The smartest financial decision I ever made: Quitting smoking

18 Jan

This past Friday was a major, major milestone for me.

On that date two years ago, I was “burned out”. I was sick of the hacking, running out of breath on one flight of stairs — and money I could have used on things I wanted AND needed going down the toilet. I had done this for ELEVEN YEARS.

Even though I was outright consumed with fear and doubt, I smoked my last cigarette at 3 a.m. What happened immediately thereafter was agonizing hell on earth for me, but I survived. I survived and became a stronger person in all senses of the word because of it.

Oh yeah, I have a little more money to spend, too.

I hate to be preachy. Lord knows that during my 11 years as a smoker, I’d totally turn a deaf ear to anyone that ranted and raved on a soapbox. So here’s the deal: I’m sure all of us know the health benefits of quitting. Let’s talk money, shall we?

OK. The world was a bit different back when I was a high-schooler lighting up cigarettes behind dumpsters. I was already a stupid kid for smoking in the first place, but here’s what made me even stupider. I took the attitude of, “Oh hell. I’m totally not smoking those nasty generics like Mom and Dad smoke. Ewwww. I’m totally going for classier tar to burn!” Those name-brand smokes I adored so much were about $2 a pack then. I only smoked about one pack per week at that time, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Nonetheless, I did managed to get hooked. The hurricane’s eye wall always moves in after the little rain bands.

I got to college, and pressure on first-semester freshmen is insane. To top it off, I was there on a scholarship I would lose if I didn’t maintain a certain GPA. So when I would stay up until 6 a.m. cramming for a mid-term, two things were usually by my side: a case of Mountain Dew and a pack of smokes. Taco Bell was a frequent partner back then, and that surely didn’t help me maintain my girlish figure (whatever that was). I eventually reached the point where I was smoking about a half-pack to a pack a day.

Cigarette prices seemed to be ratcheting upward during the late 1990s and early 2000s, too. My $2 per pack smokes became $3 or more. Let’s do some math here: So, say I was smoking a a half-pack of those $2 smokes every day. That meant I was burning up $1 in cigarettes each day. That’s $7 a week, $28 a month and $336 a year!

Sure, I swallowed my pride and got creative. I switched to the exact same generic brand as my parents smoked. One of my friends saw the pack and told me, “You realize this is just a step up from a plain black package that has “CIGARETTES” in white letters on it, right?” I also bought by the carton (which really doesn’t save a lot) and took advantage of living near the Kentucky border. If I’m not mistaken, Kentucky had the second-lowest cigarette tax in the nation in those days of yore. I believe Kentucky has also raised its tax rate since I moved away.

Right at the time I quit, I was burning through about a carton of smokes every month — give or take. That carton of generic smokes cost me about $25. So, my habit cost me $300 a year, give or take. I know people with smaller car payments. I guess I timed everything perfectly, though. Last year, after I had managed to quit, the federal government levied a 62-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes.

Let’s do some more math, shall we? There are 10 packs of cigarettes in a carton. That would be an extra $6.20 for a carton. So, even with the cheapos I was smoking, that ups the carton price to $31.20. That means I would be paying $374.40 for a year supply of cigarettes. I could pay an electric bill (for a non-winter month) with that extra $74.40. The government doesn’t care if you’re trying to save money by buying in bulk. Tax laws are tax laws, and the feds want the same amount of money for each pack!

Here’s another incentive: More public- and private-sector employees are being charged extra for health insurance. These entities have cited health care costs for smokers being 25 percent higher than ones for non-smokers. These extra charges can range from $20 to $50 per month.

OK, so let’s just say you want to quit. I seriously do not recommend just going “cold-turkey” for anyone smoking more than the occasional cigarette here and there. You really, really need some type of stop-smoking aid. Here’s what may turn you off at first, and it turned me off for years: That stuff will generally cost you more than a carton of smokes. I believe my first pack of Commit lozenges were about $35 for a box, and I had to buy more later. But I was through with the Commits in about 3-4 months, and I haven’t had to buy any more nicotine-related products since then. I look at it as an investment with a GREAT return. Remember this: What worked for me will not necessarily work for you, and vice versa.

Oh yeah, a friend of mine who quit around the same time I did tried “cold turkey”. On his Day Two, he hauled off and punched his own car’s windshield. This guy normally has the composure of a Boy Scout.

I will warn you now that quitting smoking is hell, even with a stop smoking aid. To be blunt, you will basically become a bitch/bastard from hell who everyone will grow to hate. You will turn from your beloved self and into a monster, a freak off the charts of human imagination. On my first cigarette-free day, I walked into my workplace, told all my co-workers what I was doing — and apologized in advance for the coming bitchery.

This is an example of what you will become:

Click the link below and enjoy the related clip I've prepared for you. It's more genius work from my patron saint, Tina Fey.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/10234/saturday-night-live-annuale?c=40:58

Here’s one thing that kept me on task: A reward system. At the end of every cigarette-free week, I would reward myself with some kind of small “luxury item” — something in the $10 range, give or take. These included a pair of dress flats, new PJs to replace ones I set on fire with a cigarette, DVDs, CDs, etc. It wasn’t just the rewards, themselves, that kept me on the straight-and-narrow. I also kept this in mind: Whatever I spent on a discount/used DVD, here and there, would still be cheaper than cigarettes.

So think about it: You can literally burn up your money, or have that killer new movie/CD/outfit/shoes/video game/Chia Pet/ShamWow/whatever. Think about it.

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4 Responses to “The smartest financial decision I ever made: Quitting smoking”

  1. Niche Topics January 18, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    Great share! I went cold turkey a few years ago — it was hard but really worth it 🙂

  2. brookeamanda January 18, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    My sister quit smoking after being hooked for nearly 15 years. That was almost ten years ago! She was amazed at how much better she felt and how much money she saved.

  3. 2berrys January 19, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Great post and congrats! That’s a tough one. I also smoked for like 12 years and quit about 4 years ago. Not fun and not easy. So glad I did though.

  4. Keenan Keri January 29, 2010 at 6:34 am #

    Comfortably the post is really the greatest on this precious topic. I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your coming updates. Saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the extraordinary clarity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Solid work and much success in your business dealings!

    The reasons you started smoking are probably not around anymore. You don’t need to act cool, be swayed by peer pressure, cope with teen emotions, or do what grown-ups or stars do. So stop smoking today!.Health is not everything, but without health, everything else is nothing.

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