Haircuts September 2018 • 2 minutes

I like to think about things that happen regularly, and cost money. Then I like to do zero-based budgeting and figure out if there is a way to eliminate that expense from my life. I especially focus on routines, because compounded through your life saving money on or eliminating a routine can result in significant financial swing. That financial swing can be used to buy more interesting things, like freedom of time or compounding in other financial instruments. Not everyone likes to think this way, it may not be good for the soul, but it’s a fun personal challenge.

I did an analysis that looked at how much money I could save if I cut my own hair. At first it seems like it isn’t worth the time, but when you run the numbers it’s pretty compelling. I looked at a period of 25 years, and assumed I would need a haircut every two months (supposedly people go every six weeks on average, which sounds like a lot). I assumed the average price of $28 for a men’s haircut. I assumed my time was worth $20/hour, conservative. Finally, I assumed that inflation on services like haircuts would be about two percent, with no discount.

Over the course of 25 years, it appears that I can save about $7670 by cutting my own hair. If I keep my hair short, it’s easy to cut myself. If I buy the fanciest tools I can, and spent a few hours watching YouTube videos to learn how to do it, the present value of the future cash savings is still about $7400. Then I flip this, and consider whether I would be willing to outsource haircuts on the assumption I already did them myself for $7400 over the course of 25 years of my life. The answer is definitely no, so I decided to learn and start doing it myself a while ago.

No one has noticed, for better or worse, but I certainly have when I run future cash flow projections. I once looked at how much time people spent on social media. If you extrapolate that amount of time into the future, at average wages, the average person could retire (freedom of time) about ten years sooner if they worked instead. Between healthcare, hard costs and time savings, smoking costs about $600k over 50 years. At that level, you could get to freedom of time 20 years sooner. Flip it around and consider whether you would like to trade those years.

If you have any unconventional ideas for shifting resources from low yield areas (like professional haircuts) into high yield ones, I’m all ears. I’ll post any good ones.