Here's one 250% price increase that's worth it

Paying 250% more for something sounds like a ripoff, but even in a recession and without a job, I've discovered that it's worth it.

After about a year of getting my hair cut at a Paul Mitchell school for $10, I went back to my previous hairdresser Thursday and happily paid her $35.

I tipped each hairdresser $5, although the handy tip calculator on my cellphone shows that a 15% tip would equal $1.50 at the school and $5.25 for the fully-trained professional who already has her state license. The tip isn't the point.

The point is that short of cutting my own hair for free, going to a cosmetology school to save money wasn't worth the time. What should take an hour or less to do often took two hours, and the cliche "Time is money" kept popping into my head as I sat while a student cautiously cut away.I recently wrote and podcasted about balancing the job search with the real life responsibility of working various part-time jobs to pay the bills, and advocated for the unemployed and underemployed to have more time to relax by paying for services they would normally do themselves. Hiring a gardener, baby-sitter and whoever else you can afford to pay for a few hours away from the grind of part-time work and job hunting, is well worth it.

Even if it's not time spent relaxing, I think it's worth it to pay for some services. The extra hour or so I now have from going to my regular stylist, who spent less than an hour on my haircut today, is time I'm spending writing and getting paid for my efforts.

When I was laid off from a newspaper almost a year ago, I immediately looked for ways to save money. Going from a $35 haircut to a $10 haircut every six weeks seemed like an easy choice. I have Don King-like hair if I don't get it cut short, and while I'm glad I'll never go bald, it's an expense that has to be paid.

A Paul Mitchell school was a 10-minute drive from my home, so I decided to give it a try. At first it was a great deal, and I recommend everyone give it a try if there's a school near them. I luckily found a stylist who was great and went back to her for six months before she graduated and moved out of the area.

Then the problems started, although there were no major mishaps that made me think of getting a Flowbee to cut my own hair. Getting my hair pulled by a student is nothing compared with putting a vacuum cleaner to my head. I found that having to explain how I wanted my hair cut, again and again to different people, was getting exhausting, and each student had her own way of doing things.

One told me she was focusing her studies on makeup, and that cutting hair was secondary. That didn't instill confidence. The others, although none were truly bad, always seemed to miss at least one area of my big head, leaving a section too thick, short or lopsided. And two hours or more in a chair can be a bit tiresome.

Depending on how particular you are about getting your hair cut, finding the right hair stylist can be like finding a good mechanic. Once they know your car, or hair, and do a good job fixing it, you want to keep them in your employment forever.

It took me a year to come around to that thinking. It will be a lot easier believing it when I find a full-time job and can easily afford it.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at
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