Trim Costs with Cheaper Kid's Haircuts

Photo: Peter D

Let me preface this piece by saying that I'm not above cutting my own kids' hair. We often cut their hair (especially the boys') and in the summer, we prefer to shave it down for coolness and to avoid tick dangers. I have found great results with a mid-range WAHL haircutting kit, complete with all the bells and whistles. There are times when it is not appropriate to cut their hair: My daughter is entering tweendom and needs somethings stylish, my youngest needed his first “real” cut and had more cowlicks than I could handle, etc. How do you manage to keep up the coif and keep it under budget? Start with these simple tips:

Use a Coupon – This should be a no-brainer, but I'm amazed at how often I forget. Many of the larger chains offer incredible savings on cuts via clippable coupons in your local paper inserts. Great Clips, for instance, drops the cost of their kid's cut from $11 to $6 at several times during the year (right before school, for example.) You must have the coupon, however.

Get a Group Rate – Plan on bringing in all four kids and the hubby for a trim? Schedule a time in advance on a day when they don't do much business. Ask if they can give you 20% off for having all the cuts done on the same day. (Don't forget to tip.)

Use a Barber – Salons aren't the only ones equipped to handle clean-up. Our local barber has been doing boys' and men's cuts for decades, and he still charges rates from the 70's. You'd be surprised at how all that experience can translate into a gift for keeping the little ones still. (And they get to sit in that “Big Boy” pedestal chair!

Hit the Beauty Schools – You may not trust a beautician-in-training with your hair (although I've gotten nothing but fantastic results), but that doesn't mean your toddler can't take the risk. With prices at 25-50% off retail, you can get all the kids' hair done! (And if there happens to be a “mishap” just blame it on that rowdy preschool classmate. Kidding.)

Cruise the Retirement Circuit – Someone's Grandma used to be a hairdresser. The key is to finding them (ask around.) Since zoning ordinances may prevent private individuals from conducting hair business from their home, it may not become a regular thing. But for an emergency trim or for in-between cuts, that “has-been” stylist could really come in handy! Sometimes they will forgo payment entirely in lieu of a nice trade (the same goes for any private stylist – not just those who are retired.)

Stay creative and remember that you only have a few short years where the kids won't care how their hair looks... and that means a smaller hair budget!

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Guest's picture

sometimes the results are not great but often they're pretty cool. i get a LOT of compliments about my girls' hair. i'm actually thinking of letting him try my hair next.

Andrea Karim's picture

Cutting my kids' hair is one of the only reasons that I want to have children. I cannot wait to have a bunch of little blue-haired, mohawked toddlers.

Also, I will invest in hats.

Guest's picture

To save money, I'd rather cut my son's hair*laughs*...good thing he can't complain (he's 2 yrs old) of the result. The idea of "Group rate" is a nice one!

Fix My Personal Finance

Guest's picture

Carrie, my DH has been cutting our twin boys' hair since they were little - I think they have gotten 3 store-bought cuts in their life, and at 14 they are still letting dad cut their hair. Even when they went through a phase of wanting a "tail", which grew quite long and became a braid, he was cutting their hair and braiding it. For a while he even wove UV beads that turned purple in the sunlight into the braids for decoration. He has been cutting my hair for years - I've just had a bob-cut, but last time he asked if I wanted to try something different and gave me a really cute layered cut that I love. It's just something he learned how to do along the way. I cut his hair too - I learned from a book. It's not my favorite thing to do, but I do like to save money. We always watch a movie or TV during haircuts. It's wonderful to have a live-in hair dresser, because I'm the sort who just suddenly MUST have a hair cut or I'll start cutting it myself - not a good thing.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Great list with solid suggestions, Linsey.  I've used the beauty school thing before when pennies were tight, as well. Ditto for manicures and pedicures when I have inadvertently let things get out of control and need a "starter shaping".


Guest's picture

this is why i'm a fan of the straight-hair-with-bangs hairstyle on little girls (well, the ones with naturally straight hair, i guess). all i do with mine is trim her bangs when they hit her eyes. the rest i braid or put in pigtails. my mom left me in that hairstyle until i was a tween and wanted something "stylish." then i went back to it as an adult once the perm-maddened 80s had passed!

Guest's picture

I benefited for decades from a friend who was a hairdresser (we swapped services). Once we moved away, the cost of salon cuts prompted me to experiment. I don't mind paying for good service, but the new salons didn't measure up to my friend and 300 miles is too far to drive.

If my friend could cut hair, than so could I (or so I reasoned...) The first few cuts didn't turn out so great, so I borrowed "how to" videos and books from the library. First, I corrected "toddler scissor experiments." Then I fixed Barbie doll hair with similar "experiments." Ready to conquer the world, I began to cut my families hair. Although not the perfection of my hairdresser friend, people are amazed when I tell them I cut my families hair (including hubby) and my home cuts are better than the butcher jobs we were paying to get from local salons. Still ... it's tough to cut your OWN hair, so find a friend and learn to cut together.

