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The Home Haircut

We have a haircut routine: Phil and I meet after work and all three kids get a cut (cut + tip = about $20 X 3), then we have the mandatory dinner out at a “family-friendly” place the kids love and we despise. So it ends up being around a $100+ night that soaks up the whole evening. Back in high school my mom trusted me to cut, color, and perm (remember those?) her hair, and she was never publicly ostracized, so I felt like maybe I could tackle at least the boys haircuts and we could spend less time and money each month on this routine that always ends up being unpleasant. After I snagged a copy of Haircutting for Dummies on the Free Books table at work, I felt armed and ready to tackle home haircuts. But getting the kids to give up the evening (balloons! Dum-Dums! an indoor playground!) was going to be a tough sell. So I hit them where it mattered: Cash.

I made a deal with the boys that since the haircut out, base price, was $14, I’d pay them $7 to do the haircut at home. Money talked, and they agreed. Then I got cold feet. My dad once — once, and only once — gave my brother a haircut in an effort to save money. I remember my poor brother emerging from the bathroom where he’d been shorn, sporting Frankenstein-like bangs that went nearly to his hairline. My mom just leaned over and put her head straight down on the dining room table so she wouldn’t laugh out loud, but I could see her shoulders shaking until she could get herself together. The world is cruel. I didn’t want the same fate for my boys, so last month we still did the traditional haircut night.

This weekend, though, I bought a pair of professional scissors, and because Tom was getting closer to saving enough for a Lego set he wants, he asked several times if I could cut his hair.

Tommy has thick hair, and I always say that when he’s ready for a haircut he looks like a middle-aged lady shopping in a sparkly holiday sweater, shopping at a discount department store. His hair gets that kind of boufy look. It sneaks up on you, and suddenly he looks like he’s shopping for a pair of Sansibelts, which is how he was looking. So it was time.

Sylvie has curly hair like me, which is more difficult to cut. I know I came home over-curly and styled cuts (“I look like Jermaine Jackson!”) or straightened hair  (“I look like Linda Tripp!”) from hairdressers who didn’t know how to deal with my hair. So for her, I just pretended I was cutting the back, and merely gave her bangs a little trim.

Following the haircut Tom had, he emerged the handsome boy we know, $7 closer to a General Grievous Lego set.





The Amateur Tightwad Moves On

I had a blog ( for a year and a half. When I decided to start a new blog — this one — I thought I’d go for a publisher with a few more bells and whistles. But I haven’t really learned how to use those bells and whistles, so I’m dancing with the blog publisher that brought me. Please visit the Amateur Tightwad site at the following address:

See you there!

The Birth of the Amateur Tightwad

Call me a tightwad dabbler.

Back in my 20s when I was single, childless, and saving for a first home, I subscribed to The Tightwad Gazette for a few years, tried tactics like making my own granola (which I found to be a *lot* of granola for one person to eat), and honed my DIY skills. There were still splurges, mind you, but I happily drove my Geo Prizm for eight years, balanced my checkbook weekly, and rejected what I considered needless expenses like cable TV.

A couple years later I married, and with the infusion of a second income into our Midwest household, we relaxed the rules a bit. We got cra-zay and started subscribing to cable, went for frequent martini nights with friends (this was the 90s, after all), and felt comfortable buying all the new music and books we could handle.

 About six months after the wedding, my husband Phil and I moved to New York City.  We lived in a great brownstone in Park Slope, a fun and gentrified area of Brooklyn, and our financial status can only be described as hemorraging money; I’m fairly certain some kind of fiscal hoodoo literally hooked a siphon to our accounts. Despite the blood-letting, when I discovered I was pregnant and we decided to move back to the Midwest, we had saved enough money to buy a house in a comfortable neighborhood. We set about raising our little boy, Max in comfort, albeit with fewer $100 Tuesday nights out with friends.

A few years after that, we had a second baby — our boy Tommy — and were ready to close the door on family-building and start focusing our energies elsewhere. Maybe we’d actually get around to the home projects we’d let go, we dreamed. With Max about to start kindergarten, meaning we only had one child in daycare, just *think* of all how much money we’d have, we said. We started planning in earnest for the next stage in our lives.

This all took a U-turn several months ago with an unexpected extra pink line on a white stick. After the shock and panic settled into the excitement of watching our family grow (as well as scheduling an appointment for minor surgery to ensure that this would truly be the end of the growth), I took inventory of what our next several years would look like. I’d given away all of my maternity and baby gear, so much would need to be replaced. Neither of our paid-for cars would accommodate two car seats and a booster seat, so we were looking at a new vehicle. We were back to having two kids full-time in daycare, never mind the summers when three would need full-day accommodations. Our house was perfect, if a little tight, for four; would we need to look at upgrading — and upgrading in the worst real-estate market since the 1980s? Suddenly, I was lightheaded and woozy from more than the pregnancy.

To steel myself, I dusted off those back issues of The Tightwad Gazette for inspiration. I find, though, that as a dabbler, I have some ideas, but not nearly as many answers as I’d like. I’m still a bit lightheaded and woozy.

That’s where I’m hoping The Amateur Tightwad can come in. I want this to be a forum where I can share ideas and thoughts and discoveries that have made our financial road easier — or didn’t work so well and will never be repeated — and also get ideas from readers about what they’ve discovered. This isn’t about finger-wagging or judging others’ thresholds; it’s about sharing what has worked and hoping others can glean some great information in the sharing.

I hope you’ll stop by often and pick up some ideas, and also share your thoughts about what you’re finding.

Welcome to The Amateur Tightwad!