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Save money by wet shaving

Save money by wet shaving

Save money by wet shaving

One of the benefits that is often thrown about is how you can save money by wet shaving versus cartridge shaving.  I was curious about this statement and starting looking at what people had put together.  While I’m sure there is a lot of stuff I didn’t have the chance to read, the items I did look at were seriously flawed.  Most articles only took into account what the actual razor cost.  Only a few considered brushes and soap.  NONE of them gave any kind of break down of initial cost, expense breakdowns, or when the break even point would be.  So I decided to throw some numbers together to see if you in fact can save money by taking up wet shaving.  I admit I am a little biased toward wet shaving but decided to run the numbers anyway.  I will be using a minimum set-up for cartridges razors, safety razors, and straight razors.  The following assumptions will be applied:

  1. The shaver knows how to use the equipment.  This eliminates the learning curve period where a mistake may lead the shaver to purchase a replacement piece of equipment.
  2. Equipment will be “bought” at mid-price points.  You can always buy a gold plated widget… but you don’t necessarily need it.
  3. We will factor in initial costs, long term costs, and break-even point.
  4. Installed PluginsCosts quoted will assume the buyer:
    • Made an effort to look for a decent deal and did not buy the first item they came across.
    • Have a basic knowledge (or outside help) of the products you are looking to buy and what is required.
    • Tub of soap / can of shaving cream will last 3 weeks (21 days).
    • Cartridge and safety razor blade will last 4 days.  (I realize people get more or less shaves per blade, but this is used as an average)
    • Cartridge handles are usually included free with a pack of cartridge heads.  For the purposes of the test we are assuming you already have one already.
    • Alum block and styptic pencil are good for 6 months (180 days) of use.
    • Straight razor sent for honing every 12 months for cost of $30 (includes shipping).

Based upon these criteria we can arrive at an equipment listing and price breakdown for each type.

Shaving Equipment Breakdown

EQUIPMENTCARTRIDGE SETUPSAFETY RAZOR SETUPSTRAIGHT RAZOR (New)STRAIGHT RAZOR (Used/Vintage)
RAZORMACH 3Merkur or Vintage Gillette Super Speed equivalent = $30Dovo = $110Vintage straight = $50
BLADES"MACH 3" 16 ct $24 = $1.50 eachFeather 50 ct. $15 = $0.30 eachN/AN/A
SHAVING CREAM (Canned Goo)Barbosal = $11N/AN/AN/A
SHAVING SOAPN/ATaylor of Old Bonds Street (T.O.B.S.) = $13Taylor of Old Bonds Street (T.O.B.S.) = $13Taylor of Old Bonds Street (T.O.B.S.) = $13
ALUM BLOCKN/A$7$7$7
STYPTIC PENCILN/A$3$3$3
SHAVING BRUSHN/A$20$20$20
SHAVING MUGN/ACereal bowl or mug from 2nd hand store = $5Cereal bowl or mug from 2nd hand store = $5Cereal bowl or mug from 2nd hand store = $5
STROPN/AN/A$50$50
(A breakdown of equipment needed to shave and costs)

*prices pulled from Amazon.com for consistency

 

Costs Breakdown

Permanent Equipment Total Cost

CARTRIDGE$0*besides the handle (which is included free very often) there are not really any fixed startup costs
SAFETY RAZOR$55 *easily obtainable items from Amazon.com or your favorite shaving forums
STRAIGHT RAZOR (New)$175
STRAIGHT RAZOR (Used / Vintage)$125 *obtainable from fellow wet shavers or your favorite shaving forums B/S/T
(Breakdown of one time purchase costs)

 

Average Daily Cost for Expendables

BARBOSAL $11 / 21 days = $0.52 per day
MACH 3 $1.50 / 4 days = $0.36 per day
TOBS $13 / 21 days = $0.62 per day
FEATHER BLADES $0.30 / 4 days = $0.08 per day
ALUM BLOCK$7.00 / 6 months (180 days) = $0.04 per day
STYPTIC PENCIL$3.00 / 6 months (180 days) = $0.02 per day
STRAIGHT RAZOR HONING$30.00 / 365 days = $0.08 per day
(Daily cost breakdown)

After looking at this breakdown I did a bit of a double take at how shaving soap makes up the largest part of the daily expense.  Makes a strong case for making your own at home.

