Save Over $100 a Year by Shaving with a Cutthroat Razor

by Paul Michael on 27 July 2009 23 comments
Photo: rpscott123

I despise paying the ridiculous prices Gillette and the like charge for razor cartridges. It seems as though the prices are directly aligned with the number of extra blades they put in the cartridges. First two, then three, then four, now six blades. And, of course, we’re paying big bucks for these things. I have even resorted to bulk buying them on eBay.

 

I had pondered an electric razor, but it doesn’t give me a close shave. It also leaves my neck red, blotchy and severely irritated. I thought I was doomed to pay through the nose for disposable blades forever, until I came across a few websites promoting the benefits of the old-fashioned "cutthroat" or straight razor. “Could this be the answer?” I thought, looking through the vast array of razors available at varying prices. I did some digging.

First, there is a big outlay initially on a good straight razor. Of course, you can find them for less than $10 but, as my dad says, buy cheap and you’ll pay for it. In this case, we’re talking about a product that will do your face and neck some real damage if it isn’t up to par. You need to shell out some dough for a good razor. Period.

 

Now, good is a relative term. A good steak for me is not a good steak for Donald Trump. Different budgets allow for the finer things in life, but all you need to know is that the handle is window-dressing. The blade is paramount, and a good one (usually made in Europe) can be picked up for between $70 and $100. EBay can be a good source but a few sites to try include:

http://www.amazingshaving.com/page/amsh/CTGY/str

http://www.baltimorebarbershop.com/products/straight-razor

http://www.nashvilleknifeshop.com/straight-razors-and-shaving-html1.html

You can also pick them up from Amazon, but check the reviews first. The following one seems well worth the price:

DOVO "Best Quality" Straight Razor, Blond Handle, 5/8" Half Hollow - $79.99

The former sites also have a lot of the other supplies you’ll need, which we’ll go over shortly. So, let's go all out and spend $100 on a razor. What next?

Well, it needs to be sharpened in a procedure called honing. Here, you have two options.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

g just $19.95 for the service. Considering the time and expertise involved (neither of which I have a lot of) I thought it was a bargain. I shave infrequently, maybe twice a week, so I’ll probably only need to get my razor honed twice every year. If you shave daily, you’ll need to get it done maybe once every four months. That’s about $60 for the year.

However, there is a cheaper option: buy a honing kit and do it yourself.  I found all sorts of price ranges here, some included a strop (we’ll get to that soon) and some didn’t. Let’s invest in a honing kit without a strop, roughly $60.

Now, finally, the strop itself. This is a piece of leather which, when combined with strop paste, will help you keep your razor sharp until the next honing. Again, you can pick one of those up for $10, but buy a good one for about $70 and it will last a lifetime. You also need strop paste, which is  $7.50 or less per year.

It’ll take some time to get used to shaving with a straight razor, but once you get the hang of it you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. A very close shave (you’re still clean-shaven at the end of the day), very controllable and it looks cool too!

So, that’s the equipment. Now the math.

I buy a four-pack of those Gillette razor cartridges every six weeks. They cost me almost $14 including tax. So I’m buying 8.6 packs a year, which is around $121. Multiply that by 30 and I’m spending $3,630 until I retire, not adjusting for inflation.

Now, the straight razor. Initial, one-time outlay is $230 if you plan on doing your own sharpening. Add $7.50 a year for strop paste, multiply by 30 and you’re at the grand total of $455that’s a saving of $3,175, or almost $106 a year. Quite a saving.

If you get it sharpened by someone else, your initial outlay is only $170, but now you have a yearly expense of $67.50. That makes $2,025 for 30 years of sharpening and strop paste, plus $170 for your razor and strop. Grand total, $2,195, which is still a substantial saving of $1,435 – almost $48 per year.

So, whichever way you look at it, shaving with a straight razor not only gives you a better shave, it is also substantially better for your bottom line. Thumbs way up to the cutthroat razor, and thumbs down to so-called advances in technology…right Gillette?

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Guest's picture
Guest

Great article, I haven't paid money to Gillette for about 4 years now. I just have a couple things to add:

The strop paste is meant to maintain an edge similar to a light honing, not replace a regular stropping. Stropping on plain leather should be done before each shave to align the edge for a comfortable shave.

Shaving with a straight razor is daunting, so for those who aren't quite ready for it, but still want to save money, there is the double-edged safety razor. A good vintage one can be bought on ebay for ~$20 and blades go for ~$0.05 each if you buy in bulk on ebay.

