Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Saving Money on Haircuts

I’m going to say something which can be quite controversial amongst the personal finance and financial independence community. 

You might have heard the concept that making small savings over time can result in considerable gains in your net-worth. This is due to the magic of compounding.

Sometimes though, despite the gift of compounded returns from these small habitual savings, it just isn’t worth it. There are certain things I’m not willing to cut from my budget regardless how many years I get to shave off towards financial independence. 

Some might say I lack the financial grit!

Let me explain with a personal example of how trying to save money on my haircuts was more stress than it was worth.

The Average Haircut Cost

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends on average $768 a year on personal care products and services.  But how much of that $64 a month accounts for the annual spend on haircuts?  

According to one survey, a male visits the barbers 5.84 times a year and spends around $22.93 per trip compared to 3.81 times and spending about $54.34 per trip for a woman.

This makes the average haircut spending to be:

Males: $134.91 per year ($11.16 per month)

Females: $207.03 per year ($17.25 per month)

This excludes the cost of travel and time.

The survey calculated a higher average using a different method (multiplying each respondent’s annual trips by his/her spend per trip).  However, I’ve decided to use a more conservative method above. 

How does this compare to the UK?

According to the Office of National Statistics, the typical UK household spends £182.40 a year (£15.20 per month) on “hairdressing and beauty treatments”.  The average household size was 2.4. This puts the individual figure at £76 per pear year (£6.33 per month).

In a separate study, it was suggested that British men spend on average £81.39 per year (£6.78 per month), whereas a woman spends £146.11 per year (£12.18 per month).

US vs UK Haircut Spend

We Brits seem to spend much less than our American counterparts on our hair.  Judging by the old stereotype of us having bad teeth, it’s probably not too surprising that we spend less on haircuts just like dental work. 

Joking aside and notwithstanding the cheaper haircuts, there are quite a number of reasons why I believe reaching financial independence in the UK can be easier than in the US.

Lifetime cost of haircuts

From personal experience, those estimates above aren’t too far off the mark.  Of course, there will always be extremes.

For me, I spend £9 per haircut, plus £1 tip which makes the total £10.  I get my haircut every 6 weeks, but try to push it to around the 8 week mark to save money.  I need to be politely reminded (sometimes not so politely) by my wife that my mullet is offending her.

So for me, I spend about £86.67 per year getting my haircut.

As someone who is both fascinated and excited about the possibilities of financial independence, I couldn’t help but see how much money I could save by getting rid of this cost.

What If Haircut Calculator

Below is a calculator which estimates the amount of money you’ve spent and will spend on getting your haircut.  It also provides an illustration of how much of that money would be worth had you invested it.  

It’s just for fun!  

For me, I’d end up spending about £13,000 over my lifetime (up to 75).  

I figured once I’m 75, I might not have much hair anyway, so will shave it myself.  If that money was invested, I’d could have about over £100,000!

Have a play around yourself by filling in the white cells.  Click refresh if you accidentally mess up the formulas.

My (Not So) Clever Idea

I figured a no brainer way to reduce the cost of paying for a haircut was to get someone who would be willing to do it for free!  Who best to do this than to ask my wife.

Investment Cost: £18.99 for a Wahl Elite Pro Main Hair Clipper Kit

The unit cost £49.99 at full price but got it in an Amazon sale together with a £25 gift card.  There are cheaper clippers but I like to buy things which I believe are of better quality and hopefully last longer.  

Long story short, my wife and I persevered for three cuts.  She persevering more so than I.  

Bless her, she tried her best and watched many Youtube videos to learn how to cut my hair. No matter how hard she tried, it just wasn’t right.  

I have a simple short back and side type hairstyle.  The skill is in the fading; a skill as it turns out, quite difficult to master with when I’m sat in the chair and she’s feeling the pressure.  

It was causing both of us a great deal of stress.  

A haircut that would take my barber 10 minutes maximum was taking up to an hour.  

I blame myself more than anything.  I lacked patience.

In the end, we both called it quits.  

The saving and the potential loss of over £100K was not worth the increased blood pressure.

The saving grace was that we agreed to keep going just enough to recoup the initial investment.

Final Thoughts

This whole experience was a marriage test just as much as a financial experiment.  The extra stress it introduced in our lives was not worth the savings we made. We learned that there are certain expenses not worth cutting for the sake of our sanity.  For me, these are:

  1. Gym membership – I really do enjoy the gym and look forward to them.  I always feel so much better after and the steam / sauna is so relaxing.  The important thing is to make the most of the membership and actually use it.
  2. Take away  / restaurant treat – we enjoy our fortnightly meals out.
  3. Audible membership – I drive a lot for work, so having someone to listen whilst also learn on the go is great!

Over the years we have experimented cutting the above out but found that the balance wasn’t right for us.  

The bottom line is this.  As we approach financial independence which our FI Score Test says is only a few years away (take the test yourself!), we have found that sweating the small stuff was no longer worth it.  

We’ve definitely loosened the purse strings.  We used to feel bad for it, but recognize now there needs to be balanced.  The reality is that as our net worth increased, this balance became increasingly easier to stomach financially.

What’s happened to the clipper?  I’ve been lucky enough to have two sons since I bought the clippers so they get to experience my barber skills some time in the very near future!

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