The Budget

A friend of mine relayed to me this story and I thought you might be interested in hearing about her first experience of living within a budget. She wrote it out and I agreed to put it out on the internet to allow others to hear her tale.

I was 16 and like most teens, I was always after my Mother to buy me more clothes, especially designer clothes. My Mother always said that she only had so much money to spend on me and when it was used up, well, there was no money tree. One day I was really pushing Mom to buy me a new pair of designer jeans that had just arrived at a store in the mall. The jeans were considered to be ‘the’ jeans to have that year. I had already asked the store to put a pair aside for me because they were selling really fast and the store manager didn’t think she would be able to get another shipment in for months.

My Mother said that this year I would have to do without the jeans because the money she had budgeted for me had to pay for clothes she felt were necessary, such as shirts, dress pants and a special occaision dress. I suggested to her that I was old enough to manage my own money and she could just give me the money and leave it to me to spend it how I wanted. I was surprised when she did not dismiss the idea right away. She thought about it and that night at home she laid out the deal. I could spend as much, or as little, as I wanted on each piece of clothing, but I had to buy each item of clothing on my Mother’s list and I had to wear the items. Money was also included for makeup, haircuts, etc. That meant that I could spend whatever money was left over on anything I wanted, or save it for college (oh ya, right!!). I was really happy because I was given enough money for the next two months to buy the jeans, as long as I spent less on the other items on the list. My Mother said that at the end of the next two months she would see how I had done and decide whether she would continue with this system.

I decided that I would buy each of the required clothing items as cheaply as I could and then I would know how much money I had left over for everything else that I needed. When I was done I had enough for the jeans, but I would have to get my hair cut at a cheaper salon, one of the ‘chains’ where I would only have to pay $15.00. It was at these times I almost regreted that I had such long hair, because the salons always charged so much money for even a trim, claiming it was a ‘long hair cut’. I knew there was no way I could agree to cut my long hair short or even to shoulder length, all my boyfriends had initially been attracted to me because of my hair.

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I went to the mall that afternoon and got my jeans and when the clerk ran them up, the bill was for $7.50 more than was on the price tag. When I told her that she had made an error, she just smiled and said there was a charge for holding the jeans for me. I complained but she would not budge and said that she had several other girls who would pay the service charge if I did not want to. Without thinking it through, I paid the extra money. It was only after I had left the mall that I began to think things all the way through. How was I going to get my hair cut with my remaining $7.50!!! My Mother had warned me that I could not skip an item on the list and she had commented on the fact that she wanted me to have my hair cut for the weekend when we had relatives visiting and today was Friday. In fact she had been reminding me to get my hair cut every day for about two weeks, but that wasn’t new, she was always after me to get my hair cut.

I thought about having a friend wield the scissors, but I was very particular about my hair and many of my friends would see it as a chance to take a little more ‘off the top’ than I would want or else they would let it slip to my Mother and my budget deal would be off.

I stopped at a couple of the cheapest looking salons on the way home, but not one was willing to trim my hair for $7.50, even when I promised to give them more money in a couple of days when the next budget period would begin. The cheapest haircut I could find was $10.00. I saw one place that had a sign in the window “Haircuts – Students and Seniors Only $8.00, but it was an old barber shop and I could not imagine going there for my haircut. When I got home my Mother saw my new jeans and said, “You got the jeans and all of the required items on the list, but you still have to get your hair cut and I want it done tonight. I’ll call Sally at the Salon, I’m sure she can cut your hair tonight. I know it is a waste of time, but I’ll say it anyway, please have her cut at least 6 or 8″ off!! It is just too long, it is past your waist. You know I think you would look better in a nice shorter style like mine at my shoulders. When the summer comes, you will thank me. I have been thinking of getting my hair cut short, in fact we could get the same short hair cut tonight. I’ll call Sally right now.”

I quickly said that I would take care of it myself. I told her that I didn’t have enough money for Sally to cut my hair, but I could go somewhere else a little cheaper. My Mother enjoyed this because she knew I was always nervous that more hair would be cut off, even around Sally who had been cutting my hair since I was a baby. Mom looked at me and said “If you don’t have enough money left over I’ll pay for your hair cut.” I think she could see the relief on my face. I was just about to ask her for the money, but she then said, “However, if I pay, I choose the style. This could be my only opportunity to get you to try a nice haircut that shows off your long neck and maybe even your ears. Maybe even a really short style so I can see how I would look in short hair without having to get my own hair cut.”

I headed out the door and began thinking about which of my friends I could trust. I passed the barber shop and looked inside. There were two older barbers just waiting until closing time in about an hour. I kept walking, but all I could think about for the next block was the barber shop. I turned around thinking I could get them to trim my hair and then say I was 50 cents short, they wouldn’t care or else I could get the money somewhere in the next day or two. At least they were professionals, it had to be better than one of my friends. I walked in and they both looked at me and in the weakest voice that has ever come out of me I said “I would like to have my hair trimmed.” One of the two men stood up and motioned me to sit down in the chair. It was a red leather, old fashioned barber’s chair. I climbed up into the chair and sat down. ‘George’, or so the name plate in the mirror said, put the blue cloth cape around me and tried to do it up around the back of my neck. He clearly wasn’t used to customers with hair as long as mine. I reached up and lifted my long hair out of the way while he did the cape up. He stood behind me and gathered my hair into a pony tail and picked up a pair of scissors and said, “I assume you want a short cut?” He began moving the scissors towards where he held my ponytail as he asked the question. I quickly said, “No. I just want a trim, only two inches.” I knew my Mother won’t let me get away with anything less than two inches.