Lastly, a straight razor can be considered an investment since it can be resold at a later date with a little depreciation. That can be considered in the cost analysis I believe.

Guest's picture
Khürt

Is this something that would be allowed on a plane trip? Would it get me a pat down each time I go through airport security?

Guest's picture
Eystein

You could get a safety razor or something like a shavette (straight with disposable razor blades).
I have a straght, but use a shavette for traveling because I'm afraid of loosing my straight. The shavette (now I'm starting to sound like advertising) is cheaper, but more importantly I can take it with me on board (same with a safety razor I'd bet. Just take out the blades and but them in you check-in-luggage (or buy new).
Took a plane yesterday and the control was very interested in my shavette, looked into my bag and took it out to check for sharp edges. But no pat down.

Guest's picture
Guest

I switched over to using a double edged safety razor last year and will not go back to using an disposable again. The best shave in my life and cheaper than the multi-blade cartridges, although not as cheap as the straight razor. The straight razor just seemed a little to Sweeney Todd for me.

One thing that was not mentioned in the article is the reduction of waste by switching over to a straight razor. It is a much more eco-friendly option.

Guest's picture
Lorenzo

For similar reasons, I picked up a gillette super-speed safety razor on ebay. Unlike you, I have a heavy, fast-growing beard, so I have to shave everyday, and I shave my head as well. Quality double-edged blades can be picked up for pennies apiece, as compared to the $3.50 a cartridge I was paying for Gillette Fusion. A side by side test, judged by my wife and daughters, has them near equal in closeness (Fusion was judged better only by my four-year-old). And in about an hour after I shave, the difference is irrelevant. I picked up two years worth of blades for $25 on ebay.

Guest's picture
Beth

lol. Be grateful all you guys have to shave is your face!

I hate all the money I spent on hair removal products. I'm not sure I'd try a straight razor on my legs or underarms though :(

Guest's picture
Guest

If your interested in str8 and safety razors go to badgerandblade.com! They have the best info on wetshaving!

Guest's picture

Great article, thanks for the info!

Not sure where I read it, might even have been here on Wise Bread, but I use a Gillette Mach 3 and have been drying off the blades after I shave by dabbing with a hand towel. I'd say it's tripled the blade life! If you're not ready for the cutthroat, drying off your blades is a good intermediate step!

Guest's picture
wildgift

You can sharpen the double edged disposable razors on a sharpening stone. You can also strop it - there may still be some razor holders for that purpose. So those cheap blades can last a pretty long time.

BTW, single-edge utility razors can be sharpened as well. You can easily give them an edge that beats the original edge.

Guest's picture
Guest

All these alternative shaving articles are getting to me. For ~$20 (at BJs) I buy a 52 pack of Gilette Plus disposables (two blades w/ lube strip). They last a year, shaving 5 to 7 days a week. They cut my heavy beard nice and close, and I never ever slit myself open. I take them on planes when I have to fly. I shave in the shower, very quickly. No fuss w/ sharpening or blade changing either. Time is money, right?

Guest's picture
Guest

I could see choosing a cutthroat razor as a matter of preference, but you seem to have cooked the books a bit on the economics. If you only shave "twice a week" why would you buy four cartridges every six weeks and pay the maximum possible price for them? I shave daily with a Gillette Fusion and usually get 20-30 good shaves out of each blade. They really don't seem to work well until the second or third shave, but after that they seem to give me a pretty good shave for about a month. If you buy the blades at Costco or BJs, you can get about a dozen blades for around $25-$30. Now I do complain about that price, but $30 for a year's worth of razor blades sounds a lot better than the $121 that you quote in your example, and it changes the cost equation substantially.

Guest's picture
Brad

A cut-throat razor sounds like a dangerous way to go about shaving your beard. Why don't you try extending the life of your razor by drying it soon after you shave and storing it in a dry place? This will prevent it from rusting.

Guest's picture
Matt

I'll just parrot what some others have said about safety razors. They're fantastic, the replacement blades are MUCH cheaper, and, in my opinion, shave much better (I used to have to shave every day. Now I can almost have the same results if I shave every other day.) I contemplated a straight razor but I was just really worried about doing some damage so I thought this was a good compromise.

Guest's picture
rjwilcox

Razor blades don't degrade from shaving; they corrode from the moisture that remains on the the blade after you're done shaving. So, if you dry a razor with a blow dryer and/or a towel when finished the blade will last a long, long time. An easier method for removing the moisture from a razor blade is to soak your razor in alcohol after each use.

