts were costing $20/ cut, Mrs. MilitaryFire’s hourly wage for being a barber is-

$20 / 0.75hrs= 26.66/hr.  Tax free too. Not too shabby!

Given that I get ~2 haircuts a month, the very expensive clippers paid for themselves in under five months.

What would I do if we move closer to a military base where the haircuts are ~$10?

I still think we will do our own haircutting. Hopefully, the time per cut will decrease with practice, but even if not there is a benefit to time spent together.

How do the haircuts come out?

Pretty Great. Unless you have a special haircut, anybody can learn to do a basic men’s cut. The hardest part is the fade. No-one has ever commented on my hair negatively, even in the learning stages.

A Few Lessons Learned

  • The fewer passes you make over one section of hair, the better. For example, there is no reason to cut the sides with a #4 clip, then a #3, then a #2. Just go for the #2. Not only does this save time, but the bigger hair pieces dont get as many places or cause hair-splinters.
  • Have one t-shirt to wear while haircutting. The hair gets in everyone’s clothes and itches. We havent mastered the barber-cape magic yet to keep all the hair off our clothes.
  • Your dog loves you. He wants to show you how much by eating your hair as it drops on the floor. This will make him very sick. Be Forewarned.

Now if I can just get my wife to let me cut her hair…

Do you get your hair cut at home? Are you one of those magicians who cuts their own hair?


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6 thoughts on “DIY: Your Barber is Stealing Your Wallet

  1. I buzz my own head in the bathtub naked, and the wife checks it out. No need to worry about hair getting everywhere and easy to scoop up afterwards!

  2. Great job. $5,000 over 10 year is awesome! And that doesn’t even count the potential value if invested or used to repay debt.

    My wife has cut my hair a couple times. But since I’m in the Guard, I only need to get a haircut about once a month (right before drill duty). My haircut is a little less than $20 – usually around $15 with a military discount and the tip. So it’s not too bad. No military base near me, otherwise I would go that route. My wife does a fair enough job cutting my hair, but it can be more convenient to go to the barber if I’m already out and about. I may have to break those clippers back out. 🙂

  3. Home haircuts do save big bucks. My husband is retired military and he did his own with a comb of clippers on the sides and scissor over comb to keep his in mil standards. So shortly after I met him I mentioned I needed my hair trimmed and he put his talent to good use taking the shears to my locks. Great job, he has had the job ever since.
    He uses a cape with the neck strips when he gives haircuts to my two boys. He starts with the larger number attachments and works down as he gets down near the neckline. Takes a little longer, but he doesnt leave steps like the barbershop did, a well groomed look, not a bad hack jb.
    When you cut a woman’s hair, you do need to use the hairclips, the rat tail comb, and do the full sectioning and cut each section after the layer below has been trimmed. The put it in a ponytail and saw it off method leaves the hair looking chewed. We calculate the savings as not only the haircut, but haircut, tip and transportation costs. For him and the boys it is $70 a month, for me it is $80 every two months. That is over $1300 plus the time saved and the knowledge there is not going to be the dread of looking in the mirror and seeing a horrible haircut. I saw way too many myself after trips to the salon where I spent good money $$ and just being disgusted at how my boys were badly scalped by the barber. When the boys need haircuts, I tell hubby he needs to do them and 30 minute later, two great looking haircuts. It takes him about 40 minutes to do mine, but mine is long and he is meticulous, I get compliments on my hair. And hubby has given haircuts to a couple of my friends, once was to fix a bad salon cut and the other just texts me and asks when she can come visit. She offers to pay him, but he refuses, so I know I am not sacrificing anything to save big $$$.

    1. Wow- you are lucky to have such a great Barber Carolyn! I’m going to show this to the Mrs and see if I cant convince her…

      1. Do watch a number of youtube videos and get a cape, clips, rat tail comb and allocate time to do the job properly. for long hair,
        And for shorter hair.
        Don’t waste your money buying thinning shears, they just damage the hair and make it looked chewed. I do recommend if your wife looks at all the information and agrees that she is onboard and wants to avoid the inconvenience, the wondering if you are going to get another bad haircut and the ridiculous expense, that you start slowly. Don’t decide it is time to chop her waist length hair into a pixie butch cut. Do a minimal trim, focusing on shaping and keeping her current style neatly groomed. I see a lot of tutorials by women who go the DIY method with the ponytail chop. Avoid that, sawing through the full thickness of your hair destroys the ends and leaves it looking chewed. I wish you well in your effort to become salon free. I do not regret it for a minute, especially when I see a coworker or friend that has gotten a really bad haircut. Then I am really thankful I don’t have to worry about that. And I enjoy the bonding time when he pours me a glass of wine, capes me, and then combs out my hair. As he lets down each section to trim the ends, it feels like a massage as I feel the comb stroking my back. I feel so relaxed I could just take a nap. I cant get that from the salon.

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