Easy Cuts

Things are heating up on the Financial Independence front. We’re on track to say goodby to the rat race in 2020 or Pura Vida 2020 as I like to call it. Better yet, our recent real estate moves may shave off another year or two. Depending on how things work out we may pull the plug in 2019 or even as early as next summer.

This is getting real! Years of planning, saving and executing are paying off.

Once we crunched the numbers and realized that the time to unplug from the matrix is around the corner we became a bit overwhelmed. Excited and worried at the same time. How do you prepare for this huge transition?

Is it really that simple? 

Achieving Financial Independence comes down to this: maximize income, minimize expenses, invest the difference. 

We’ve been tracking our earnings and spending for over a decade. With a savings rate north of 60% we’re doing well. Especially when the average personal savings rate in this country is around 5% or below. There’s always room for improvement.

It’s easy to save a lot when you earn a lot. But then again there’s a ton of high income/low net worth people out there. May be better to clarify that it’s easy if you prioritize saving.

Once we leave our 9-5 jobs we’ll have just a trickle of cash compared to those fat monthly checks we get today. Each dollar earned from real estate, investments and side hustles after quitting will instantly quadruple in value.

With that in mind I’ve been focused on identifying and eliminating any remaining leaks in the budget no matter how small. But how do you find savings in a lean budget without affecting the quality of life?

I finally tackled a recurring expense that’s been on my mind for quite some time – haircuts. I’ve been going to a barbershop once a month for 25 years. That’s roughly 300 haircuts at $20 a pop. Six thousand dollars spent on hair that will just continue to keep on growing (hopefully).

Was it Warren Buffett who said that he invests in Gillette because he likes the fact that hair grows daily creating a perpetual need for razors?   

My 2017 New Year’s resolution was to start cutting my own hair. I tried several times in the past but always quit. I could never manage to make it look clean and professional. Plus there’s always an occasion – a wedding, a party, a trip… Don’t wanna ruin that picture.

Then there is a matter of looking presentable at work. A nice haircut goes a long way.

This year is different – I’ve kept the resolution. Haven’t set foot in a barbershop in nine months and counting all thanks to my good old friend back in service. Add it to the list of little FI Machines I got working for us like this one or these ones.

At a barbershop my instructions were simple “#3 sides and back, clean up the top”. Trying to accomplish this at home without sporting a “DIY look” takes some practice.

Sides and back are easy but blending in the top part proved challenging. My barber used scissors but I’m determined to replicate a similar look with clipper guards. Using scissors on my own head is out of my comfort zone.

First couple of times didn’t look so hot. This is where I’d give up before.

Luckily it does get better with practice. A few DIY haircuts in, my hair looked 80% as good as when a barber cut it. Most people won’t notice the difference unless I mention something. It looks fine in a professional setting. It looks fine in pictures. 

Financially – saving twenty bucks per month is great. Twenty bucks will mean even more when the 9-5 paychecks stop. But that’s not all.

A barbershop haircut looked great the first week, good the second and then progressively worse from there. A fresh clean-cut look requires a bi-weekly visit to a barbershop. Since I only went once a month my hair looked less than stellar 50% of the time.  

Now it’s easy to maintain a clean-cut all the time. I’ve been averaging two DIY haircuts per month.

80% quality 100% of the time (DIY) vs. 100% quality 50% of the time (Barber) ~>DIY wins.

But there’s more.

My barber likes to talk. He’s been in this business for 60 years. He knows everyone in town. The longer we knew each other the lengthier our conversations became. Two guys would get their haircuts in the time it took to get mine.

I enjoyed the conversations but after my son was born I’d rather spend time with him than my barber. No offense. One hour at a barbershop after work is a long time when you have just 2 hours with your kid before lights out.

At home it’s twenty minutes start to finish and no driving.

Better yet, my son asked me to start cutting his hair. I’m getting a hang of it. Hopefully he’ll let me continue doing it for a while to double the savings (money and time).

My wife, on the other hand, won’t let me near her hair if it involves a pair of scissors. She did go from four $120 to two $50 haircuts per year. I’m told any further cuts in this budget category will lead to a reduction in quality of life. And by that I’m pretty sure she means my quality of life.

Can’t win them all I suppose.


7 thoughts on “Easy Cuts

  1. That’s funny. I give my barber the exact same instructions, ““#3 sides and back, clean up the top”.

    This is interesting. What clipper guard do you use on the top then? Do you just run it through a few times? How do you round or square the back–just hold a mirror and be real careful?