Guest's picture
mantic59

For those of you interested in cut-throat and safety razor shaving I have a youtube channel (at homepage link) all about how to shave that may help.

Guest's picture
Guest

The economics of this decision depend on how often you use up the cartridges for your Fusion/Mach3 whatever. I used 1 razor for three shaves (and yes facial hair DOES degrade the blade as it is similar in strength to copper wire of the same diameter).

If you go through 2 cartridges in a week, that is 104 razors per year or 26 packs of four blades per year, which at $14.00/per pack is $365 per year in blades. Buy a double edge razor and the blades cost less than 20 cents a blade rather than more than $3.00 a blade.

The cutthroat is similarly economical.

The math = $365 * 30 = $10,950 provided they still make the same Fusion whatever blade 30 years from now (unlikely). Whereas a cutthroat NEVER has this problem (of obsolescence) and DE blades have been around for over 100 years using these methods you guard against the obsolescence issue.

Guest's picture
Peter T

rjwilcox:
> Razor blades don't degrade from shaving; they corrode from the moisture that remains on the the blade after you're done shaving.

That's interesting. When I shaved, I used each cartridge for about a week. I cleaned it with warm water and blow it dry by mouth, to see if the hair was gone - I didn't know that blowing increased its life, I assumed that the shaving itself wore it out.

Guest's picture
Billy

Dude, why are you buying disposable blades so frequently? I, like you, shave about 2x a week, and one of those blades will last me months when properly rinsed. I bought an 8-pack so long ago I can't even remember.

Paul Michael's picture

the blades stop giving me a good shave after 3 uses. Maybe different people have different beards, but after that I notice a difference.

Guest's picture
Lorenzo

I'm afraid I'm a bit skeptical of moisture corroding blades. Your salty skin oils, which would probably take some doing to clean off the blade might be another matter. Which is why everyone's experience with razors are going to be a bit different, because beard toughness and your skin secretions will vary between men. If I let my beard grow, it could be used to scrub pots. That takes its toll on blades. And I suspect my skin oils are a bit harsh as well.

A cartridge blade, be it a Gillette Fusion or a twin blade cartridge, lasts me for about two weeks of daily shaves, including my head. And I can shave very quickly with such blades. A disposable twin or triple blade shaver lasts me about a week. A double-edge lasts me about a week.

I also have to take a little more time with a double-edged, as a lack of attention means cuts. I've been shaving with a double-edged safety razor for about two years now, and I still cut myself if I don't pay attention, so it's not just a question of learning curve and practice. I can only imagine the time and attention factor need to go up for a straight razor.

I like the shave, and the cost savings, associated with using a safety razor, but with disposable time at a premium, I still might switch back to twin blade razors.

Guest's picture

Great article though I would not recommend a straight razor because they are far too dangerous in the hands of the inexperienced fella who wants to change from the disposable cartridges. These guys are use to applying pressure to get a half decent shave from poor quality multi blade systems. Better to progress through a safety razor like the Goodfella see www.goodfella.com and gain some experience and confidence before attempting to use a cut throat.

Guest's picture
jayell

I'm with all the people who suggested a double-edged razor for the faint of heart who may be leery of a straight razor. After I bought my husband a '57 Super Speed on eBay for $15 (with blades) 2 years ago, I was so impressed with how well it cut through his heavy beard that I bought myself a Lady Gillette Blue Star, which I now use regularly. It does take some getting used to, but it's worth it for the smoother shave and cost savings.

The important thing is to try a variety of blades with your razor - each type of DE razor has a unique level of "agressiveness" (how close it cuts to the skin), and different skin types and beard thicknesses will respond differently. A different brand of blade may adjust the agressiveness of a razor. My husband uses Personna Plantinums in his Super Speed; I like Red Label Personnas in my Lady Gillette for their value and availability.

I do recommend that if you're thinking of switching you check out www.badgerandblade.com. I got a lot of help over there when I was choosing a kit to surprise my husband with. The forum members are really knowledgeable and willing to help newbies, and the product reviews help give you an idea of what your options are.

Guest's picture
Guest

Agreed that cartridge disposables are the highest cost self-shave on the planet. But there are more alternatives than the DE safety and cutthroat. Like another poster, I buy a 1 yr supply of Gillette pivot plus at Costco for around $20. Throw one out after 7-14 days and start fresh. I rinse them thoroughly and wipe dry on a towel (opposite to shaving direction) to retard corrosion. OK, it may not be as green as straight steel, but I shave quickly, almost daily, and by throwing away a few razors, avoid the ghastly carbon footprint of those trips to the E.R.