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When discussing scams perpetrated on the consumer, there are few better examples than the “razor and blades” model. King Camp Gillette (yes, that Gillette) is often credited with inventing the concept of selling the initial razor at an affordable price while charging an appalling price for the blades (now cartridges). Gillette didn’t actually invent the model, he just created the first wildly popular razor to employ the “razor and blades” paradigm. Over a hundred and ten years later, we are still falling for this ridiculous trick. The great news is, it’s possible to get good razors at a fraction of the cost of retail, brand-name razors.
Some people swear by Dollar Shave Club, a subscription-based service that drop-ships replacement cartridges to you at a huge discount compared to razors found in the store. I’m not a fan of subscription-shopping services, though. My experience is that most people end up spending far more than they anticipated for products they don’t need. Ultimately, laziness allows these companies to extract months of extra subscription fees before you finally find the time and energy to cancel. Plus, when we’re talking about Dollar Shave Club, I have no idea how anyone goes through that many blades. Even shaving three times a week, I only go through a cartridge or two a month!
No, I’m talking about something even better. I’m talking about going straight to the supplier of the razors and blades.
Shave Hacking Option 1: Dorco Razors and Blades
Why is Dorco better than Dollar Shave Club? Because they’re the exact same razors, only you get to decide when to order more, and you don’t pay a markup! DSC rebrands and repackages Dorco razors, but the manufacturer is happy to sell them directly to you. Dorco is also kind enough to use a universal interface between most of their handles and their cartridges, allowing you to upgrade to new cartridges as they are released without re-buying a handle.
Last year, I bought a six blade trimmer system (which included two cartridges) and twenty four cartridges (four packs of six) for $42.79, and that includes tax and shipping. I expect these blades to last me over two years! The system I bought has since been superseded by a seven blade razor ($7.95 for a razor and two cartridges). A 24 pack of cartridges goes for $45.55 on that system. The best part is that since the handles and cartridges are all universal, I can just buy the newer blades when I run out! Blades for my six blade system are also still available. Let’s compare that price to getting the same number of handles and blades for a Gillette Fusion, the nearest analogue to the Dorco Pace that I could find.
At today’s prices, you’d pay $32.79 for eight blades at CVS, or $4.09 per blade. Twenty four store-bought blades will cost you $131.16 before tax, and the handle with only one blade will run you $9.99. That means you’d spend at least $140 to get what you’d pay Dorco $53.50 for! The blades are excellent quality, and I’m every bit as happy with the quality of my shave as I was when I was buying full priced novelty razors.
For women, the comparison is even more stark. The Dorco Shai razors are functionally equivalent to Gillette Venus razors (don’t ask me how I know– let’s just say I participate in a sport that involves swimming). You can buy one handle and two cartridges of a six blade system for $5.95 today. You can add 24 more six-blade cartridges for just $31.50 ($1.31/cartridge). For under $40, you have enough blades to last you for several years! Gillette Venus blades run $20.99 for just four cartridges ($5.25/cartridge)!
Needless to say, Dorco is my preferred option if you’re looking to stick with a traditional razor and blades model. It’s how I shave, and it’s probably how I’ll shave for the immediate future.
Shave Hacking Option 2: Safety Razors
For the traditionalist, there are also safety razors. Essentially, a safety razor is an old-school, single-blade razor with a replaceable, stamped blade rather than a cartridge. It’s no frills, basic shaving, and the replacement blades are astoundingly cheap, around 10-25 cents each (Dorco also sells discounted safety razor blades for less than most of their competition). I’ve heard particularly good things about the Merkur Safety Razor.
Honestly, since I don’t shave this way, I don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with the method. I know from various frugality forums that many people who switch to a safety razors are very happy. Some are able to do without things like shaving cream brushes and gels, while others need the lubrication they provide.
I’d be willing to try a safety razor at some point. I imagine a big, sturdy, metal razor would have a satisfying heft, and if nothing else, I could shave around my smug grin from knowing that I spent next to nothing on my razor blades.
Gels, Creams, and Balms, Oh My!
When it comes to shaving gel and cream, I highly recommend making them at home. The internet is filled with great recipes, but this one is basic and cost effective. Most of us have at least one of the ingredients already, and all the others can be found at just about any supermarket. This recipe is even simpler, though I haven’t tried it myself.
I am hoping that you’re beginning to see that it’s possible to shave with the same level of comfort, but without paying the extortionate prices paid by the average consumer. Give it a try!
Do you have any money-saving tactics when it comes to shaving or other personal hygiene needs? Let me know in the comments!