You can dye your own hair, but it's hard to "see" the back of your head, so this is an instance where a trip to the salon a couple of times a year is sensible while you do color touch-ups between visits at home. Watch what your hairdresser does like a hawk, ask questions, and use the exact same professional products from a beauty supply store. Home perms have been disasters as I'm not coordinated enough to get the back hair neatly tucked into the little rolling papers so it doesn't frizz, so I changed my style to long and straight like the teens wear. If you have a friend willing to learn with you, however, don't be afraid to give home perms a try. It's not rocket science. I'm the only tightwad in my social circle, but perhaps you'll have better luck finding a reliable friend?

Department store "hair" scissors and clippers are OK while learning to cut small kids hair, but once you get brave enough to cut adult/teen hair, invest in a pair of professional-grade scissors and clippers. It DOES make a difference (but don't do it until you feel committed to home hair cuts as they are EXPENSIVE). Also, read "Don't Go Shopping for Hair Care Products Without Me" to make sure the products you use are really good. Surprise!!! Many pricey ($20) salon products are garbage, while a few very economical ones ($.79) are actually quite good. No one "brand" is all good or bad, so you have to do your research, know your hair type, and mix and match.

The biggest benefit has been time. When we trek to a salon, it's 20 minutes getting the kids dressed and in the car, 25 minutes to drive, gas, 20 minutes waiting, 10 minutes for each cut (all the while trying to keep the other 2 kids from drinking hair dye), then 30 minutes for a "sit still bribe" of a happy meal before the 25 minute trek and gas home (2 hours + gas + salon + 3 happy meals). Now, I whip out the scissors whenever one looks shaggy, the others continue what they are doing and, in 10 minutes, we're done.

Guest's picture

No offense or anything, but you said: "My daughter is entering tweendom and needs somethings stylish..." This is a want, not a need.

Now I fully appreciate the hellish social gantlet that is female pubescence in this culture. Believe me, I remember it all too vividly. Nonetheless, there's no way to construe a stylish haircut as a need for someone that age, unless they happen to have a lucrative modeling contract. Surely this is a ripe opportunity to impart an important lesson that will help her distinguish between basic necessities and optional indulgences. If she wants a stylish haircut, let her earn the money to pay for it. There are ample opportunities, even at her age, to do so. Otherwise, let her cut her own hair or keep doing it for her.

Linsey Knerl's picture

None taken.  However, it is more of a need for me, not her.  Maybe I should have clarified that by "stylish" I was referring to a simple, clean, age-appropriate cut that would be easy for her to manage.  It is about empowering her to be able to practice good hygiene and self-care skills, while feeling good about herself at the same time.  We don't do highlights, drastic shaping, or anything that I wouldn't consider to be very basic.  But I also don't saddle her with a homemade bowl-cut or a FlowBee mishap.

I think that there is a happy medium to indulgence and neglect (which if you saw how easily tangled my daughter's hair can get if not cut correctly, you could appreciate.)  I pick my battles, and I also know that something as simple as a good haircut can be worth it's weight in gold (or dollars.)

Thanks for your comment.

Linsey Knerl's picture

That while I love the article on Wants Vs. Needs, I tend to subscribe to the Apples vs. Orange theory? 

Guest's picture

My wife's been cutting my hair for 16 years and cuts our kids hair as well. I have gone to other hair places, when I've traveled or when she was to busy but really missed her style. She is fantastic and taught herself after buying a clipper set from the store. We've saved probably over $2,000 over 16 years. It really adds up.

Guest's picture

If you go to a beauty school, one of the first cuts they teach is a short haircut for men. On my last visit, I got a bonus, step-by-step instructions. The girl cutting my hair was there only long enough to get the first lesson, so her teacher came over and walked her through the cut. The result was not that great, but for someone who cuts three boy’s hair, it was worth it. After all, the only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks.

I have saved a good bit of money by giving haircuts at home and have picked up a skill in the process. If you were going to do it on a regular basis, I would recommend getting a good set of clippers.

Julie Rains's picture

My husband used to cut our kids' hair, until my youngest got half a haircut and refused to let hubby near him for the second half (his electric shaver sometimes made an awful noise); so we opted to get the second half trimmed at a chain haircut store (my oldest's terminology). Buzz cuts for boys are easy and cheap but right now my stylist offers kids' cuts (aka quick but reduced pricing).

Hmm...should I have asked for a discount at the chain store? After all, they only cut half the hair.

Guest's picture

I learned to cut hair from my mom ages ago. She learned on her first husband, and I have done the same on mine. When we first moved in together he was going to go looking for a barber and I simply had him buy a $20 razor and hair cut kit at the same time. Over the years I've started to do his friends as well when they're over if they need it and haven't had time to get it done. It's not only a great time saver, it's fun!

I tried to talk DH into learning to cut my hair, but he doesn't trust his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills so I still splurge and go to a saloon occasionally. However, since I grew my hair out, it can now go up to 6 months between saloon visits!