Save Money, Quit Smoking

Defending Smokers

I quit smoking in January 1999. At the time, I had finally had it with the growing cost of cigarettes. In January 1999 the cost for a pack of cigarettes was $2.00. According to the American Cancer Society, the average cost of cigarettes today is $6.36 per pack. I was mad when the price was two bucks. I cannot imagine how people feel who are spending over five and a half dollars for one pack.

With this information in mind, I have to confess that in 1999-2002, I was a supporter of smoker’s rights. I felt that if someone wanted to smoke, they had the right to since it was not illegal and a portion of the cigarette prices when to the government in the form of taxes on the product.

Attitudes Change

As with most people that have quit, after a while, I felt that I did not need to be around the smoke. That was my choice. I started to stop going to places that had an open smoking policy. The smell of smoke began to bother me. Also, with more information becoming available, it was evident that not being around smoke was certainly better for my health.

I recently saw a Facebook posting from Epic Cool Things that describes what happens to your body once you quit smoking. I am just about at the 15 year mark now.

Cravings

Before 1999, there was a time that I had quit smoking before. I had quit for over three years. The problem is that I wanted a cigarette EVERY DAY! I did not go through any kind of program to quit but it was just hard because it seemed like there was always someone around me who was smoking. I did not help matters. I was hanging around places where people smoked. When I went through some extremely stressful situations, I gave in and started smoking again. It took me another six and a half years to attempt to quit again.

Change Of Attitude

I quit in 1999 because my attitude was different. Sure, there was the issue with how much it was going to cost for a pack. Something else was different. I asked God to remove the desire to smoke. Within one week, I no longer had a desire to smoke at all. I never went through any type of program to quit. The desire simply went away and has never come back.

I noticed other things the further I got away from my last cigarette. I noticed that the smell of smoke started to bother me. I stopped going places that where people smoked. I started noticing when someone else around me had been smoking. I’m not sure about other people but I could smell smoke on someone from about three feet away.

I’m not trying to tell you that you need to stop smoking. You will need to decide that for yourself. I can tell you this. In 1998, I had to take a lung function test for work. Normally your lungs have a capacity of over five quarts of air. I could not pass the lung function test. I could not breathe in more than about two and a half quarts. Today my capacity is well over five quarts.

Savings

I’m done on the soap box about smoking. Just one more thing to consider. If you are smoking one pack of cigarettes per day and the average cost is $6.36 per pack, then you are spending $2321.40 per year on cigarettes. Where can you better use that money?

Bah Humbug or Merry Christmas?

Brown Thursday?

Well, it is finally after Thanksgiving. That must mean it is time to go broke. Everyone who turned on the news at all last week saw the mayhem at the stores. This year started even worse than in years past when some locations decided to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day instead of the day after.

Several news stations decided that the day needed a new name and came up with “Brown Thursday.” Yuk! I think I will continue to call it Thanksgiving Day and keep it about spending time with family.

What Is Black Friday Anyway?

Black Friday is called what it is because that is the day that typical stores actually start making a profit for the year. Not real sure I agree with that definition but it is what it is.

Usually, it is the day where stores put on these massive “sales” to get customers into their stores to start buying items for Christmas. I recall going to the store one Black Friday to get a TV for my daughter for Christmas. It was a 19” TV on sale for $79.00 and the sale was only good from 4-8AM. The store opened at 4AM that year and I was there right on time.

The place was crazy. People were all over the place fighting and arguing about getting what they wanted. The poor stock crew could barely get the items out of the back before they became swamped by people grabbing the items. I got a TV that year but promised myself that I would NEVER do that again.

I had a friend who was there that day as well. He went there just for the fun of it. He grabbed a cart, loaded it up with all kinds of stuff and just pushed the cart around the store for a couple of hours showing off what he was able to grab. I guess it was to make people jealous or something because at around 8AM, he left the cart and walked out of the store without buying anything.

Don’t Be Broke After Christmas

I love Christmas. There were many years that I would end up with a headache after Christmas with all the bills that were due. With lots of kids and grandkids to consider, it was pretty easy to rack up a couple of thousand in bills by Dec. 25.

It would give me a Bah Humbug attitude about what I would do for Christmas the next year. What was sad was that even though I had those feelings, I would tend to do the same thing again the next year.

A Better Way

There are tons of ways to pay for Christmas without going into debt each year.

