Recently in Money Category

One thing that's always irked me is the cost of replacement blades for my Gillette Mach3 Power Nitro Razor. I received the razor as a birthday present from my wife (then girlfriend) a few years ago as an update from my ageing Gillette Mach 3 Turbo Razor (note the slightly different name). To be honest, there is little difference between the two other than the newer one has a battery powered vibrator which helps the blade glide more smoothly across my skin.

However, the real difference comes in when you buy blades. I've just spent �9.76 in the local Tesco buying just eight Mach3 Razor Blade Cartridges, which is just a bit of a rip off. However, this is nothing compared with buying the matching green blades for the Nitro, which would have cost over �13. I'm not sure if there is any significant difference between the two other than colour and marketing. Both types of cartridge look identical and fit perfectly on the handle, but I'm sure as hell not going to pay the extra money just to be colour coordinated!

Gillette are currently in the middle of a massive advertising campaign to persuade people to upgrade to the new Gillette Fusion Power, but despite any technical improvements, the utterly scandalous cost of replacement blades (over �18 in Tesco) is more than enough to put me off. The older, but more affordable Mach 3 blades won't fit on the new handle anyhow so I'm certainly not going to upgrade.

I have an electric shaver which does the job (and doesn't require regular replacement blades), but the resulting shave is nowhere near as close as with a wet shave. I could invest in a proper old style cut throat razor and sharpener, which I'm sure would result in a great shave after the learning curve, but with curious young children in the house that is a definite no go. Cheap disposable razors are another option, but having used them in the past they tend to give a very harsh shave which isn't as close as with the more expensive options - plus it seems such a shame to throw so much plastic away each time.

What is a man to do, other than continue to prop up the Gillette corporate monster?

Wedding Photography

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It seems as soon as the word "wedding" is added to a product or service, the price goes up by an order of magnitude. We visited half a dozen potential photographers at the weekend for our forthcoming wedding in summer. The prices varied from £450 to more than £3k!!! There wasn't much correlation between quality and price either, with the best two being under £1k. The fashion these days is to replace the traditional album with a glossy printed book. These books seem to be, without exception, chock full of (often badly applied) Photoshop effects. I can see the classiness in having a black and white photo with a small feature like a flower in colour. This draws the eye to the focal point of the image rather well. What looks terrible is things like putting a cheesy radial blur around people in an image to remove a dodgy background a good photographer wouldn't have put on film in the first place. Even worse is cramming lots of photos together on the same page with a garish background so the end effect is so busy your eyes don't know where to look. We both preferred the more classic album styles. Apart from the rings, forty toasters and (of course) ourselves, the photos will likely be the only tangible reminder of the day, so we want to get this right.
In the latest of their assertions from the high, high horse they inhabit, the RIAA have decided that CDs should be 3x more expensive. Even if successful in applying this poor logic, which I highly doubt, I can't see any online retailer making their wares more expensive to match. The only thing this is likely to achieve is more alienation from the industry (and more importantly the customers) it represents - eventually killing the CD market altogether. Perhaps however, there is another motive for this. The RIAA have been largely unsucessful is sueing people for pirating downloaded music, so this could be another attempt to restrict people's rights. If the CD market is killed and all (legal) music is DRM copy protected downloads, it means they can successfully sue people for playing music on more than one device (including your car stereo) because to do that people must (by their logic) be reverse engineering the DRM which is in conflict with the DMCA laws in the US. The only way to legally play it on all your kit would be to pay extra for it. This could spell the end of fair use laws on copying. This is a growing trend that big corporates are exploiting, not just in music, but in software, movies, etc. You no longer buy content, you simply pay for a restrictive license to use it.

Debt

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A few months ago, i started receiving letters from a debt collection agency claiming I owed a lot of money on a credit card. I've never had an account with the credit card company in question, so I wrote both companies a letter stating this. The debt collection agency ignored my reasoning and continued to send several letters a week demanding (in increasingly stronger terms) immediate payment. I then recieved a letter from the credit card company stating that they did indeed have an account in my name, but this was probably a case of mistaken identity. I forwarded this letter to the debt collection agency and all of a sudden the letters stopped. They didn't even send an acknowledgement. Whether this is the end of the matter or not, I do not yet know, but what worries me is how this kind of situation can happen in the first place. I would not be surprised if there are people who are scared by the legal threats into paying the bill. The fact is, there is either another Keith Judge in the UK who owes this money, or (maybe more likely) someone has taken my details and opened an account in my name. How do you catch an identity fraudster who has pushed a credit card to its limit and then discarded it, probably many months or years ago? We live in a country where it is incredibly easy to borrow huge sums of money, and incredibly difficult for a lot of people to pay it back. When a company approves a loan, where does the money come from? I somehow doubt more than a fraction is backed up by any real assets, yet you must pay back every penny with interest through years of hard work. Even more worrying is that the billions of borrowed money is one of the key factors in propping up our current buoyant economy so I doubt the government would do anything drastic to stem this.

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