My father has always had a somewhat unhealthy obsession with infomercial gadgets. While I grew up with a host of popular products, such as the Ronco Food Dehydrator, nothing was more divisive in our household than the FlowBee Precision Haircutting System.
The Story: I was about 12-years old when this contraption was first welcomed into our home. For those of you unfamiliar with the FlowBee, Wikipedia defines it as “an electrically powered vacuum cleaner attachment made for cutting hair.”
My younger brother, who was too little to fight back nor fully able to comprehend what was about to happen to him, was my father’s first “victim.” What followed were the screams of an 8-year old, intermittently drowned out by the loud whirling and buzzing sounds of the FlowBee and Hoover vacuum cleaner – and one very crappy haircut.
I never rejected something so much in my life as the FlowBee, which is why it was so unexpected when I began using it a few years later.
When we were children, my mother would drive me and my brothers to get our hair cut. Unfortunately, she also needed to get the most value out of everything, which usually meant we went too long between haircuts. Still too young to drive, and with my mane reaching epic proportions, I felt I had no other choice but to experiment on myself.
Like Ben Franklin flying a kite into a storm with a metal key attached, my clammy, anxious hands clenched the awkward, yellow vacuum attachment. As I drew the dreaded contraption toward my head, a major chunk of unkempt hair was sucked up and met by the chomping teeth of the FlowBee.
It was too late to turn back. Over several nervous hours, I methodically maneuvered the FlowBee over my head, slowly changing the cutting spacers; each pass getting closer to my desired hair length.
Afterward, I stared in the mirror in disbelief. My haircut actually looked great – arguably better than what I normally received from the hairstylist.
Now, almost 25 years later, I am still using the FlowBee and have only once been back to a barber. In fact, I introduced the contraption to a new generation recently when I gave my son his first FlowBee haircut.
The Breakdown: Not only has it been incredibly practical to be able to cut my hair whenever I want, without an appointment or a trip in the car; there are material cost savings that will have a meaningful impact to my family’s financial future.
Let’s start out with a few assumptions:
- Proper maintenance necessitates a trip to the hairdresser about every 6-weeks (9-times/year).
- The cost of a haircut with tip in 1990 (when I first began using a FlowBee) was $10.
- Haircut inflation has climbed steadily at an even 3% clip (no pun intended).
- The average return on investment (ROI) on invested savings is 8%.
It doesn’t take long for the savings to multiply. Over the last 25 years, I saved about $3,281 in services. Those savings continually invested in low-cost mutual funds yield an $8,558 return, ignoring taxes and fees. That’s almost $12,000 in savings and investment growth!
Assuming I don’t lose my hair, which I am less optimistic about these days; the gains extrapolated out over the next 25 years total a whopping $86,000 ($10,000 in savings and $76,000 in investment growth). Add to that the cost savings from cutting my son’s hair until he is 18, and the number approaches $108,000.
Now if I can only convince my wife to let me use the FlowBee on her and our daughter.
That’s not too shabby for a wacky 1980’s infomercial product that caught my father’s eye.
Small changes really can make a big impact to the bottom line. What small changes can you start to make in your life?