  2. Hey John, good questions! After experimenting with different guards what works best for me on top is #8. I do the sides and the back with #3 first, then around the ears with the Left and Right ear guard. After that, I do the top with #8 going in different directions – usually back to front and left to right/right to left. Front to back makes it a bit too short for my taste. Then I use #5 to blend in the sides and the back with the top.

    At first I was using all guards from 3 up through 8 to blend in the top but found that all I need is #3, #8 and Left/Right ear taper.

    I can round/square the back myself by turning away from the big mirror, holding a small mirror in my left hand and holding clippers in my right. But it’s a lot easier if you have someone else help you with this part. My wife just uses a “disposable” (reusable) razor to clean up the neck.

  3. Some of your readers may think it is crazy, but I have not been to the salon in years. One I dreaded going and two on my third date with my now husband, I had him give me a haircut. It had been nearly a year since my last visit to the salon where I had a nighmare experience, when I swore I would never go again. My guy told me he could trim my hair to remove the splits, damaged ends and shape up the uneven growth as I had been grumbling about needing a haircut on our second date. So he gave me a haircut and did a great job. He took over the barbering chore on my two boys a couple years later with the scissors and clippers which saves me hundreds a year.

    At first my mom thought it was horrible that he cut my hair, said it was a control thing. But thought it was great when he started giving my boys their monthly haircuts. Of course she was fawning over how great their haircuts looked compared to the previous ones, she said keep the new barber he does great work, of course that was before I told her they were not done at the barbershop, but my guy gave the boys their haircuts. Then it wasn’t a control thing, it was a smart money saving move. She told him he does nice work and said maybe it wasn’t so weird that her daughter’s fiancee cuts her hair for her. And last year my mom got a really bad haircut at the salon by the new owner who charged twice as much as the previous owner she had gone to for over 40 years. She said my hubby would have done a better job, and I said you should ask him, he has never given me a bad haircut, and she said yes I am sure he would do a better job then immediately changed the topic.

    A few months later she was visiting at the time hubby was giving the boys their monthly haircuts and she mentioned she needed her hair trimmed and I suggested she take a seat and have my husband give her a haircut, she seemed interested but hesitated. My hubby said he could give her a trim to tidy up her ends to tide her over if she wanted and she then said ok. I was a little surprised that she actually took him up on the offer, and watching him give her a haircut wasn’t something I was worried about ending badly as he always does a great job on mine and he had given haircuts to a couple of my friends with great results, but watching him give my mom a haircut seemed out of character for her. He trimmed about an inch off her ends leaving her hair a couple inches past her colar bone. She was happy with the haircut and he has since cut it two more times for her as she realized getting a haircut she is happy with for free beats paying $42 for a bad one at the salon and now she is savings hundreds a year skipping the salon as well.

    Being you have the clippers and shears, why not ask your wife to help you with cutting your hair? And watch a few youtube videos together, ones that the person who is wielding the shears or clippers actually knows what they are doing. Once you both get more comfortable with some practice, she might reconsider and let you trim hers or at least you may end up with a better looking haircut. My husband is very handy with tools and very meticulous in doing repairs and building things. He is a hands on kinda of guy, and I know friends that would not trust their guy with a power tool, so maybe him being good with tools is why as scissors and clippers are tools.

    In any case, I think the fact that you are willing to try is a good move financially as it does save a lot of money. If I didn’t dread going to the salon so much, I probably would have told my guy that there was no way I was going to let him cut my hair when he suggested it. But I figured why not, he can’t do any worse that the salons, and if I didn’t like it, I would have had to go to the salon anyway. And he trimmed less than I asked him to saying he could always cut it shorter, but he did not want to cut off so much the first time he was giving me a haircut so it would not upset me. A smart move and he has been my stylist ever since.

    • My wife does help me but only with trimming the neck. I can do that myself too but it’s just easier when she does it and only takes her a couple of minutes. I like doing the rest myself though.

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  5. Yep, been doing this for about 3 years now. The Mrs used to do pretty much all of it but I can do most of it now and just get her to check the back, 1 minutes help max needed!

    Must have saved me about £300 over the years as I never used to go all that much anyway (hated the experience in general!)

    At the tender age of 36 I don’t have much up top to “clean up” (and haven’t had for years to be fair!) so it’s a number 1 all over for me though which made it very easy to get into it 🙂

    • I’ve seen guys with very little hair at the barbershop paying the same $20 for #1 all over in and out of the chair in 10 minutes. I always wondered why they wouldn’t just do it themselves at home – seems so easy!

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