The barber had a pained look on his face and asked me if I was sure. I nodded yes. ‘George’ brushed and combed my hair carefully, it always felt so nice to have someone comb and brush my long hair. He looked like he was in pain as he bent over and began to trim my long hair. The other barber, ‘Sam’, got up walked over to me and said “God, you really have long hair. How come you are coming to a barbershop to get your hair cut? We aren’t exactly known as the home of long hair.”

I replied that I needed my hair cut and I was down to my last $8.00, so here I am. George straightened up and looked at me in the mirror and I asked, “All done?” He said, “No. I’ve only cut halfway across your hair, but I thought I heard you say you only had $8.00.” I replied, “Yes. I saw your sign in the window, ‘Haircuts – Students and Seniors Only $8.00’ and I am a student.”

George smiled and said to Sam, “What are we going to do with this little lady Sam?” I asked them what they meant and Sam pointed to the price listing on the wall beside me and said to me, “Long hair cuts are $16.00, short haircuts for students are $8.00. If you want George to give you a short haircut, I’m sure he will oblige you.” I was very nervous and said in a weak voice, “Did I say I only had $8.00, I meant I only wanted to spend $8.00 on a haircut.” I didn’t fool anyone and they demanded to see my money right away. When I only came up with $7.50 Sam said that he knew how to deal with “cheaters”. I said I had made an honest mistake, but they didn’t believe me. Sam gave me three options, they could call the police, my mother or I could ask for the $8.00 student short haircut special. If they called the police I was sure the cops would just call my Mom and my Mom would probably come down and have some fun with me until I agreed to have Sally cut my hair really short.

When I asked how short was a “short haircut”, they knew right away I was afraid of both the cops and my Mother and they laughed. They spoke to each other quietly for a couple of seconds and I thought about making a run for it but they were between me and the door. They came over and George began brushing my hair and said that ‘short’ for men was a above the ear and tapered with electric clippers, like a member of the army. They said that because I was a girl they would leave my hair longer, but they also wanted to videotape my haircut so there was no way I could later claim that I had been forced to sit while they cut my hair.

I agreed, having seen pictures of women in the army, their hair was down to their shoulders in some cases and that was longer than my mother was talking. I thought about it for a few minutes while I stared at my waist-length hair in the mirror. Finally I said they had better get on with it before I changed my mind. Sam went through a back door to an apartment upstairs and returned with a video camera in less than one minute. I repeated for the camera what they told me to say, basically that I wanted to have my long hair cut off and had asked them to film it so I would have a record of my big haircut.

George began the haircut by gathering my hair in a ponytail and he very slowly started to cut through my hair. As he cut my hair pieces began to swing forward and soon I had a ‘bob’. George then cut my hair on top in long layers, and it looked much better than I had hoped. Next he swung the chair around so I couldn’t see myself in the mirror. My thoughts of a nice haircut abruptly disappeared when I heard the electric clippers. I told them that they had agreed not to cut my hair as short as a man’s ‘short haircut’. They told me it would be longer, and they were only taking a little off the back to thin it out. They offered to call my Mother and let her decide the matter. I had no choice and simply lowered my chin so that my neck was exposed and he began to clip my hair up the back. It sure felt like he was doing more than thinning my hair, but since I had never had clippers cut my hair I hesitated. The clippers were moved up the back of my head over and over and all I could see was piles of hair falling on my lap. Next he moved on to each side of my head so that my ears were now exposed. He swung the chair around again and I couldn’t believe I was looking at myself in the mirror. There was hair all over my shoulders, lap and the floor, everywhere except where I liked it, on my head. He took his time finishing my haircut, or at least it seemed to be an eternity. Finally he pronounced, “I’m done.” I could only stare at myself and think how happy Mom would be, she finally would see me in short hair. George had clipped my hair to about 1/2″ on the sides and shorter in the back, while the top was several inches long. It didn’t look too bad, except it was so short. My hand kept running over the areas where George had used the clippers and they felt really exciting, I began to really like the look and feel. I thought of making my Mother mad and having all of my hair buzzed off. So on the spur of the moment I asked George to finish the job with the electric clippers but he refused.

After I got out of the chair I tried to make an appointment for my next short cut in about 4 weeks, but they only laughed and said don’t worry, two chairs and no waiting. I told them to expect to see me again for another short cut and they just smiled and said they were always here and bring along your friends. They sent me on my way waving my long ponytail at me through the window. I began to think that I’d be back for another cut as soon as my Mother replenished my budget money in a few days.

Over the years since that haircut I have only grown my hair to my shoulders, but only then to enjoy a major haircut. I have wondered many times over the years about whatever became of the video tape of my big haircut.

The end.


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