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)