Buying Term Life Insurance, or, How We Quit Smoking

Photo by vwallac

What do smoking and term life insurance have to do with each other, aside from the obvious one-makes-the-other-more-expensive correlation? In my life, plenty.

In February of 2006, still newlyweds, we made our first appointment with our commission-based financial planner to go over our finances and areas of risk. The outcome of that meeting was that we signed up for term life insurance policies. Because we were in our mid-twenties and healthy, the policy had a very low cost to us, and I’m still glad we did it.

Our advisor looked at us when filling out the paperwork and asked, “Are you smokers?”

I didn’t miss a beat, answering, “Nope.”

Jason didn’t say a word. Of course, we were given a lower rate because we were non-smokers.

Here’s the part I’m ashamed of: I LIED. Definitely not one of my finer moments.

We were both smokers. I’m not sure when Jason started, but I’d been smoking regularly since my sophomore year of college.

What I didn’t realize was that, at the end of our appointment, our advisor explained that someone would make an appointment and come to our house to do blood and urine tests to confirm how darn healthy we were. He advised us to eat pretty healthily and to avoid alcohol the day before the tests. I started to panic.

Needless to say, we went home, fired up the internet, and spent a stressful evening trying to figure out how long nicotine and other chemicals from cigarettes remained in us.

The answer: 72 hours.

But it’s the internet, and we had lied, and there was money at stake. And we didn’t know when our testing appointment would be (turned out it was almost two weeks from that day). So that very night we smoked our last cigarettes.

I’d tried to quit many, many times before. Smoking is expensive, and I’d always had low-paying jobs with nothing left over at the end of a pay period. Not smoking would have freed up a lot of money (to me).

None of those times had stuck. My previous long-term boyfriend had smoked, and most of my friends smoked, as well as my mom and much of my family. This meant that most of my social and home situations involved cigarettes, and had for a very long time. My husband and I had developed rituals around smoking, both together and apart. The first cigarette of the morning with coffee, taking breaks from work or schoolwork to have a smoke, smoking in the car, while waiting for the bus, at a bar with friends. You get the idea.

This time, Jason quit with me.

Those first days were awful, with headaches, stomachaches, and so grumpy that we were really angry all day. We bickered, avoided as many social situations as we could, ate granola bars, nuts and carrots non-stop, and just tried to get through it.

I was definitely the weaker of the two of us, and almost gave in once that I can recall in that time before our testing appointment. Jason said something so powerful that it became our mantra:

“The nicotine is long gone–we’re only battling ourselves now. Do you really want to go through this hell ever again?”

We’d read online that after 72 hours you’re no longer battling the chemical withdrawal, you’re battling your own body’s addiction.

After our testing appointment was over, there are at least two or three times that I was ready to buy a pack of cigarettes, and I think I even had one that I begged from a friend. Each time, I reminded myself how hard it had been, how awful I had felt and how terrible EVERYTHING was for over a week. And I reminded myself that I didn’t want to go through it again, in a million years.

I also sat down and ran the numbers: Assuming $3.75/pack in 2006 and one pack/day, even though I smoked more than that very often, I was spending:

$26.25 each week

$105 each month

$1260 each year!

That’s still a lot of money to me. Remember that I often smoked up to two packs each day, so this could probably have half added again, for a total of $1890/year! And I can remember times I was eating beans for the 30th night in a row because I was broke, but could still buy cigarettes. This makes no sense to me now.

I should add in here that both of our term policies cost us a total of $48.24 each month. So the smoking I’m not doing smoking pays for both our policies AND we’re still saving money!

The moral of the story: I’m ashamed and sorry that I lied on that term life insurance application, but it helped us do something that I’m not sure we would have done on our own at that stage in our lives. Oh, and another upside? We’d never celebrated Valentine’s Day, but for the last six years we’ve celebrated our own special holiday on February 23, our Quit Smoking Anniversary.


Have you ever calculated the cost of your addiction? Maybe I should figure out what coffee was costing me when I was addicted to it!


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