Daily Cost For Expendables By Method

CARTRIDGE$0.52 + $0.36 = $0.88 per day
SAFETY RAZOR$0.62 + $0.08 + $0.04 + $0.02 = $0.76 per day
STRAIGHT RAZOR$0.62 + $0.04 + $0.02 + $0.08 = $0.76 per day
(Daily cost breakdown by shaving method)

 

(Hover over chart for more info)

Based on the above criteria we see that using a safety razor would start saving you after almost 1.5 yrs (16 months to be specific).  A vintage straight razor would start saving you money at the 36 month point.  A new straight razor would take over 6 years to break even.

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t to pleased with the numbers.  After mulling thing over a bit, I got the feeling that if you were a true minimalist (to be further known as El Cheapo) at heart you could very easily have a much lower start up and daily expenses costs.  Let’s see how cheap we could be…

 

"EL CHEAPO" Shaving Equipment Breakdown

EQUIPMENTCARTRIDGE SETUPSAFETY RAZOR SETUPSTRAIGHT RAZOR (New)STRAIGHT RAZOR (Used/Vintage)
RAZORMACH 3Vintage Gillette Super Speed or equivalent = $15Gold Dollar: $30Vintage straight = $30
BLADES"MACH 3" 16 ct $24 = $1.50 eachAstra 100ct. $10.17 = $0.10 eachN/AN/A
SHAVING CREAM (Canned Goo)Barbosal = $11N/AN/AN/A
SHAVING SOAPN/AArko = $6.50Arko = $6.50Arko = $6.50
ALUM BLOCKN/A$4$4$4
STYPTIC PENCILN/A$1.50$1.50$1.50
SHAVING BRUSHN/A$10$10$10
SHAVING MUGN/ACereal bowl or mug from home = FreeCereal bowl or mug from home = FreeCereal bowl or mug from home = Free
STROPN/AN/A$30$30
BARBER HONEN/AN/A$30$30
(A super frugal breakdown of equipment needed to shave and costs)

*Added Barber Hone for straights….. Any real El Cheapo would learn to hone their own.

 

"EL CHEAPO" Permanent Equipment Total Cost

CARTRIDGE$0
SAFETY RAZOR$25
STRAIGHT RAZOR (New)$100
STRAIGHT RAZOR (Used / Vintage)$100
(Frugal breakdown of one time purchase costs)

 

"EL CHEAPO" Average Daily Cost for Expendables

BARBOSAL$11 / 21 days = $0.52 per day
MACH 3$1.50 / 4 days = $0.36 per day
ARKO SOAP$6.50 / 21 days = $0.31 per day
ASTRA BLADES$0.10 / 4 days = $0.03 per day
ALUM BLOCK$4.00 / 6 months (180 days) = $0.02 per day
STYPTIC PENCIL$1.50 / 6 months (180 days) < $0.01 per day
(Frugal daily cost breakdown)

 

"EL CHEAPO" Daily Cost For Expendables By Method

CARTRIDGE$0.52 + $0.36 = $0.88 per day
SAFETY RAZOR $0.31 + $0.03 + $0.02 + $0.01 = $0.37 per day
STRAIGHT RAZOR$0.31 + $0.02 + $0.01 = $0.33 per day
(Frugal daily cost breakdown by shaving method)

Using this data we come up with:

 

(Hover over chart for more info)

 

*Note that the new and vintage straight razor lines overlap and only the vintage line is actually showing up.

When using a safety razor we start saving money in 2 months, with a straight it takes a bit longer and we start saving money in about 6 months.  That is a HUGE difference!

As you see, you can very easily start to save money by wet shaving with a safety razor or a straight razor.  Based on the information above we can see that the length of time to start saving money depends on the initial outlay for non-disposable materials (razor, strop, brush) and what kind of disposable materials (soap, razor blades, alum block) that you use for your daily routine.

If you believe in purchasing quality tools for the long haul, then just look at the daily cost breakdown and you know you are saving money regardless of how long it takes to “break even”.  You could possibly reduce the initial costs even more by finding items at antique stores, receiving something as a gift, or making your own.  I will give you a warning however, many people find wet shaving also turns into a collectors hobby.  You may find yourself saying “No honey, of course I didn’t buy ANOTHER razor….  I just bought a few more soaps to try out.”

Well that’s it for today.  Have a great day and smooth shave!

 

Matt


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11 Comments

  1. Do you agree with how I broke down the numbers? Have any great tips to share with everybody else?

  2. todd

    I have always wanted to do such a comparison but have been too lazy. A few notes:

    I think there’s an error in your calculation for Arko in el cheapo section–it should be about $0.32/day.

