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What’s your Cigarette? (Bad Spending Habits)

What’s Your Cigarette?

Okay, before you click away, this isn’t entirely about cigarettes. If you don’t smoke there may still be something here for you.  At least read my little story about bad spending habits. It can help you think about how to make over your budget.

If you're paying off debt, try cutting out bad spending habits.

If you’re paying off debt, try cutting out bad spending habits.

I just read an article online that said the cost of cigarettes in New York City was about $11 a pack. Are you kidding?  Without going through all the negative effects of smoking and second hand smoke and all the environmental and social costs, let’s just talk about what it costs a smoker’s budget. (As an ex-smoker, I could go “medieval” on the subject, but let’s keep it financial.) $11? Well, that’s just ridiculous. In my state, the average is around $8, so I am going to use that.

The average smoker smokes about a pack a day. $8 a day. Some smokers go for as much as 2 or even 3 packs! For this example let’s stick to one.

  • That’s $56 a week.
  • $2,912 per year.

WHAT? nearly $3,000 a year for the privilege of risking my health by pulling poisonous smoke into my lungs? I think not. That money could easily go towards debt management instead. Simple solution? Quit smoking (although it can actually be not simple, but very difficult). Use any means possible. Never quit trying to quit. Every day you don’t smoke will save you around $8, and maybe a few minutes of your life. Butt anyways….(Yes, bad pun, I couldn’t help myself..)

One of the tips I give my friends who smoke is to start rolling their own. One at a time. That will give you a few minutes to actually catch yourself in the act of getting a cigarette,  rather than having it lit and in your face before you realize it.  And think of the social stigma! You don’t just whip open your fashionable brand of butts and get to puffing. You have to actually get out the papers and your pouch and roll one up. You may even get some disapproving stares. Awesome!

Sometimes that simple few second of “pattern interruption” is enough to give you a fighting chance to stop and try to deal with the cravings. Don’t be like my pal Jeff, who took my advice to roll his own and totally misinterpreted it. He went out and bought himself a rolling machine and rolled up his TWO packs each night. He thanked me for saving him a lot of money on butts- he could now afford to smoke more. (Good grief…)

Don’t smoke? Here’s the story. You knew there was a story, isn’t there usually?

I was in line at a convenience store last month, and there was a woman in front of me who bought a few items, including one scratch ticket for a dollar with her change.

Out of the blue, the cashier, a friendly Pakistani gentlemen said to me, “She will be back in my store in about one minute.” I said, “Why, do you somehow know she will win?”

He said to me with a smile,”No sir. That is her cigarette.” I thought, hunh? She didn’t even buy cigarettes.

He must have caught my quizzical-lifted-brow-look and said, “Every few days she comes in the store. She only buys one lottery ticket. It is like her cigarette. She cannot only have one ticket. If she loses, she always comes back to buy more. Mostly $20 worth. Sometimes more than $100. If she wins, she will keep buying more until she loses. It is an addiction,  just like a cigarette. If she did not buy the first one,  she could go home with all of her money.”

I kind of laughed to myself, and could relate. In the past, I might also buy a scratch ticket or two, and I can understand the concept of that one simple ticket triggering a binge of stupidity.

So, what’s your cigarette? What is it that you do, that is totally unnecessary, but a habit? Is there something that you could avoid one simple time, and not cascade into a binge on buying? Coffee? Junk food? Shoes? Come on, everybody has some kind of “cigarette” don’t they? Most of us have had bad spending habits from time to time.

So, what’s your cigarette? And how do you intend to quit, or replace the habit with a healthier, more financially savvy one?

PS. I know we posted about habits before, but I liked the story, and thought you might too.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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