Since I began writing this series I have broken a lot of bad habits, but there is one that has lingered where others have been defeated. It’s my biggest money-stupid habit that I haven’t shared: I am a smoker.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a rant about the dangers of smoking. We all know about the huge long-term risks of being a smoker and that it kills people. For me to be judgmental would be extremely hypocritical. I think everyone has the right to smoke a cigarette or cigar every now and then, including myself, no matter how badly the government tries to demonize “social smoking”. This post is about the personal decision I’ve made to quit one of my daily bad habits, and save myself money while doing so.
I have been planning on quitting for weeks now, and have been putting it off for one reason or another. I was too busy significantly improving other parts of my life to deal with the added challenge of dropping a chemically-addictive long-term habit. I kicked my plan into action last week, when I started tracking my spending and realized that smoking was eating up all of my entertainment money. This made me think realistically about how much money I spend on cigarettes per week, and what that adds up to over the year.
I spend about $1600 a year on this one bad habit.
My cigarette consumption varies from day to day but, on average, I spend about $30 per week on cigarettes. I’ve always had a taste for the more expensive brands and I never bought cartons, hence the higher cost. (Re: the cartons — yes, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. I always assumed, however, that if I had more than a pack lying around the house at a given time I would just be encouraged to smoke even more, which would be counterproductive to saving money.)
I’m not quitting just because I’m watching my money and spilling my secrets. That type of motivation would lead to inevitable failure. That’s also the reason why quitting smoking wasn’t on my list of New Year’s resolutions. I’m quitting (and writing about it) because I am finally just ready to move on and make this significant change.
I don’t plan on quitting my bad habit cold turkey. I know for a fact I don’t have the self-control to drop a 10-year habit without weening myself off of it a bit because I’ve tried cold turkey before. My plan is to cut down. I have also gone the gradual reduction route before and failed, so I’m going to treat my smoking habit with the same tactic I’ve used to defeat my bad spending habits: ruthless control, planning, and accountability.
Rather than a vague “I’ll smoke less each week” promise, I am going to set myself a cigarette budget. My next payday is on Friday, and on that day I will buy 2 packs of cigarettes. These cigarettes are going to stay in my house (in which I do not smoke) and I will take 3 per day out of the pack before I leave my house. When the 3 are gone, that’s it for the day. When the two packs are gone, I will buy one last pack from which I will take no more than 1 cigarette per day. This final pack will be my last pack ever. By the time February is over I will officially be a non-smoker.
I’m looking forward to having a bit of extra cash each week to put towards my other bad habits, like drinking. Plus, that $30 per week may come in handy if I gain 20 pounds and no longer fit into my clothing as a result of quitting. Just the thought is making me chew my fingernails (oh look, another bad habit). Thankfully, my workplace benefits do cover massage therapy, so perhaps I’ll replace cigarettes with soothing muscular relaxation until the desire to smoke is totally out of my system. Either way I will keep everyone posted on how I’m doing. Once I’ve slayed this beast, stay tuned for some of my other bad habits, which I’m sure will rear their ugly heads during this challenge.