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.