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Dos and Don’ts for Haircuts at Home

First, I’d advice not cutting your own hair unless you a) are in college b) are on vacation c) are a telecommuter d) you’re a hijabi….or basically you the time to get it repaired and a way to keep people from seeing it. I cut my own hair once in college and it turned out beautifully but I now look back and wonder: “What was I thinking?”

If you cut your family members’ hair, it can be a good way to save money. As a kid, I had long, straight hair (poker straight!). So my dad asked a hairdresser to help him perfect the art of cutting straight across. He did quite well at it for years, I didn’t want a different hairstyle, neither did my mom or sister.

Since it was such an easy style to maintain, that made a lot of sense.

I still haven’t figured out what I want with/from my hair. I like it between two lengths and layered. Once it hits a point where I have 10 inches+ to donate (because I like doing that) I’m going to go somewhere and get it cut to the shortest length I like. I’d cut it again myself but I’m scared of not being able to duplicate the last time. I’ll probably get it cut in July.

I just cut Micah’s hair this last week. He wears it just past his ears with a bit of wave and flip and whatnot. Fortunately, his mom had a great method for cutting it perfectly and I’ve been doing that for the last 5 years or so. She was flexible enough to handle his transition from the shorter hair of his teens to the slightly longer look he adopted in college.

As someone who’s been on the giving and receiving end (and once at the same time!) of at-home haircuts, here are my dos and don’ts:


1. Have a plan. Choose a style ahead of time. It can be a trim, a repeat of whatever they already had, whatever. Just know what you’re doing. The last thing you want is to change your mind mid-haircut. If the style is new to you, spend some time working out (in your head or on paper) how you plan to do it. See #1 & #2 of the don’ts for more on this.


2. Use sharp scissors (or buzzer). My dad invested in a left-handed pair of hair-cutting shears and kept them quite sharp. I use my sharp sewing scissors because I feel comfortable with them. Whatever your instrument, don’t neglect it. You’ll save money better by using good tools. If they’re dull and spoil the cut, you’ll likely have to pay to get it salvaged anyway.

3. Schedule plenty of time. This one’s a two-parter. First, schedule enough time to get the haircut done. Don’t rush it.

Second, allow several days between the haircut and anything particularly important. As a general rule, Friday nights are a good idea unless there’s something big that weekend. If so, use the previous Friday night. If something goes horribly wrong, you want time to get to a professional who’ll fix it.

(I just broke the latter by cutting Micah’s hair much too close to an important presentation he’s doing this afternoon. Fortunately, I have 5 years experience with this cut and it went fine.)

4. Have a backup plan. If something goes horribly wrong in a salon, there’s probably another stylist who can fix it for you (even if your own can’t). If you’re at a beauty school, there should be a supervisor on call for that. If you’re at home there might not be anyone else to give it a go, at least not with the skill required.

It helps to have a plan ahead of time, such as knowing the local beauty shops/schools and getting recommendations from friends about skill (and whether they take walk-ins!). In an emergency, you’re not just running to the first place in the phone book, you know you’re getting quality.

5. Have a cleanup plan. Cut hair gets everywhere. While cutting, I try to direct all the falling hair into as small an area as possibly. Micah sweeps it up, then uses a wet paper towel to try to get the rest. He also takes a shower right afterwards to get the little hairs off his neck.


1. Give up style. My sister is going for the young professional look. Since her hair is an important part of her wardrobe, she needs to have it cut in line with that look. I don’t think that my dad or I could cut her hair to her satisfaction. She’s still pretty smart about what cut she gets so she doesn’t have to go back too much. And she’s good with money, so it’s not a drain on her finances.

2. Force it. Some people can’t cut hair. My mom is convinced she’s one of those people. I don’t want her touching my hair while she’s convinced of that, since whether or not she has the potential she’d probably be nervous. I don’t want a nervous barber.

If you can’t cut hair, then this solution isn’t right for you. Try a beauty school for cheaper cuts.

3. Do it while under the influence. Rather self-explanatory here. Impaired judgment and sharp objects are never a good combination.

4. Do it on the spur of the moment. This one isn’t set in stone, but it’s a good idea. Do you really want it in this style? Can the person with the scissors actually do it? Do they have a plan? Do you have a backup plan? Is there anything important coming up in the next week?

I’ve had nothing but good experience with at-home haircutting. Take it seriously, stick to the dos and don’ts and I hope you will as well!

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Stop Feeling Sorry For Me – I’m Frugal, Not Broke | Frugal Dad
September 30, 2009 at 6:02 am

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal Babe June 7, 2008 at 2:15 pm

I cut my husband’s hair every few weeks, with an electric clippers – only need two attachments, as his style is pretty simple… longer on top, shorter on the back. Takes about 15 minutes and saves us $15 every time I do it. No tip required – just a kiss 🙂

hank June 7, 2008 at 2:35 pm

To this day I have yet to pay for a haircut. My mom always cut it growing up, and now it gets a cut every 6 months with a size 2 clip, and off it grows again! :).

The only “gotcha” comes now that I am married and the wife is looking for a little different style, so it may be time… 🙂

Luke @ Money & Fitnes Blog June 7, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Great article considering I am one of the ones out there cheap enough to do it myself.

