Portage Park, Chicago: Home of the $5 Haircut — Buy Nothing New for a Year!

Living on the Northwest Side of the city now for six years, I’ve become accustomed to the abundance of barber shops that line the main corridors, all flashing promises of transforming you into Don or Betty Draper for the pittance of $5. I’ll admit, it’s hard to trust such a good deal, especially considering that $5 is what I paid for a haircut over 20 years ago when I was in middle school. Much like my mom likes to tell me, “when things look too good to be true, they probably are…” finding a good, really good $5 cut (even on the NW side) can be equivalent to spotting the Loch Ness Monster.

Truth be told, I had to endure a few brutal clippings before meeting Sandro, who by all accounts is a true craftsman, and as professional as they get. Reminiscent of the old-school (and being in my mid-30’s, I believe I was lucky enough to catch the tail-end of old-school) this is the kind of treatment that you would expect from any $35 cut. Really, this is not going to be a business review, but the entire story is predicated on talent and relationships, which requires some back story. Stay with me! You walk in, you’re greeted by name, you wait your turn, you sit in the chair, pleasantries are exchanged but no direction is needed…you are in the hands of a professional…he knows what you want and he will deliver. While his price has increased from $5 to $8 since he opened his own shop (a small premium but well worth it) I just cannot imagine going anywhere else. I’ve built a relationship with a professional, and I trust him, much like I would a mechanic or a doctor. I’ve seen him go from 2nd chair to 1st chair to owning his own shop within a few years. Yes, this is still America, land of opportunity, and dreams still can come true for hardworking people!

Now those that know me know that I was dealt a weak hand in the hair department. At least this has been true since my mid-20’s. Prior to that, I had luscious Kenny G-style locks (not really), but those days are behind me. While there may not be much left on top, I admittedly do not have the easiest head to cut, and therefore require a relationship with a professional. Had I been so skeptical that I skipped the $5 circuit, I would probably have spent well past $2000 on haircuts (yes, 2 grand in haircuts for a bald guy) in the previous 6 years.

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Let’s do the math:

$35 haircut at a men’s salon x 1/mo. x 6 years (72 months) = $2520

$5 haircut at discount salon x 2/mo. x 6 years = $720

As you can see by the example above, not only was I able to cut my costs by approx. 66%, but as well, I doubled the frequency of visits! Not only am I saving money, but I’m looking twice as good doing it. BOOM! Of course I did not factor in the tip (which you would give in both places) nor did I account for the past year where his prices increased $3 a cut, but you get the point without me breaking out the calculus, right?

Relationships are everything when it comes to saving money, and when you’re building those relationships with small business owners, you’re also supporting the local economy. My relationship with Sandro has saved me thousands over the past 6 years, and yielded me a great look and the satisfaction of being a small part of the success of another local entrepreneur. Additionally, Melissa has been lucky enough to meet a stylist who does house calls to Thrift & Thrive (YES! HOUSE CALLS!) and barters with us for clothes and furniture at the shop. Just recently we traded her a really cool vintage couch for a bit of cash and 6 haircuts (2 each for Melissa and our 2 boys.) There’s so much more to be said about the wonders of bartering, but that’s another blog entry for another time!

Even though haircuts would be exempt from our resolution, falling under the “personal hygiene” category, there is still no reason why it shouldn’t be an area that we are conscious of and able to save money in. We expect that our resolution will both be about saving money AND jump-starting the local economy. There are treasures to be found in no-frills products and services in every single category…you just need to make the effort to find them!

Small non sequitur: I once made a sales call to the worlds largest private-label nut processing company, and in doing so, found out that an overwhelming majority of the nuts on the market originate out of that same facility. In other words, you’d have to be nuts to not buy the generic brands! Once you can get past the fact that there’s not some character with a cane and a top hat telling you that his peanuts are the best, you’ll be amazed at the money you can save. Even better if you can find them from a local farmer, boiled, salted and in a paper bag. What does that have to do with haircuts? Absolutely nothing. I just love boiled peanuts.

 

What do you think?