Still smoking? So are about 45 million other Americans. While you should really quit, if you are going to keep lighting up, at least make sure your money doesn't go up in smoke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report last week that fewer Americans are smoking, and 20 percent of those are smoking less daily than they did last year. Keeping up this bad habit can be expensive. I know – I’d been smoking for six years, a pack a day. It was my second-largest bill other than my rent. Almost $300 a month.
Where I live, gas stations usually sell my Parliaments for $6.99 a pack. Others charge more, but I’ve found my favorite spot based on both location and price. If you spend some time researching, you might be able to save a bundle on your cigarettes. Here are six ways to do that…
1. Buy online
The cigarette might be “made in Europe,” but for smokin4free.com’s $20.41 per carton of Marlboros, it’s worth it.
The station nearest to me sells the same carton for $56. That’s more than double the online price. Competitor bestcigarettesshop.com sells the same pack for about a dollar more than smokin4free.
Warning: Online stores often have a two-pack minimum requirement. Buying those two, however, is more likely to be cheaper than buying one from the store.
2. Buy from Native Americans
Indian reservations don’t have to charge tobacco taxes. And they often don’t.
Of course, state governments don’t like this too much, but they can’t do much about it, according to the Buffalo News, which recently reported a new Indian shop in New York that’s selling packs for about half non-reservation store prices.
To find the nearest Indian reservation, use our nifty Google formula: “[your state]+Indian+reservation.”
3. Buy cartons instead of single packs
If you like going to the store and grabbing a pack off the shelf, might as well buy a carton.
I said earlier that my nearest gas station sells single packs of Parliaments for $6.99. The cartons go for about $55, which gives me a $15 discount for every 10 packs I buy. Cartons will always be cheaper, but not always by the same amount. Check your local store for details.
Of course, buying a carton means you’re not quitting for at least 10 more packs. That used to discourage my friends and me, but it does save money.
4. Buy two packs at a time
In response to higher tobacco taxes, some manufacturers began offering double-pack discounts, usually about a dollar a purchase, or $0.50 off per pack. Problem is, these offers are usually only given for two or three brands in a given store, and they’re usually for the ones not selling well, according to the clerk at my nearest store.
If you’re only buying smokes for a night on the town or a weekend getaway, this is probably your best option.
5. Be mindful when you’re traveling
Different states impose different tobacco taxes. To see the average tax of packs in your state, check out tobaccofreekids.org‘s U.S. map of tobacco taxes.
I called up my buddy in New Orleans, who told me he buys packs for about $4 a pop. That’s $3 less than I pay here in Florida – and $7 less than my roommate’s New York friend pays.
If you’re on the road or in the air, keep in mind that a carton or two at a local store could save you big bucks.
6. Sign up for coupons
Karla from MTN’s Deals page won’t be telling you about these coupons!
They’re usually connected to giant pamphlets about sponsored events and non-tobacco purchases, and as Karla would tell you, always be careful about who has your mailing address.
Even as I tell you all this, I myself am trying to quit right now. If you’re not, this might be a good time to refer you to another Money Talks News post: How to Get Help Paying for Cancer Treatment.
Update (10/6/11): Got this email from a reader…
Please advise people before buying cigarettes online from another state or Indian reservation to check the penalties that their state may impose. Most online places you order from will ask your state because they have to report it to the state. Then the state contacts the smoker with a hefty fine. I MEAN HEFTY FINE. This is because they want their tax dollars. Indian reservations are ready to sell to customers but some in the state of Washington have lost their license to sell because they are not taxing people that do not live on the reservation. That is what it is like in Washington State. Don’t want you to be sued for misguiding the public. I know because I was fined and I knew a Indian reservation that lost it’s license. Hope this helps.