I agree 100% with what Frugal Babe mentioned. Just use an attachment. I just use the same one every time and can do my hair in about 20 minutes myself. Just make sure to have someone trim up your neck for guys.

bleh bleh June 7, 2008 at 4:20 pm

I just started cutting my own. I finally found a set of clippers I was comfortable with, and decided a #3 all over couldn’t be that hard.

Frugal Dad June 7, 2008 at 4:37 pm

LOL! I just left the barber shop because the last time my wife attempted to cut my hair I wound up having to buzz it about 2 inches long all over for it to look even. Let’s just say she isn’t the best hair-cutter in the world. That’s what I get for trying to save a few bucks.

Lin June 7, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I can’t even imagine cutting my own hair, except maybe doing my own bangs. I do cut my husband’s hair every couple a weeks to save money and time, and so far he seems to be pleased with the job I do. 🙂

Alice June 7, 2008 at 8:43 pm

When my kids were little I got a library book called something like “How to Cut Your Own (or Anybody Else’s) Hair.” I did my children’s hair for many years. I would put the high chair (to save my back) in the living room on top of lots of spread out newspapers, and sweep/vac afterwards. My sister-in-law always cut her boys’ hair in the bath, then just rinsed it down the drain.

Frugal Urbanite June 7, 2008 at 9:05 pm

I put our marriage on the line and let Mr. Frugal Urbanite cut my hair. Luckily he’s got a steady hand and all he needs to do is cut the ends and I’ll cut in the layers myself.

In addition to wetting the hair, make sure it stays good and wet. If parts starts to dry out, you can end up cutting different lengths.

Forest June 7, 2008 at 10:00 pm

I haven’t paid for a haircut in a long time. In high school, I had a friend cut it, then switched to cutting it myself in college and now another friend cuts it. Another reason to keep the hair wet is that it’s easy to clean up as dry hair seems to float all over the place and is harder to clean up because of that.

Becky@FamilyandFinances June 7, 2008 at 10:40 pm

My husband still has his mom cut his hair. In fact, she is the only one he will go to for a haircut!

I’m with your mom – I don’t think I’d be any good at cutting hair. It’s a good thing my husband’s mom only lives about 40 minutes away! 🙂

A.J. June 8, 2008 at 9:52 am
Ron@TheWisdomJournal June 8, 2008 at 10:05 am

My favorite tip: Don’t cut while under the influence! That one got a laugh outta me!

I would add one more, be sure and leave about 10 days between the time you get a haircut and anything important (job interview, family pictures, etc). You don’t want to show up with a little white line of un-tanned skin all around your hairline!

Funny about Money June 8, 2008 at 2:08 pm

@ Alice: Yes! “How to Cut Your Own (or Anybody Else’s) Hair.” Great book… I wonder if it’s still available?

That one showed me how to cut my own hair, which at the time was long. It’s never been anything vaguely like straight–at shoulder-length it sorta reminds you of a washboard. But curly ends cover a host of crimes. 😀

Amanda June 8, 2008 at 5:51 pm

I cut both Tim’s and Nathan’s hair. In fact, Nathan just had his first hair cut last month!

Mrs Micah's Mom June 8, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I’m convinced I can’t cut hair because I once really messed up my older sister’s hair. It was fortunate she knew of a good hair stylist.

Carolyn June 9, 2008 at 9:22 am

Good article! If I’m cutting my son’s hair in the summer, we take a chair outside and use an extension cord for the clippers. If it’s winter or the weather isn’t good, I put a chair in the bathtub, close the shower curtain and clip away in there. Of course, you want to make sure the tub is good and dry before using electric clippers! Either way, in the shower or outside, clean-up is minimal. I would also mention, it’s best to spend a little money to keep your scissors sharp and clippers cleaned out and maintained, or even replaced every few years. There is nothing worse than getting your hair pulled into the clippers instead of cut, and the hair cut goes much faster and looks much neater when the cutting blades are sharp.

Tara June 11, 2008 at 5:56 pm

I have been cutting my husband’s hair for 3 years now. He use to come home from the barber and it would still be longish. (I like him with short hair)
My next door neighbor cuts my daughter’s hair and I give her a bottle of wine in exchange. I donated my hair to locks for love and my hairdresser did it for free, I gave him a tip. Now I just use gift certificates (they were suppose to be for a massage & such) but, since the spa does haircuts, too… luckily it’s a great cut b/c I haven’t gone back since January and I can put it up in a pony for the summer!

budgets are sexy June 13, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Also if you have mohawks, faux hawks, or any sort of “hawks”, then it is also okay to have your hair cut at home…just makes sure the cutter/shaver can cut a straight line!

Diane W March 30, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I have been get my hair done at home for years. He has been the trusted wielder of the shears keeping my long blond locks (just above my elbows) well groomed. I bought a home hair cutting book and video and we watched it together. We bought the right tools, 1st a high quality pair of sharp hair shears, wide tooth comb, cape and clips. I wash it and then he works some conditioner through it . It makes it comb out much easier. He pins it up it four sections, lets it down about an inch at a time and trims it following the guide of the previous layer. The conditioner also keeps the clippings stuck together. After the haircut, I rinse it. He combs it out and I towel dry it. Once it is dry, he checks for strays and trims them. My hair looks great, my husband loves it long, he enjoys doing it for me and the price is right. I get a lot of complements from men, but unfortunately I get alot of, “You should cut it short”, or “Stop letting your husband play and go get it cut right at the salon”, from jealous women with frumpy short hair cuts, whose husbands’ admire my hair.

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