Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The cost of a haircut

Back in May, 6 days after graduating from college, I took a leap I've been wanting to take for about 10 years.

I cut my hair off.

Not all of it.  But quite a bit, especially if you compare to the length it was in 10th grade, when I got 18 inches cut off and it still sat at my chin.  My hair has fluctuated between mid-ear length and ~shoulder length since then. But this was different.  There was no turning back from this haircut.  My longest strands were about 3-3.5 inches in May - and last Sunday's haircut left nothing longer than maybe 2 inches. 

The benefits?  I love every one:
  • I look older.  Someday, this may bother me.  Right now, (almost) nobody questions that I'm over 21 anymore.  And even if I dress a little casually, I don't look like an undergrad when I TA.
  • I only shampoo my hair every other day, so I only spend half as much on shampoo.
  • I don't use conditioner any more.  I don't need it, because my hair is too short to get frizzy like it used to.
  • Breakage isn't a problem.  My hair doesn't tangle or snag, so it doesn't break.  That means it doesn't get frizzy, either.
  • I don't need to buy product for my hair, and then remember to use it every day.
  • No blow drying! Or straightening! Granted, rarely did either, but the result was a messy mane when my hair got long.  
My point is that I like how my hair looks without the effort.
However, there are downsides:
  • I have to at least get it wet every morning.  Otherwise I look like something the cat dragged in because it goes everywhere while I sleep.
  • It dries ridiculously fast.  This is great when I've combed it and styled it before it dries.  Less so when I forget.  The day I left the house without combing it? Not. Good.
  • I pay an uncomfortable amount to get it cut.   The exact amount fluctuates; let's just say it's >$50.
The last one is where the cost-benefit analysis part of this is the hardest to deal with.  On the one hand, I could grow my hair out and get it cut straight across every few months at a cheap salon.  Maybe long layers.  (I don't trust cheap places with my short hair, because short hair makes a bad haircut more obvious, and good stylists go places they can get paid better.)  And then I could put the day-to-day effort to make it look nice.

I'm not sure whether the product to make long hair look nicer would be cheaper.  My guess is probably yes, since I have to get it cut about every 6 weeks (and that's pushing it).  So, I'm cutting it twice as often, for at least twice as much as a Hair Cuttery (for example).

For the most part, that's worth it to me.  I hate having to spend time on my hair, so having to remember to schedule (and budget for) an appointment once every 6 weeks is a blessing.  But since I'm trying to save money, I still feel a little bit guilty about what I'm paying.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Culture on the (relatively) cheap

When I moved to NYC, I was really excited to check out all the great performances in the city.  Unfortunately, a lot of those cultural experiences are pretty expensive.  This has not deterred me, however, from going to the Metropolitan Opera and to Broadway.  Both have ways to get cheap tickets if you nose around enough.  (Although admittedly, cheap is a relative term here)

The Met has a few different options for acquiring cheap seats.  Thus far, I've only sat in seats with a partially obstructed view.  You miss a little bit of the action, but the family circle box seats have excellent acoustics.  When I saw Carmen, an old man sitting near us said he always got those seats because the sound is the best in the house.  Another option is purchasing family circle seats (the highest level in the opera house) way ahead of time - I already have tickets for a February performance that cost the same as the box seats I sat in last month.  Those were $30 each, plus some annoying ticket fees that jacked it up to $40.  Other shows have less expensive tickets though - Turandot, for example, has $20 box seats.

Two other Met options that I haven't taken advantage of yet are Met student discounts, where they release a certain number of tickets that can only be purchased if you have a valid student ID, and standing room only.  A friend of mine has done standing room only, and says it's not that bad, but I don't know whether I can handle standing through a 3 hour opera.  I'm a student member at the Met, so I get emails about tickets, but haven't bought any yet.

Traditionally, to get cheap Broadway tickets you need to do rush/student rush.  I have sat in student rush seats, but a friend went to the box office for both of us so I have no experience with the lines.  We sat in partially obstructed seats for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying last summer, for $20 each I think, and had a great time.

My sister visited this past weekend, and we discovered an option at least for shows at Lincoln Center Theater: LincTix.  You have to be between 21-35, and you can sign up to get $30 tickets for almost any show, for any seat still available in the theater (as far as I can tell).  We bought tickets to War Horse on Friday night, and sat in the front row of the Loge (the balcony) for the Saturday matinee. Those are usually $125 each, but we payed just over one quarter of that amount.  And the show was very good.

City living definitely isn't cheap.  But thus far I've had pretty good luck finding discounts; all it takes is a little bit of extra work.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy Update

(I probably should have posted this sooner)

We survived the hurricane relatively unscathed in my part of the City.  I never lost power and I'm well above sea level, so no flooding.  The university shut down for two days, the first of which I spent very productively.  The second...less so.  I tried to review for one of my classes, but I got distracted and frustrated very easily.  I'm struggling to balance research (which I enjoy and want to spend a lot of time on) with classes (which I don't enjoy as much and in which I'm having trouble).  But that's the topic of another post.

Right now my biggest debate is whether or not to return some of the canned goods I bought for the storm.  Because I waited too long to go shopping, I paid way more than I would have liked to for cans of beans and soup.  And for peanut butter in a glass jar, but I opened it so that's water under the bridge at this point.  I still need to do my usual once-a-month shop, but I've already spent more than half my monthly grocery budget for store-shopping.  Decisions, decisions.