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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Frugal Living: Cutting Your Families' Hair

As a frugalista, my "bible" for living cheap is Amy Dacyczyn's The Tightwad Gazette . If you've never read it, I highly suggest you should. Some of the tips may be outdated, as it was written a while ago, but Amy gave me courage to try so many new things in my quest to live on less. Some of the things I learned from Amy: how to use leftovers to make a variety of cheap breakfasts, making your own yogurt, using items around your house in creative ways, and the courage to "garbage pick" good items others throw out. You can check it out on Amazon:

One of the things Amy taught me was the courage to cut my families' hair. I have a husband and two boys, so by cutting their hair, I save between $30-$45 every 6 weeks. That's a savings of $240 a year!

It sounds scary, but it's not as hard as it seems. Of course, it's easier if you're starting off with toddlers or preschoolers so you can learn before they get too worried about how they look. Neither one of my boys remembers going to the barber because I started cutting their hair when they were very young.

The key to cutting hair is to start cutting less than you think you should. Cut it all a consistent length, then check and see if it needs to go shorter.

First, you need to invest in some tools. You'll need a long plastic comb. I like one that is tapered--one end is longer than the other. I bought mine at Walmart, but Sally Beauty Supply or other beauty supply will carry various kinds. You'll also need a good pair of scissors. Your scissors you use for cutting paper in your home office will not work well and will give a poor haircut. I went to Sally Beauty Supply and invested in a pair of scissors that cost me $25 (I saved more than that the first time I cut all three of my "men's" hair). I also use a spray bottle you can find at any supercenter, usually in the travel/trial section. Optional but nice: a cape, also purchasable at a beauty supply store. In the summer, I tend to cut their hair without one since they're hot enough already.

Here's my youngest getting ready for his haircut. He is not a huge fan of haircuts, as you can see. I really should have him higher up, but we sold our bar stools when we moved...this is the best I have.

(Note: my older son, who is 11, took these pictures. Some are pretty good...others, well, I included them so you'd see what I was doing. Bear with him!)

The first step is to wet the hair. If you want, you can use warm water. Cold water (or even room temperature) tends to feel really cold on your scalp. I usually wet one section at a time.

After wetting the hair, I comb through it to get it all wet and to get any tangles out.

Then I begin to cut. How short your child wants it (or YOU want it ) cut will depend on how you start. A good way to measure is to use your comb. The comb is about an inch high. 

Start with the top
When you've decided how short to cut it (remember I said to err on the side of long at first!), Comb a small section of hair and hold it in between your first and second fingers of your non-dominant hand (I'm lefthanded, so you'll see me holding the hair with my right hand). To cut the top, you'll cut the hair from front to back to avoid "stripes" in the hair. Pull the hair through your fingers until only the portion you want to cut is above your fingers. With your dominant hand, cut from the tips of your fingers toward your hand.

To be able to maneuver between the comb and the scissors, I tuck the scissors in the palm of my hand while I'm holding the comb, and vice versa.Above you should see me holding the scissors with the comb angled toward the camera in my palm. This takes a lot of practice, but it's easier than setting down the comb every time you want to cut.
Go around the top of the head, cutting at a consistent length. You can check to see if you're cutting the same length by taking some of the already-cut hair in your fingers along with the uncut hair.

Leave the bangs for last.

Next, Cut the Sides and Back
Now work your way around to the side. For righthanded people, you'll probably start on the right side of the head, then work around to the left. I start on the left. Take a section of hair that has been cut on the top along with some of the hair on the side to make sure you cut it a consistent length. 

For the sides, the biggest thing you need to angle your scissors in and cut from top to bottom instead of front to back (again to avoid the "stripes"). Angling the scissors in makes the hair shorter near the ears. If you're going for a longer, over-the-ears style, cut it the same length, straight scissors instead of angled.

When you get to the ears, I usually fold the ear back, then gently trace the comb along the hairline to trim. Behind the ear, I will comb the hair forward (toward the ear), then cut, to get a cleaner line.

The back is probably hardest for me to cut. The technique is the same as the sides, but my kids' necks always seem to get in the way. When you get down toward the nape of the neck, I usually ask the "patron" to bend their head forward so I can cut well. 

Once you've done the whole back, comb out the hair and trim along the hairline at the bottom to a neat line. If you're going for a longer look, just comb the hair through to make sure the ends are even.

Continue in the same manner on the side you haven't completed yet.

Trim it Up

Now it's time to neaten up. I go back over the hair, this time checking the length from the opposite angle--for the top of the hair, I look left to right, instead of front to back. Trim any stray hairs.

Now it's time for the bangs and sideburns.

Trim the Bangs and Sideburns
My son never likes this part. You can trim a bit going straight across, but leave it long. You'll go back and use the scissors at an angle to snip tiny chunks out of the bangs. This keeps the bangs from looking like straight lines.

For the sideburns, it depends how long you want them. My son likes "hair around my ears, mom!" so I left them long and just evened them up. If you want them shorter, trim them the same as the sides. You can also use an electric razor to trim the sideburns and back. These can be purchased at Walmart for about $30. My kit included the cape, brushes, razor with several levels of combs, and a pair of scissors (not as good as the ones I had, though).

Dust them off and they're done! I usually make my sons go shower right away to get all of the loose hairs off them.

Here's the finished result for both of my boys:

My older son (the dark one) has very curly hair, which is its own challenge. After I became really good at cutting their hair, I ventured into cutting my husband's hair. He's actually probably the easiest. He's bald on top and, although he has curls, he always wants it the same way--as short as I can get it.

Do you have any questions about cutting hair? Post in a comment below and I will do my best to answer you or find the answer for you!
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