When I was younger, I wanted to look older. So I grew a beard.
When I got older and it began to turn gray, I wanted to look younger again. So I shaved it off.
Now might be the time to bring back the beard -- at the risk of looking like a year-round mall Santa.
Call it a recession beard.
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The thought hit me the other day when I went to buy blades for my Gillette Mach3 razor. Except that today you don't buy razor blades unless you want to slice open a package from UPS or scrape paint off a window. Want to see an old-fashioned double-edged razor? Go to the Smithsonian.
Today, you buy cartridges. With all the high-tech options, maybe it's time to rename the entire shaving process. A daily skin restoration experience, perhaps. Or, for those with governmental leanings, whisker abatement.
Anyway, it struck me how expensive these cartridges have gotten: a 12-pack for about $26, an eight-pack for $20 and a three-pack for $8.
The Mach3 cartridge has three blades. The more advanced Fusion -- a version of which actually contains a motor -- has five. I suspect the four-blade cartridge was going to be outdated by the time it hit the store racks, so Gillette skipped it.
I'm not questioning the quality and effectiveness of these products, although they can't prevent the stubble from returning several hours later no matter how well they work.
The problem is we're in a recession. Wages are lower, yet prices have gone up. Finances are tight. People everywhere are being forced to cut back to save money.
By not spending, the experts say, you're hurting the economy and putting people out of work. But by spending more than you earn, or not spending what you do have wisely, you put your finances at risk.
So you revisit what's important, what's not. Vital versus luxury. Factors must be weighed and choices made.
Do I really need a razor with a five-blade cartridge? One with three blades?
Do I need my razor to wiggle, jiggle and tickle my face to coax each hair out just a smidgen more?
Does my razor cartridge really have to look like a Venetian blind?
Could I possibly survive the nicks, cuts and bloodletting of a two-blade disposable?
Shaving is just one element of my self-audit.
Lay off the gardener? At my house, that would be me. I find no upside in that.
Vacation closer to home, meaning the back yard. That dream trip to Europe -- or even Six Flags -- will have to wait.
Do we really need 300 TV channels, considering we watch only about 15 of them?
My wife gets it, borrowing 10 movies from the county library to every one we rent.
Remember the Victory Garden of World War II? I planted the Pay-Cut Garden of 2009.
More burger, less steak. Off-brands over name brands.
It used to annoy me to get stuck in line at the store behind someone redeeming coupons for dozens of items. Now, I marvel at their organizational skills to buy the stuff they brought coupons for, with a reward of hearing the clerk say, "You saved $60."
My chances of not buying a new car in the next year are, say, 100 percent.
By totaling these and other savings, maybe I can justify dropping $26 for a 12-pack of razor cartridges.
Or maybe the government will take over Gillette just as it has General Motors and some investment firms. The feds could mandate a new cartridge containing fewer blades -- biodegradable, of course -- in a gas-electric hybrid or even solar-powered razor, using tax credits as buyer incentives.
If not, I can opt for a bag of cheapo throwaway shavers and a styptic pencil at a dollar store.
And if things get really bad, there's the recession beard.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.