Monday, July 11, 2011

Frugal Living 1: Personal Hygiene

This begins the first in a Frugal Living series I would like to do. Very little in this series will be things I am not doing myself, with occasional comments about things I plan to do, but am unable to at the moment for some reason.

I would like to make a small clarification before I begin. I note a difference between cheap, inexpensive and frugal.

  • Cheap items are something of shoddy craftsmanship (ofttimes manufactured) that are often inexpensive.
  • Inexpensive items are ones that do not much money to purchase. However, a number of cheap inexpensive items need to be replaced, some, such as disposable razors, or razor cartridges, are designed for limited use and need to be replaced quite often and the small expense adds up over time.
  • Frugal items may or may not be inexpensive and are rarely cheap. Some can have a hefty up-front cost, but due to better design and craftsmanship, these items (even the manufactured ones) are made to last, and can often be purchased second hand, mitigating a bit of that initial cost.

This series will deal with, as the series title suggests, frugal living. You might be surprised at some of the frugal alternatives to the main-stream disposable items. Many of which are disposable themselves; some out of necessity, others out of convenience, or as a stepping stone to a more initially expensive, but longer lasting item.

I plan to touch on three major personal hygiene items that you can be more than likely be a bit more frugal with, as well as an obligatory mention. These suggestions will save you money over the long term, unless you are already doing them, or something better; in which case, leave a comment to let me know what you are doing. If you have other suggestions for frugal living when it comes to personal hygiene, leave those here as well. Especially you ladies, being a man, most of these suggestions will be gender neutral, or for men. As I do not know how to live as a lady, I can not know how to live as a frugal one.


This is here because if I do not mention it, someone will, and it's something some folks are going to expect to see. I do not, nor have I ever made my own soap. It is something I plan to do at some point after we have our own house. If you are interested in learning to make your own soap, the internet is full of various recipes, instructions and calculators.


This is one of those things that people either forget when thinking of frugal personal hygiene, or one they they think there is nothing to be done. I'm here to tell you that there is. I use Crystal Body Deodorant, and have used it for the past year now. Please keep in mind that when I say I've used it for the past year, I'm still talking about my initial try purchase of a single item. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, for the past year. To put it bluntly, "If you clean your pits so they don't stink when you put it on, they will continue to not stink." Best time to apply is right out of the shower. The crystal (a large alum crystal) requires water to apply, and will keep you deodorised all day. It is not an antiperspirant, you will still sweat, but you will not stink. I don't know if there are other brands, but this is the first I found, it is inexpensive, and I've been using the same one for a year, and still have a good bit left.

Frugality Bonus Point: in a pinch, this can also work as a large styptic pencil, and mine has had to play that role before.

Shaving Razors

This is a huge expense for most men, because they purchase the latest 2/3/4/5/etc-cartridge razor, which they have to replace the cartridge for quite often (and calling the cartridge inexpensive is a matter of scale, if you're lucky you can find replacement cartridges for $1/cartridge). What would you say if I told you that I spend around $25 on all my shaving needs, including razor blades, shave soap, talc, powder, and alum block (I like to pamper my face, and I'll likely do a full post on shaving alone). You might say "that's not bad for a month, but I don't buy all that stuff". Then what will you say when I say that that $25 is for the year. That's right folks, my shaving cost me a little more than $2 per month, and that's for quality - and it could even get less expensive!

Part one of that is my razor, or should I say razors, as I have two. Both use disposable blades which I purchase from Classic Shaving (where I get a number of my other supplies as well). Why two razors? There's no frugal reason for it, it's just which style I feel like using on a given day. My first razor is a straight razor designed to take replacement blades, I found it in an antique store (the kind in an old country store with so much stuff all over the place, there's a good chance the proprietor will be surprised with what you find). It cost all of $12, and I got it for a birthday gift several years back (for which I gave instructions of where to go, where to look, what it was, and how much it costs - easy to get what you want that way). Replacement blades cost me about $9/10. My other razor is a double-edge safety razor from Classic Shaving, with blades costing me $6/10. Blades last longer and cost less than their cheap cartridge counterparts, and non-disposable portions are quality items made to last.

Shaving Soap

The last item I want to cover is shaving soap. Get yourself a quality mug soap (not the Colgate brand you find at the drugstore) and a decent brush and switch to shaving with it. I am not even going to waste words on the crap that comes in a can other than to say it is expensive and doesn't last long. You can find a number of good soaps at Classic Shaving, linked above, or any number of other good sites on the internet. Your face and your wallet will both thank you for the switch. A good cake of soap should last you months.

A note on brushes: while a cheap brush will do the job, a better brush is worth the expense and will treat your face better. A cheap brush can scratch and poke the face, not the best thing during or after a shave.

As for what to put it in, a coffee mug works fine, as do shave soap dishes. For my birthday/father's day last year, my wife purchased a "Classic English Victorian Scuttle" and it has been wonderful.

So, even if you are strapped for cash, and don't think you're ready for a straight, or even safety, razor. Save up and get a lower-middle-end brush and a cake of good soap and you'll be surprised at how much you save.

Saving money does not have to mean a decline in quality. Sometimes (often, I've found), you can increase quality while reducing expense, and you can save money while you increase your quality of life.


  1. Nicole Hunter11 July, 2011 15:16

    And, as the aforementioned wife, I can tell you the mug soaps smell SO much better and there is a wide variety to choose from.

    Also, the razors he uses, once he got the hang of using them, give him a closer shave.

  2. Investing in a good item that’s built to last might be a lot better than settling for something cheap but disposable. Good post.

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