    Secondly, if you’re only getting 21 days out of an Arko stick (or a tub of TOBS), you’re doing it wrong. An Arko or Palmolive stick would last me at least 6 months, maybe a year, with daily use.

    I would not recommend alum for someone just starting. Styptic can have some value, but alum is rather polarizing (like the scent of Arko or Tabac) and many drop it from their routine as they don’t see much value in it. Plus, for the newbie, I find it best to limit the number of variables.

    A styptic pencil lasts me for years. I rarely get a nick or weeper that cold water and a little direct pressure won’t cure.

    Of course, standard YMMV disclaimers apply!

    • Todd, thanks for the comments. I will look at the Arko cost breakdown in my spreadsheets. I would not be shocked if I fat fingered a number somewhere.

      Taking the rest of you comments in order:
      – For how long you use a tub of soap, stick of Arko etc.. I used a rough number and decided on three weeks. I have gotten quite a bit of feedback on this and will make a note to get a better estimate for both the shaving soap and the can of Barbosal.
      – I completely agree about limiting the number of variables for newbies. What I really like about alum for newbies is the feedback you get. That sting can teach you volumes.
      – I seem to lose my styptic pencil or have it start to “melt” from exposure to water. However, I don’t need it nearly as much as I did when I first started. Tried to add some numbers to make it realistic. Comes out to about $0.01 a day so won’t throw the figures out of wack.

      And of course YMMV 🙂

  3. Great breakdown, Matt.

    As you’ve mentioned, I’d take issue with any soap/cream (or a can of goo, to be fair) only lasting 21 days. I’d also say you could drop the alum block and styptic pencil, neither of which seem to stem the flow from a nick for me (I shower after I shave, this stops all nicks), saving more money.

    If cost is your motivator then you could certainly push it down even further (face lather, no bowl needed). In fact, you could pick up everything you need for $20 or less, call it $30 with 100 blades. You’d be ahead instantly over cartridges+goo.

    The one thing you can’t put a price on is turning a chore into something pleasurable. Not to mention getting great results.

    Nice work though, and keep spreading the word!

    • Thanks for the kind words Lee. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. There is always a cheaper way to do things. But like you said the best part is being able to enjoy the shaving experience.

  4. Update:
    1) I have tweaked the Arko cost per day on the table. My spreadsheets had it figured correctly, but I transcribed it wrong on the El Cheapo table
    2) Adjusted price for a New straight razor down to $110 (old was $140) to more accurately reflect what someone could get.

    Still need to get some better numbers for how long a tub of soap, a shave stick, or a can of Barbosal can last someone. Thanks for the input guys.

  5. Fart Singh

    From the non el-cheapo version (which I would assume the vast majority of people would fall under), the summary chart suggests a saving of $155 over a period of four years (cartridge vs safety). In the real world, the learning curve is a significant deterrent for most to-be cartridge abandoners. For them, the economics argument won’t work (savings of $3.2 per month!). I’m a safety razor shaver, and to me, the following two things appeal:
    1. The irrational, ritualistic feel of shaving with a DE.
    2. Smoother shave quality + Lesser chance of bumps especially when shaving against the grain.

    That’s it. I love DE shaving because of that!
    That’s it. I know the savings aren’t much. In fact, I’ve spent a

    • I totally agree that the quality of the shave is more important than the actual cost savings. The ritualistic Zen like aspect is a big selling point as well. My shaving ritual is part of my morning wakeup routine and if I don’t shave it throws off the start of my day.

  6. Steve

    I love it that other folks have mentioned the ritualistic zen of all this process. I thought i was being too “hoakie” when i would get excited to shave my head now. My wife thinks I am crazy but I enjoy it now. Its an art form to me. One thing I havent seen on this website that I have tried and actually enjoyed is using a pre shave oil. I found this cheap oil at walmart called shave secret oil. I LOVE IT. It has cloves and an almost menthol aspect to it, and it really is very slick and I feel it protects my skin more. I wonder if the timing of me learning to use my safety first, then using the oil after I have mastered the shaving technique makes the oil correlation not causation (anyone remember that class??). Anyway, I love the site and will be continuing my experiments with a smile on my face and I will mention the items i enjoy.

    • Steve, Glad to hear you are enjoying the ritualistic aspect of the hobby. I find that when I miss my morning shave it throws off my day. It’s become an important, and enjoyable, part of my morning routine.

  7. Patrick Caiazzo

    Agree with what has been said already: A tub or tube of traditional soap, if used properly, lasts much longer than mainstream gels or creams.

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