Any personal finance blog will tell you to separate needs from wants if you want to improve your finances. Too often, we spend a ton of money on junk we could live without, then complain that we’re broke. (Obviously not everyone does this, but we all know that many Americans are obsessed with stuff.) When I decided I was over my debt, I identified several areas where I was spending on wants instead of needs – restaurants, entertainment, and smoking.
I’ve cut down my restaurant expenses from $400 a month to $136 this past month. I saved $80 on my cable and phone bills by downgrading or removing features I didn’t need. That’s over $300 a month going toward savings and debt instead of worthless crap. Hooray! Celebration! Watch out for the confetti falling from the sky!
But guess how much I’ve reduced my $100 a month smoking habit. Zero. In fact, I actually overspent in April because I smoked more than usual. Yep, time to sweep up all that confetti.
If you’ve never smoked, you have no idea how hard it is to stop. It’s like trying to stop breathing. You can do it for a little while, but pretty soon you’re freaking out and can’t think about anything else and before you know it you’re doing it again to keep from having a nervous breakdown. People say that a cigarette craving will go away if you can just wait 5-10 minutes, but that’s a total lie. I’ve made it 4 hours before (not by choice) and the cravings just intensify until I’m shaking like a crack fiend.
Over the years, I’ve tried several methods to quit smoking. I tried cold turkey, which lasted less than a day. I tried gradually cutting down, and that worked for a couple weeks until I had a stressful day at work. I tried Chantix, which is a super expensive prescription drug that is supposed to make you sick if you smoke. It didn’t make me sick; it just made the cigarettes taste bad. But I smoked them anyway.
Smoking is so ingrained into my daily routine I truly don’t know how to live without it. Every morning, I sit outside and smoke at least 2 cigarettes (don’t smoke in the house) before I get in the shower. I actually get up 10 minutes early so I have plenty of time for those crucial first 2 of the day. Then I smoke 3 on the hour-long commute to work. I smoke about every hour and a half during the workday. I smoke immediately after every meal. 3 more cigarettes for the drive home. Several more before I go to bed. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night with a craving. I realize how ridiculous this sounds.
The fact is, I need to quit. Both of my grandmothers died of lung cancer. My son lectures me constantly. My clothes smell disgusting at the end of the day. I’m spending $100 a month (or more) that could be used toward debt. I have heard about those vaporizers for sale because a friend introduced it to me one day since its a healthier alternative than smoking.
But I don’t want to quit. And that’s where my needs vs. wants are all screwed up. Just like when I was furiously spending, I know I need to stop this but I’m making the choice to keep going. I ask myself all the time, What will it take for me to get over smoking? Do I wait until I start having health problems? Will the ever-increasing prices convince me to quit? (Probably not, since they were $1.25 a pack when I started and now the “cheap” ones I smoke are $4.) I really don’t know what it will take.
I know anyone reading has had some kind of habit, whether smoking or something else, that you’ve managed to break. How did you do it? I’m not asking specifically how you stopped, but how did you get to the point where you WANTED to?