How Budgeting Was the Secret to Finally Quit Smoking
Melissa Schultz has smoked for as long as she can remember. Despite wanting (and trying!) to quit smoking for years, nothing had worked. One day, it finally clicked. She told us her story.
I’ve been a smoker for over 20 years—I started my senior year of high school. It’s always in the back of my head that I needed to quit smoking. It’s never been something that I was totally happy with, and I was spending a lot of money on it.
I have calculated—hundreds of times, in fact—how much money smoking was costing me, but when I started using YNAB, it felt different. Immediately, it felt exactly how my brain worked. I decided to manually import every purchase—I was entering every transaction, every single time I bought a pack of cigarettes.
Cigarettes here are $7.95 a pack. July spending was $130. August was $110.
I didn’t budget any money to smoking in September, so that every time I was going to buy a pack, I would have to move that money from someplace else. This way, I had to face the fact that I was choosing my priority—I was saying, “OK, what are you going to choose to be less important than smoking today?”
Melissa’s Turning Point
On September 20th, I had already spent $130. I bought a pack of cigarettes, and I was looking through my budget categories to figure out where I could pull money from to cover this purchase.
I noticed there was money in my “pet care” category (for things like food and medication for my two dogs). But the thing is, my dogs—they are my whole life. They are the most important thing to me.
At that moment, I could see it so clearly: is this what I’m going to do? Choose cigarettes over my dogs? That’s not the person I wanted to be.
Then it just clicked.
I quit. I did not want to budget a single dollar more to cigarettes instead of the things I really cared about.
Melissa’s Revelation: Spending Represents Priorities
YNAB is the tool that finally pushed me over the edge to quit smoking. I was finally in control of my money and had to face the fact that my money can either go to A or B—what was I going to choose? Because I had to choose. Every time I spent a dollar, I’m making a choice about what is important to me. That was something I couldn’t have done any other way.
Sometimes you need to make the emotional connection—how your money is a representation of what is most important to you. Once I saw that I was choosing cigarettes over my dogs—that was the emotional tie I needed to really drive it home.
Inspired by Melissa’s story? Here’s what Melissa did and how you can follow her playbook to tackle your version.
- Set up a separate category group. Make it specific. (For Melissa, this was “Cigarettes”)
- Assign the “budgeted” to $0.
- Each time you want said vice, you must move the money from another category (over on the YNAB Facebook Fans group, they call this WAMing, or whack-a-moling. We love it). This forces you to prioritize, and for Melissa, what finally broke through.
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