The Myth That Quitting Smoking Will Save Money

smoking saves money

I know that what I’m about to write will go against everything that conventional wisdom and financial experts preach, but the truth is that quitting smoking does not save money — at least not in the short-term. Let’s start by putting aside the debate as to whether smoking is a nasty habit or not and look at it purely from a financial perspective.

The main problem I have with the assertion that quitting smoking will save those who quit money is that it fails to take into account that most people who quit smoking will replace the smoking habit with something else. In a perfect world this would not be the case and those who quit smoking would instantly begin living healthy in all aspects in their lives, but the fact is that for the vast majority of smokers this will not happen. To discount that smoking will be replaced with something else, and the money that is involved with that replacement, is where the financial experts fail in their assertion that quitting smoking saves money.

Let me illustrate from my personal example. I smoked half a pack a day for a number of years. At that time, the cost came to about $2.25 a day for my cigarettes. When I quit smoking, the conventional wisdom states that I should have saved about $820 in my bank account after a year. The reality was far different.

What really happened was that I ended up spending far more money when I quit smoking than I did when I was actually smoking. When I stopped smoking, I found that I had the desire to eat much more than when I did smoke. According to my records, I ended up spending about $5 a day more on food to quench my desire to smoke which added up to a net loss of $820. That’s right. Instead of saving money, I actually spent much more money in my attempt to continue to stay smoke free. But the spending didn’t stop there.

Eating the extra food when I stopped smoking made my weight balloon. While smoking I never had a major weight issue, but as soon as I stopped, weight quickly became one. That meant that I ended up spending money on diet plans and exercise programs. Adding the costs of these in addition to the extra food put my net loss at close to $2000 for the year compared to if I had continued to smoke. And that doesn’t even take into account the higher cost of the non-smoking programs and devices that was spent during the 6 months that it took me to fully quit smoking.

let me make it clear that I do not regret quitting smoking. I think that in the long run it will make me a healthier person and I will live longer, and it might even save me money. But I think the financial experts do a disservice by not taking into account the reality that most smokers will end up spending more money in the first few years they quit. There is this implication from many that quitting smoking will immediately save you money because you no longer will be spending money buying cigarettes. The truth is that quitting smoking is going to cost you more, at least for the first few years as you struggle with the side effects that come with quitting.

While everybody is different, I don’t believe that my circumstances are so unique that they deviate from the average person who quits smoking. My guess is that most people who quit are glad they did so, but also end up spending more money doing so than if they had kept smoking. This might not be the case for extremely heavy smokers, but I do believe it is for most smokers.

I still believe that there are good arguments to quit smoking and that is the reason I did, but for those who are expecting an istant windfall of extra money in their budget from doing so will be sorely disappointed.

(Photo courtesy of DucDigital)

This entry was posted in Health, Saving Money and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Myth That Quitting Smoking Will Save Money

  1. Pingback: Analyzing Wealth

  2. ben says:

    Not at all what I expected. I can see how this can be true for some people who quit smoking, but I’m not sure if it would be true of most (I have never been a smoker). First time I have ever heard an argument like this and may have some merit. I need to think about it a bit more. Thanks for making me think a bit more about something I had taken for granted.

  3. Richard says:

    I agree with your argument. I believed I could invest an extra $120 a month (~$4 a pack, pack a day) when I quit (in January), but the truth is, that money was quickly soaked up by living a healthier lifestyle. When I smoked, I could get away with eating fast food every day (though usually only 2 meals) and not gain any weight. Within two weeks of quitting, I had put on a considerable amount of weight. I was lucky to catch it early and adjust my diet, but unfortunately healthy eating & having a gym membership costs more than a pack a day.

  4. Patrick says:

    I don’t agree with your logic but I am excited to see that you are at least thinking and challenging people’s ideas out there.

    Let me ask you this….what is your time worth? I get paid only around ten bucks an hour, but I think that will go up soon and I’d like to think my time is more valuable than that.

    Now consider the fact that a pack-a-day smoker spends an ENTIRE MONTH out of each year puffing away. Literally, a full month out of each year. Now I know you can also do some other things while you are smoking but sheesh….that is just ridiculous. Think of all the lost productivity….

  5. viola says:

    ALL takes discipline. You quit smoking – why would you want to substitute your bad habit with eating in excess? AGAIN, I have stopped, I didn’t chew gum, I didn’t start eating chocolate, cakes, crisps etc, I just continued as ‘usual’ and have NOT gained any weight. The opposite, I am fitter, more conscious about what I put into my body and so should YOU be.

  6. Lisa says:

    I did not find this to be true for me at all. I smoked a pack a day for almost 30 years, quit cold turkey 9 years ago. Yes, I did gain about 10 pounds, your metabolism does change. I did not eat more, in fact I focused on eating better and did lose that 10 lbs since. No I didn’t bank all the money either. I started spending it on a few things that I felt I couldn’t afford before. like getting my hair professionally done. For awhile I used the money to treat myself and husband to things I never would have before as an incentive to not smoke. I feel better than ever and I can do more things I enjoy, like hiking, than I could before. No need no spend money on gyms or weight lose plans. I know I am financially in a better place by quitting, it also saved me in insurance cost. after two years I was able to get a plan for half the price I was paying as a smoker. (granted this may not be a valid point any more) but it saved me a lot over the years.

  7. Vivian says:

    I quit smoking 11 months ago and have $24 auto transferred into my savings account every week. But I do treat myself to fast food regularly and have gained 12 pounds. So you’re probably right.

  8. Joan says:

    Won’t you save on health insurance about six months after quitting? My sister told me she could save a lot if she quit (but she has not quit yet).

    If you dry clean clothes, you might save on frequency of cleaning needed –as you know fabric soaks up that smell.

    You might save on clothing if you get accidental tiny burn holes in important clothes.

    Judging from bathroom counter tops I’ve seen both public and in private homes, you might save some of them from deep scorch marks.

    I don’t know, but does house insurance go down? Probably not; I’m thinking they don’t inquire about smoking in the home. But I’ve had to evacuate apartment 3 times due to real fires, 2 of them started by a sleeping smoker’s cigarette catching the furniture on fire.

    You might save money not having to buy your children eyedrops and asthma inhalers. (Sorry, I was a child in the home of a heavy smoker.)

  9. S. B. says:

    The logic seems a little suspect to me because couldn’t we make this same argument about anything? If you stop eating out every night, you won’t really save any money because you’ll just spend it on something else. If you stop spending sprees at the mall, you won’t really save any money because you’ll just spend it on something else. etc…

  10. Minny says:

    I do think there is the belief that when people stop smoking they eat more and so for some people it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

  11. Emmy says:

    My father started smoking as a teenager and didn’t quit for 50 years, around the time he retired. Once his lungs cleared, he took up swimming laps at an inexpensive public pool. He also took over grocery shopping and cooking, which saved money and meant my parents ate a healthier diet of more vegetables, seafood and whole grains, and less red meat. He died 20 years later of metastasized lung cancer, but said those 20 years were the best of his life.

  12. Minny says:

    A lovely story. Your dad was a lucky man.

  13. Rose says:

    You do save money if you quit. What you do with that money is on the individual. The campaign is that you will “have” more money to do other things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *