15 Apr 2008
Cigars are almost always marketed toward an affluent crowd, or at least with affluence in mind. The major manufacturers in the industry assume that you are both willing to pay premium prices for premium sticks, and that you can. But those of us not in the investment banking trade can hardly afford to stock up on boxes of pricey Fuentes whenever the fancy strikes us. And, given’s today’s rocky consumer market and quite probable economic recession, it’s tougher than usual to maintain our expensive cigar hobbies.
But there’s a silver lining here. I see today’s adversity as the best education a stogie enthusiast can get. Let’s face it; most of us could stand to get better at managing a cigar budget. This recession might be precisely the kick in the pants we need to start spending and collecting responsibly. In that spirit, below I present five tricks that I’ve developed to help me get the best bang for my bear-market buck:
1. Take a course in personal finance and/or financial accounting at your local college. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know the basics of personal finance. Sadly, American schools – including most of the country’s best universities – are doing a piss-poor job teaching us how to keep our books and budgets in order. The next time you’re thinking about dropping $250 on a new appliance at Best Buy, think again. That quarter-thou is much better spent on an online or night course in financial accounting. You’d be amazed how much practical, lifelong value you can get out of such an investment. And when you buy your textbooks, buy them used.
2. Get smart about CBid. CigarBid.com, affectionately known as “CBid,” is a bargain hunter’s paradise. But it can be tricky. Always, always, always know the retail price of what you’re bidding on. That box of vintage Patels might look like a steal at $75, but once you factor in shipping costs, you’re roughly at the MSRP. It helps to keep two windows open on your browser: one for CBid, and one to run spot-checks on prices via Google, Cigar.com, CigarsInternational, Tinderbox, etc. Remember: You can only beat the market price if you know the market price.
3. Reverse-engineer a yearly “luxuries” budget. Developing a budget from scratch can be a daunting and often counterproductive task. Instead, take stock of all of last year’s expenses, then work backward. How much do you really spend each year? How much do you earn? What expenses can be cut? What allowances can be made? By building a template from last year’s budget, then whittling down unnecessary expenditures, you can develop a smarter and leaner budget for the year ahead.
4. Don’t get carried away. Nabbing great deals on CBid or in B&M bargain bins can be exhilarating. But know when to quit while you’re ahead. That $20 bargain might look attractive today, but five “$20 bargains” over the course of a week will be every bit as expensive as a one-time $100 splurge.
5. Find your inexpensive, everyday cigar. Discover your favorite cheap cigar. Now stock up on a box or two. Try to make these your go-to sticks for everyday (or every other day) occasions. Oftentimes, online retailers will sell wheels of 50 $1 sticks that are comparable to much pricier premiums. There’s no shame in smoking these house blends, especially when no one’s around to impress.
photo credit: Flickr