Quit Smoking: My First Frugal Move…Ever

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It’s nearly the 5 year anniversary of my last cigarette, so I though I’d bring this post back to the front page. 

A bit over three years ago, we found out that my wife was pregnant with baby #3.    When we decided to have #2, it took us two years of trying.  Naturally, we assumed we’d have the same issues with #3.   Imagine our surprise when it only took 2 weeks.   At that point, we were getting ready to celebrate brat #2’s first birthday.

That mean’s 2 kids under 2.   Two kids in diapers.  Three kids in daycare.  Baby formula again.

We weren’t making ends meet with two kids, how were we going to manage three?  I dropped my pack-or-two-a-day smoking habit.

But, I’ve gone over that before.

This post is about how I actually quit.

Some Facts About Me

I don’t do things by halves; I tend to do things all the way or not at all.    For years, my wife would ask me to cut back, to just smoke a little less, but that never worked.   If I had cigarettes, I smoked them. I always had cigarettes.    When I eat, I eat.  I’ve never managed smaller portions.    I used to drink a case of soda each week, just because it was there.   Moderation has never been my friend.

As a corollary, I don’t cheat. At anything.  Ever.   Because of the above fact about myself.    I don’t moderate myself when I give myself rules either.   If I draw a line, I obsessively avoid crossing it.

The problem comes when I try to give myself a “gray area” rule.    “Smoke less” always leaves room for “just one more”, which easily leads to “I only cut out one cigarette yesterday, so what’s the use?”   I had to be done.

After smoking for fifteen years–more than a pack a day for at least 12 of those–that’s an intimidating thought.

The Plan

The first thing I did was set a day to quit.  I chose the day after my Halloween party.   Before that would have been setting myself up for failure.   Booze, food, and long conversations in a smoking-friendly environment were just 3 of my many triggers.    I always smoked more at my parties, so the day after, I didn’t feel up to smoking much, anyway.   I’d just ride that wave of “I don’t feel like it” to to holy city of “I quit”.

I didn’t quit smoking the next day, I just quit buying cigarettes.  That left me half a pack to curb my cravings.

I also knew that nicotine cravings are about the most distracting thing I’ve ever had to deal with.   That doesn’t make for a productive computer programmer, so I bought a box of the generic patch that Target carries.   I started with Phase 2, because I wasn’t interested in prolonging the process.   I just didn’t want to spend my work days thinking about smoking instead of designing software.  I needed something to take the edge off, without actually smoking.

My plan was to have the patch at work, so I’d be able to work and to stretch those last 10 cigarettes out, as long as possible.

The Result

It worked.   The pack lasted 4 days, I think.   I smoked during my commute and after dinner.   I used the patch only when the cravings got to the point that I couldn’t concentrate.  After a week, I stopped using it at all.   A few days later, I had a particularly stressful day and cheated.    I took 3 puffs of that cigarette and threw it away, because it tasted like crap and I wasn’t enjoying it.  That’s when I knew I was successfully done smoking.    It was a 10 day variation of “cold turkey”.    More than 3 years later, I have an occasional cigar, but never due to a craving.  The day I experience a nicotine craving is the day I burn my humidor.

That’s how I quite smoking, strictly to try to get my finances in line.  That has saved me at least $10,000 over the last 3 years.

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    1. Incredible. I never smoked but Ive heard so many stories about how hard it is to quit. I am impressed!

      • Thanks. It was hard enough to do that I won’t smoke a cigarette again for fear of going through it again, but it really wasn’t the worst thing I’ve had to do.

    2. Congratulations! You’ll feel so much better. I’m hoping to get my mom to stop smoking but it’s probably going to take a bit more effort.

      • Unfortunately, it’s not something you can force anyone to do. My wife “quit” with me. It’s funny, she used to get mad at me for not being able to cut down, but now she’s having a hard time quitting.

    3. That is awesome Jason! I don’t smoke, but I always felt sorry for smokers when they are about to board long plane journeys… The first thing they do after landing is look for a smoking room, the last thing they do before boarding a flight is be at the smoking room.

    4. I quit smoking pretty much cold turkey too, years ago. My motivation was fear after getting a detailed education on the physiological effects of smoking. But my method was powered largely by obsession. I have obsessive tendencies and find them to be a double edged sword. But when used in the proper direction it’s very powerful tool.

      Congratulations on getting and staying smoke free and reaping the financial and health rewards.

    5. Congrats on quitting! I have an addictive personality and asthma, so I never picked up a cigarette to start with…I even stay away from alcohol most of the time in case. I’m lucky the worst thing I’ve gotten addicted to is blogging…oh, and chocolate.

      I have to have a little chocolate every couple of days or I get grumpy…grrr…I’m just lucky that Weight Watchers has chocolate desserts that don’t suck…

    6. Congratulations on quitting smoking. It seems like just such a difficult thing to give up. When my mom quit, she had to give up coffee too because cigarettes and coffee went hand in hand. It just became such a part of her daily ‘life’ that many things had to change for her to give the cigarettes up entirely.

      • It’s been 3 years, but I still miss it. I don’t have any physical cravings, but I miss the excuse to step outside and have 5 minutes of calm and quiet, or the chance to get away from my desk and kick over whatever problem I’ve been working on.

    7. You’ll save even more in healthcare costs down the road, and since you will live a much longer, happier and healthier life, your money will have much longer to compound.

      On a personal note: My dad died of lung cancer 4 years ago, so thank you for quitting! Your family and friends will forever appreciate the brave decision that you have made.


    8. Wow — $10K saved in 3 years! It’s crazy to put a number to it. Congratulations on your cold-turkey approach and sticking to it!

    9. I’m happy for you that you have achieved your goal and saved a lot of money in a year.

      Like you, all of us has some bad habits, if we can recognize theme and can replace them by some good and constructive habits, we can easily save money.

    10. I don’t know more about you than the things you shared in here my friend but i would say that quitting the smoke is definitely the smartest move you’ve ever done. Imagine how many much you could save in one year without that vice. I am happy for youl

    11. Congratulations Jason!

      Being obsessive in many regards, I smoked for 30+ years non-stop. It was not until July 19th of this year that I finally kicked the habit after all these years.

      What caused me to finally get it through my thick head I needed to quit was loosing my left Kidney to Renal Cancer on that very day.

      Seems the combination of smoking and and working around toxic industrial chemicals all my life are what caused that form of cancer.


    1. […] the next 18 months, I dropped some vices, cut some expenses, didn’t bother changing any important habits, and got further in debt.  […]

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