Here are just a few ideas you can try:

  1. Save a little each week in a Christmas Club account. The money becomes available in November and can really offset the cost leading to Christmas. Most banks and credit unions offer this service. Saving a little each week throughout the year adds up and you can walk away from Christmas without any debt if you do it right.
  2. Buy stuff throughout the year. My dad says that my mom is single-handedly trying to keep the economy going throughout the year. Why? Because she shops all year long for Christmas. She shops sales all year and gets things that everyone enjoys (mostly). By the time November gets here, she is just about done shopping.
  3. Cut back on the number of gifts for each person. Let’s face it, most of us have more stuff than we know what to do with already. Instead, get fewer gifts and make them meaningful. Just because it is on sale doesn’t mean that everyone wants it.
  4. Make Christmas a family event again. We get so wrapped up in the season that sometimes we forget what it is all about. Spending time with family is more important than all the stuff you can buy.

In what ways do you make Christmas enjoyable without going broke in the process?

I know it is early but…

Merry Christmas.

GOOOAAALLL!!!

If you have ever watched a soccer game where the announcers are from Mexico, then you are familiar with the reaction they give when someone scores during the game. There is an elongated GOOOAAALLL into the microphone. There is no misunderstanding about what has happened. Sometimes, they can go on for 30 seconds or more. Here is an example from YouTube.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had that kind of enthusiasm about our financial well-being?

Setting Goals

This week, we will be looking at goal setting with our finances. Written goals are so important because it gives us something tangible to look at when we are making decisions regarding finances. Being specific in the goals is also very important. Anyone can say they are going to save money this year. A statement like that could mean that you are going to save $10 for the year or $25,000.00 in a year or any point in between. How will you know if you met your goal if you give yourself a range like that?

Let’s go over what I refer to as the four tier goal setting plan. I will start by defining each tier and then offer some suggestions for each one. I include an image of a simple way to write goals down.

Goal Setting

Immediate Goals

The first tier is the immediate goals. These are goals that can be completed in six months or less. This requires that you look at all the various debts you have and make a realistic list of your options for dealing with those debts. Another area to consider is personal savings. If you read the post, Emergency!!! What Do I Do Now?, it is really important to have some cash set back to take care of things that happen in life. Above all, make your goals as specific as possible. Making the statement “I will cut back on using credit cards” is not a goal. Stating that the savings account will have some money in it is not a goal either. I would like to include a few ideas of ways that you can add items to the immediate goals list.

  • I will save $25.00 per week beginning January 1. By the end of six months, I will have $650.00 in savings plus interest.
  • I will no longer use credit cards for standard purchases. They will only be used in case of an emergency if I do not have the cash to take care of it.
  • I will pay off the lowest balance credit card within six months.
  • I will reduce grocery expenses by 10%. I will do this by making sure I have a shopping list each time I go to the store.

Short-Term Goals

Short-Term goals are goals that can be completed between six months and two years. These are a big longer and may take a bit more thought to make sure they can happen. Here are a few examples.

  • I will have $750.00 in an emergency fund by December 1, 2015.
  • I will pay off two credit cards and cancel them by September 1, 2014.
  • I will save $60.00 per month so that I can take a reasonable vacation in June 2015. That is $1080.00 for a short vacation.
  • I will start adding $100.00 per month to my mortgage payment by September 1, 2014.

Mid-Term Goals

Mid-Term goals are goals that can be completed between two years and five years. These goals are longer and require some thought. Keep in mind that things change over longer periods of time. So do priorities. Here are a few examples.

  • I will pay off my car(s) by January 1, 2018
  • I will have my emergency fund fully funded with $2000.00 by January 1, 2016
  • I will have all credit cards paid off. I will close all credit card accounts except for one.
  • I will start a part-time business selling craft products online by June 1, 2016.

Long-Term Goals

Long-Term goals are goals that take five years or more. Some things should be included in this list no matter what. Here are a few examples.

  • I will be debt-free by January 1, 2020 except for my mortgage.
  • I will pay my mortgage off by January 1, 2022.
  • I will have $500,000.00 in IRA’s, Retirement Accounts, and other assets by January 1, 2025.
  • I will have $50,000.00 set aside for my children’s education by January 1, 2023.

Living Document

Hopefully, it is obvious that this goal listing is a living document. A living document is one that changes with time due to circumstances. If savings for the immediate goals list can be accomplished in four months versus six months, then the immediate goals list should be updated to reflect that.

It is a good idea to visit the goal list weekly (at least) to check how we are doing. It is ok to change your priorities. As a personal example, my goals have changed considerably since I had brain surgery in June 2009. Things happen in this life and we need to adjust as those things happen.

The important thing is that we keep those goals in front of us so that we can make progress. Like so many things in life, the road may not be straight but if we have goals in mind that we are striving for, then even when things happen, we can keep focusing on where we want to get to.

Without writing goals down, everything we want to do becomes just a nice idea.

What are some goals that you are striving for? Let’s share those ideas here. Maybe you have something in common with someone else.