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  • Money Saving Tip: Get your hair cut at a beauty school

    See the end of this post for an update.

    I’ve never seen a study on the average price for a hair cut, but I’d wager that prices here in Los Angeles are higher than almost anywhere else. I could easily find a salon in Beverly Hills that charges over $400, and even a relatively inexpensive salon charges over $60. My last hair cut was supposed to be a bargain, but after tip it came to $85. And I wasn’t even that happy with it.

    Between the cost and the time, I’ve been getting my hair cut every 9 to 12 months since Alex was born. The last time I cut my hair was last November, when I lopped off a 10-inch ponytail and donated it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program.

    I thought about donating my hair again, but I just couldn’t wait for my hair to grow any longer this time. Like I said, I wasn’t thrilled with my last cut, and I hated the way it was growing out. And I definitely wasn’t going back to the same salon.

    Because I get my hair cut so infrequently, I haven’t had a regular stylist in years. So this time, I decided to act on a frugal tip I’ve come across multiple times: go to a beauty school. It just so happens that there’s a conveniently located Paul Mitchell School, where cuts by a “Phase 2” stylist are a mere $17. I learned that Phase 2 stylists are in the top 5% of their class and have at least 1000 hours of experience on the floor. Phase 1 stylists are everyone else at the school, and they charge $12.

    I decided to pay the extra $5 for a Phase 2 stylist, and my hair was cut by a woman who graduates this month. She was a little bit slow on the cutting, and didn’t have the deftness that I’m used to seeing. But she made up the time blow-drying my hair, which took a lot less time than it usually does, probably because she didn’t try to do anything fancy. I appreciate that she really listened to what I asked for (no short layers that irritate my cheeks) and I’m as satisfied with my $22 cut (I tipped her $5) as I was with the $85 cut I got in November. And, I’m a lot happier than I was when I tried Super Cuts for the first and last time, where the stylist decided that I needed bangs even though I hadn’t asked for them and lopped off inches in front before I could stop her.

    I do think I would be a little bit more cautious if I wanted a perm or color treatment, but even then, I think a Phase 2 stylist would probably be okay. I could see the “Color Bar” where they mix colors from where I was sitting, but everyone around me was getting a cut or just a blow out. I couldn’t see the back of the salon where they must have been doing perms and color, so I don’t really know how that went for the customers who wanted it. But during the hour that I was there, I didn’t hear anyone complaining about their hair or see anyone whose hair looked, well, wrong.

    I don’t know when I’ll cut my hair again, but since it’s a little longer than usual after a cut, my next hair cut will be sooner rather than later. And I’m definitely going back to the Paul Mitchell School for it.

    Update Feb. 2009: I got a hair cut this month and didn’t go back to the Paul Mitchell School. As it grew out, the cut didn’t maintain the shape I would have expected, and I decided that a truly good hair cut is worth spending money on.

    Should you dye your gray hair and if so, when?

    I’ve always had a few gray hairs, but in the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing a lot of them. Enough that I am starting to wonder if I should do anything about them.

    Keep in mind that I’ve never colored my hair before. Ever. I haven’t even had a perm since high school. My hair is healthy and shiny and has always been my crowning glory, my favorite feature. But now . . . I’m starting to get a little self-conscious about all the grays.

    I’m 34. I feel too young to be worrying about gray hair. And yet, there’s no denying that I have a lot more gray hairs than I did just a couple of months ago.

    So, what’s a girl to do?

    As I see it, I have several options:

    • Do nothing. This is my inclination, but only if I don’t get more gray hairs. I’m leaning toward this option because it’s the cheapest, it’s the easiest, and frankly, I’m terrified of coloring my hair. What if it looks bad? What if it damages my hair? I think I’d prefer some visible grays to a bad color job or unhealthy hair.
    • Color my hair at home. This would be less expensive than going to a salon. But I’m hugely intimidated by the prospect of coloring my own hair. How would I know what shade to get? What if I do it wrong? Even if I managed to get it right, how often would I have to do this? How much time will it take? (At least I know that I could get hair color inexpensively, thanks to The Drugstore Game!)
    • Get my hair colored at a salon. Not surprisingly, this is my least favorite option. Primarily because of cost. But also because it feels like an admission, a defeat. I feel it makes me old. I don’t have anything against aging, but I hate the feeling that my life is just slipping past me. When did I get so old that I need to cover up my grays? I also have no idea how I would find the time to get my hair colored regularly; I can’t even find one hour every six months to get my hair styled.
    • I can also manage my stress better. When I was younger, I noticed that the number of gray hairs increased during times of stress. During exams, especially, I would suddenly find little streaks of gray. So I’m thinking that maybe I’ve been internalizing too much stress and that’s why my hair is turning gray. While I’m not thrilled about the idea that I’m so stressed out to the point of manifesting it physically, I think this would be preferable to turning gray simply because of age. Unless I’ve already reached the max number of grays for the rest of my thirties, in which case I can learn to live with it.
    • I can eat better. Or more precisely, I can eat foods that are supposed to help hair grow dark. I grew up hearing that seaweed in particular makes hair dark, and fortunately, I love the stuff!

    What would you do?