Let’s get down to it. Shaving has become a seriously expensive proposition in America, if not across all of the developed world. We set off to find the cheapest way to shave, and it turns out that switching can make you $56,500 richer over a lifetime.
Why is it so expensive? The old-school double-edged safety razor worked well for decades. A man named King Gillette first created it around 1903. He caused an Uber-style disruption of the razor industry by offering an alternative to the permanent, Sweeney-Todd style, sharpenable blade. No longer did you need to sharpen your own blade or visit a barber for a shave. Hello, cheap, disposable, sharp-as-hell, double-edged blades.
After about 20 years, Gillette’s patent expired. All of a sudden, the rest of the razor world could copy their design and make cheaper blades that fit onto men’s existing Gillette handles. The 1970s brought not just disposable blades, but an entirely disposable (Bic) razor. Soon, companies were adding more blades, pivoting heads, lubricating strips, rubber grips, etc. Capitalism at work, creating nonsense for the sake of perceived improvements. As this article points out, these developments were brought about by companies, not consumers.
As is often true, the old ways are better. Here’s a cost analysis of four ways to shave: with Gillette, Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, and the Double-Edged Safety Razor. Of course, DESR wins, but feel free to check out the total costs: they’re fairly interesting. You can also skip to the chart at the bottom.
A few notes before we dive in: Our assumed man shaves five days per week for a total of 260 shaves per year. We mostly used prices from Amazon and assumed he buys in bulk for the cheapest per-unit cost. In the calculations, we took companies at their word regarding shaves-per-container of cream/gel.
Gillette [Too Expensive]
This is the namesake of the “Razor and Blades” business model. You get started with an inexpensive handle, but overpay forevermore for the cartridges. As with Keurig coffee machines and boats, the cost of maintaining that sh*t becomes painful. Gillette is the multi-billion dollar Shaving Sheik because consumers are pitifully willing to pay more for expensive ad campaigns and flashy aesthetics.
Gillette has been consistently pre-empted by Saturday Night Live skits and Onion Articles that mock the addition of an extra blade to the razor. The first-ever episode of SNL included a mock commercial for a three-blade razor for dumb consumers who will “believe anything,” about twenty years before the three-blade razor. The Onion published “F*ck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades” a year before Gillette introduced the five-blade razor.
Here’s what it costs.
The Mach 3 razor: $7.
The annual cost of… 15 Shaves/Cartridge: $35. 10 Shaves: $52. 5 Shaves: $104.
Assuming you also use Gillette’s Fusion Hydra Shave Gel and lather twice per shave, you’ll get 4.29 shaves per ounce. At $0.97/ounce, you’ll spend about $59/year. In total, sticking with Gillette costs between $93 and $163 each year.
However, if you use the Gillette Fusion 5 ProGlide, you’ll spend $10 on the razor. Furthermore…
The annual cost for… 15 Shaves/Cartridge: $62. 10 Shaves: $92. 5 Shaves: $185.
In total, using Gillette ProGlide costs between $120 and $243 each year.
Harry’s [Still Too Expensive]
Harry’s is the marginally-more-gentlemanly version of Dollar Shave Club. It owns its own razor factory in Germany, and theoretically passes savings to the customer by cutting out extra middlemen. Like DSC, it’s a subscription service that prices its plans based on how many times per week you shave.
The annual cost of… 1 Shave/Week: $36. 2-4 Shaves: $60. 5-7 Shaves: $90.
Assuming you go with Harry’s Shave Cream at $48/year, you’ll spend between $85 and $138 each year.
Dollar Shave Club [Runner Up]
Made famous by this viral video, DSC is “the original shave club.” While there’s no longer a $1/month option, they’re still pretty affordable. Frugal online bloggers and commenters are quick to point out, however, that you can buy the same razors/blades that DSC sells by purchasing directly from Dorco for an even cheaper price. Funny that DSC is something of a middleman…
DSC is priced based on how many blades you want your razor to have. All razors ship four cartridges to you each month, with the exception of the two-blade razor, which ships five per month.
The annual cost of… 2 Blades/Cartridge: $36. 4 Blades: $48. 6 Blades: $108.
Assuming you use DSC’s Shave Butter, you’ll pay between $68 and $140 each year.
Double-Edged Safety Razor [Just Wonderful]
No surprise here, this is the cheapest and coolest way to shave your face. Your granddad did it this way, your dad probably did too. The DESR has a cult following of shavers who devote time to reviewing razors, discussing them in forums, filming themselves shaving, etc. These razors also happen to be beautiful, and most users seem to enjoy curating their own gear.
If you’ve never shaved with one before, check out this guide or this one. There are also tons of videos on YouTube. If you don’t bother to do any of that, just know that it’s f*cking sharp and you need to pay attention. That being said…
You can get a great safety razor on Amazon. This author uses the beloved Merkur 23c, which costs $27. For a few bucks more, Shaveology sells one that comes with a polishing cloth and a leather blade guard. The Vikings Blade Chieftan is $37 but comes with a pretty nice travel case and follows the quicker-to-use butterfly design. Choose one, move on with your life, keep it for life.
For blades, we love Astra. You can get 100 blades for just $10. At $0.10 per blade, they’re 1/20th the cost of Dollar Shave Club’s cartridges and 1/40th the cost of Fusion ProGlide’s. But feel free to start off with an assorted sample pack and find your own favorite brand.
Regarding shaving cream, DESR users scorn anything in a can. Quality creams come with cult followings, and we love Cremo Cream. It lives up to the hype and lasts longer than the 90 days that it advertises.You don’t need much for a full lather. We use the lather-style cream with a brush, but the more common choice comes in a tube. And it isn’t as foamy as most gels. Rather, it creates a slick coating on your face for a uniquely smooth shave.
We called it $7.99 for the 90-day supply for a total of $32 per year. We calculated the annual cost of this method based on how many shaves you get out of a blade. It depends on the face, as always, but they’re so cheap that it hardly seems to matter.
The annual cost of… 3 Shaves/Blade: $9. 2 Shaves: $13. 1 Shave: $26.
Assuming you use Astra blades and Cremo Cream, you’ll spend between $41 and $58 each year, making this the cheapest way to shave. That doesn’t include the minimum startup cost of $27 for a razor and an optional $10-$30 for a badger hair brush. Even with those one-time purchases, however, this shaving method more than pays for itself.
The Cheapest Way to Shave
Switching to the safety razor will save you a minimum of $27 each year and a maximum of $202, based on the four scenarios presented here. If you invested those amounts each year for forty years and earned interest of 8%, you’d end up with a minimum of $7,500 and a maximum of $56,500. Holy moly!
Again, those numbers are based on the scenarios listed here. But there’s a much more important point to take away: small savings matter! If you can cut down just $202/year (and it’s often as easy as just switching razors) you can make future-you $56,500 richer.