Quitting Smoking Will Save Me $124,000 Over a Lifetime

  • I quit smoking a year ago, but every once in a while I struggle with the urge to start again.
  • To encourage myself, I calculated how much I’ll save over 40 years — it’s about $124,000.
  • I calculated this by assuming higher insurance premiums, health costs, and the cost of packs.
  • Read more from Personal Finance Insider.

I just recently passed the first anniversary of my last-ever cigarette.

There have been a few other times before where I “quit”, which meant that I wasn’t buying packs as often as I used to, and was trying my best to only smoke “socially” (not including my morning cigarette with my coffee, of course).

But this time, it was different. I had resolved to finally kick the habit for health reasons and was committed to actually quitting. In any case, my partner was about to move in with me and she has


. I wasn’t interested in risking her health or going all the way outside every single time I wanted a smoke.

It’s not always easy (and I chew a lot of gum now), but even though I miss it from time to time, it’s been worth it. Most of the time when I’m resisting the urge to buy a pack, I remind myself of the health-related reasons why I did this, but sometimes that’s not a tangible enough reason.

So, in an effort to keep up my smoke-free streak, I decided to calculate how much I’m saving throughout a lifetime by not smoking. My jaw almost hit the floor when I looked at the full picture and realized I’m saving roughly $124,000 over 40 years. 

How I calculated how much I’ll save from smoking

I wanted to be as accurate as possible in my calculations, so I sat down and carefully determined how much longer I could reasonably expect to live, along with the various factors that smokers generally have to pay extra for. 

Other than the cost of the cigarettes themselves, this includes life insurance premiums, health insurance premiums, and out-of-pocket healthcare costs. 

I decided to calculate the costs over a 40-year period based on the fact that I am currently 28 years old, the life expectancy for American women is roughly 78, and that according to the CDC, smoking takes an average of 10 years off of someone’s life. This lead me to conclude that if I had continued smoking I could have reasonably expected to live to age 68 — 40 years from now.

Here’s how I calculated each factor to get to my projected lifetime savings of $124,000. 

1. Life insurance premiums: $11,000

Life insurance costs more when you’re a smoker because it means you’re probably going to die sooner than non-smokers, so insurance companies hike up your premiums to recoup their projected losses.

I don’t currently have a life insurance policy outside of the small, mostly-free plan I have through work that will help my partner get by for a while without me if something happens suddenly. However, we plan on having kids in the next few years, so that’s probably going to change after our first child is born.

I used a table published by Personal Finance Insider that lists life insurance premium averages based on your status as a smoker and a few other factors.

If you are a female smoker who is around the age of 35, your life insurance premium for a $500,000, 20-year term policy will be about four times higher than that of a 35-year-old woman who doesn’t smoke. Based on my calculations, this comes out to a difference of about $11,000 over the entire 20-year term. 

2. Health insurance premiums: $30,000

I have a set health insurance premium from my employer right now, but if I were to ever need to get ACA Marketplace insurance or work for a smaller employer in my later career, I would have to face the prospect of having higher insurance premiums by about 50%. 

In order to calculate a number here, I decided to just figure out what a 50% increase to my current insurance premium would equal in dollars and then calculated how much that would cost me until I reached Medicare eligibility, and have determined that the difference over 40 years would be in the ballpark of $30,000. 

3. Out-of-pocket healthcare costs: $8,000

On top of healthcare premiums, many Americans are often faced with many out-of-pocket healthcare costs every year. In my home state of New York, the average person pays about $500 for healthcare per year on top of their insurance premium. 

However, smokers also typically pay about 40% more in healthcare costs due to the health problems brought about by smoking. So, I projected that I would pay $200 per year more than the average person in my state for out-of-pocket healthcare costs, which adds up to $8,000 over a 40-year period. 

4. The cost of packs (plus inflation): $75,000

This was by far the highest amount, which took me by surprise. I would have never considered myself a “heavy smoker” by any means. My typical consumption was usually about a quarter of a pack per day (five cigarettes), which is a lot less than some of my friends and family members who smoke. 

But nevertheless, I used this calculator from Smokefree.gov to determine the cost of how much I’d save over 20 years, and then doubled it for my 40-year estimate. To get my own specific number, I plugged in my consumption rate based on two price points: $13 per pack and $7 per pack. Then, I averaged those two figures.

This is because while packs of cigarettes bought in the Bronx are about $13 a pack, I would often drive to Pennsylvania and buy them in cartons (a box with 10 packs of cigarettes in them) to save money when I could.

All in all, over the course of 40 years, I can expect that I would have spent $75,000 just on cigarettes, assuming that the prices never go up again (they will) and that I continued to only smoke an average of a quarter of a pack a day (I was getting closer to half a pack a day at some points). 

What else can I spend $124,000 on?

When you tally all these figures together, you get $124,000. This number is not based on exact science, and I made a lot of presumptions that might not have necessarily held over the course of 40 years. 

That said, I’m not clairvoyant and I think this figure is probably the best estimate that I can come up with. It’s certainly a much more tangible thing for me to hold onto when I’m feeling the temptation to head to my local bodega and buy a pack of my favorite menthols.

I don’t know what I plan on doing with my projected lifetime savings of $124,000. Another editor at Personal Finance Insider suggested that I plug this figure into our compound interest calculator to see how much it would be if I invested it. I decided to say I’d invest my annual $3,100 every year for 40 years with a rate of return at 9% and saw the number balloon to $1.1 million.

That’s a nice chunk of change for retirement, especially given that quitting smoking has extended my life expectancy by an extra decade. Maybe I’ll do that, maybe I’ll leave it to my future children, or maybe I’ll simply just give it away. To me, the important thing is that I’m not spending it on a bad habit anymore.

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