13 years ago, Steven Davis asked me to his junior prom. 13 years ago, I said yes. 13 years ago, I received a Venus razor in a prom after-party gift bag. Last night – after 13 years – I finally threw that razor away. Talk about frugal living to the extreme, right?

Over the course of the 13 intervening years, I graduated from high school and moved 500 miles away from home to go to college; the razor came with me. I moved 600 miles north to go to graduate school; the razor came with me. I got engaged, then married; the razor came with me. My husband and I moved 1,000 miles south for my first job in television; the razor came with me. We moved back north, bought a house, got a dog, had one baby, then another… and the razor came with me.

Saving Money by Saving My Shaver

When I first pulled the razor out of that prom gift bag, it came with a total of five disposable heads in their own carrying case. It was nicer than any other razor I’d ever used: three blades, built-in moisturizer, and an ergonomic handle. The entire kit sold for about $15 at the time, while replacement heads cost $8 or $9 for a pack of four.

Initially, it wasn’t my objective to use the razor for nearly a decade and a half. I used each razor head until the blades got dull, then tossed them out. Since I was still in high school, my mother bought me a few packs of replacement razor heads that first year and a half until I headed off to college. After that, I was on my own.

If you know anything about shaving for women – or men, I suppose – it’s that companies will typically underestimate the lifespan of their product. The reason is simple: they want you to continue buying their product at a speedy clip. But once I was in college (and low on funds), I stopped following the traditional idea of replacing your razor blade after half a dozen to a dozen shaves. Instead, I started shaving 20, 30, 50 times or more with a single blade. My goal? To extend the life of the four-pack of razor heads my mom bought me every summer over an entire school year. And, as long as I remembered to dry the blades off after each use and remove them from the moist shower, I did.

Once I got married – and my first job – my finances weren’t as tight; yet, I continued to exercise extreme frugality when it came to my razors. By that time, the Venus razor was no longer the epitome of luxury when it came to shaving for women, and the price for the four-pack of replaceable razors – no longer considered top of the line – dropped to $6 or $7. Meanwhile, the price for a 30-pack of single-blade disposable razors was about the same as a pack of my replaceable heads – to me, it was a wash (no pun intended).

How Much Did I Shave Off My Budget?

Over the past 13 years, I figure I went through a four-pack of disposable heads a year: a total of 13 packs over 13 years. I figure the average price of that four-pack was $7.50 over the years, giving me a grand total of:

13 (four-packs) x $7.50 (estimated average retail price) = $97.50

For the first six years I owned the razor – during which I wasn’t married and still depending on my parents financially – I didn’t pay a single red cent on the razor, reducing my overall out-of-pocket costs to just $52.50. I never replaced the ergonomic handle nor the carrying case, shaving even more money off my budget.

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

“Breaking up is hard to do,” crooned Neil Sedaka in his 1962 hit of the same name. Last night, after 13 years, I finally broke up with my Venus razor. The years, and my grooming habits, had been unkind to my razor. While I’d always made sure the razor blades themselves were clean and free from rust, the handle had become a little moldy; ok, a “little” is a gross understatement: it was disgusting. I’d tried just about everything to clean it – hot water, a vinegar rinse, even bleach – but nothing could rid the razor’s handle of 13 years’ worth of grime. Simultaneously, my last disposable head had gone dull, reinforcing my belief that it was time to say goodbye to my trusty old friend.

Finding Someone New

My dad once taught me an important lessons: it’s easier to find a job (or, as my mother taught me, a boyfriend) when you already have one. Applying this lesson to my penchant for frugal living, I didn’t throw my old razor away unprepared; quite the opposite, actually. Instead, I’d spent weeks scouring the Sunday paper for coupons and in-store promotions for new razors. I ultimately found exactly what I was looking for.

My local CVS was having a buy one, get one sale on Schick Xtreme razors for women. There were three razors in every pack – which cost $5.99 each – but at the store, I found some packs had a “bonus” razor as well. Additionally, I had clipped three $4 off one pack coupons from the Sunday circulars. The result? I got 24 3-blade razors for the price of three ($6.39, including 6.75% sales tax), meaning I’d be saving money on my shaving habits for years to come.

The Take Home Lesson

I’m not trying to convince you to hold on to your favorite blush brush for a decade as you try to pursue the goal of extremely frugal living. Just about every personal hygiene product on the market has some type of “use by” date, my razors included. The point, however, is this: just we live in a disposable society doesn’t mean we have to dispose of perfectly good products. If I’d have listened to the product guidelines on my razor, I’d have thrown it out years ago. Instead, I did what I could to keep it in good shape (mostly) and followed common sense instead of the labeling on the package. The result? The ultimate intersection of saving green while going green.

Libby Balke

Libby Balke