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Stogie Tip: Enjoying Cigars in a Recession

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 pCigars in a Recessionricey 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., 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,, 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.

Jon N

photo credit: Flickr

23 Responses to “Stogie Tip: Enjoying Cigars in a Recession”

  1. Mac and Nudo Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 3:35 am #

    Lot's of great advice here. Thanks for this gem of a post, and keep on keepin' on through these somewhat turbulent times…

  2. Jon N. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 4:26 am #

    Thanks! 🙂 I find Tip #2 to be especially useful these days, because Cigar International isn't always incredibly honest about MSRPs in its CBid listings. They might list a box of relatively unknown stogies on CBid as being "MSRP: $200," but they'll be selling that same box for $45 on Such cases are all too frequent, which makes doing your due diligence a necessity.

  3. Duane Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 6:44 am #

    damn, i wish i wouldve read this the week before i discovered Cbid for the first time and nearly spent $500 on cigars! ! its like the ebay high, things just seem waaay more fun if you're winning em…Coming off a "high", I realized too late that I paid nearly double the price for a 5-pack of Rocky Patel vintage 1992's – AND they were seconds. Guess my testosterone-rich competitive side really needs to take a backseat to common sense. Thanks Jon!

  4. Jon N. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 7:47 am #

    Duane: I think CBid plays off of that very testosterone-fueled competitive streak that you describe. It's very easy to be driven by emotion on a site like CBid — whether it's the (emotional) need to beat out competitors, or the (emotional) need to find what you think are bargains. Turns out that both of these emotional needs are counterproductive to good bargain hunting. The competitive drive causes us to drive up prices, and the bargain-savoring need causes us to lose sight of actual prices and/or the cumulative effect of so many "bargains" over time.

    The best three bits of advice I can give for using cigar auction sites are: 1) Go in with a set budget and do not exceed this budget; 2) Always know the retail prices of what you're bidding on; never leave anything to chance; 3) Factor in shipping costs for each purchase.

  5. Jon N. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 7:50 am #

    Another quick bit of advice, actually, and one which should probably come as second nature to many of us by now: better to have a few really good cigars than a great many mediocre cigars. A five-pack of nice sticks is preferable to a 25-count box of crappy ones. Sure, there are occasional diamonds in the rough to be discovered — but by and large, if you've never heard of a brand before, there's probably a good reason for it.

  6. George E. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    Excellent advice. I would add only two thoughts:

    — Oscar Wilde's warning about the dangers in knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing, and

    — Coming off your last comment, there's Zino Davidoff's advice to smoke less but smoke better.

  7. George E. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    Well, as I continued to think about this I do have another point to raise. It plays somewhat off the comment by Wilde I referred to previously. Don't get so caught up in saving a little money on the Web that you ignore your local B&M. Remember, these shops are susceptible to economic downturns as well. And if cigar smokers don't support them now, they are likely to be gone in the future. I've talked to a number of owners who say they are already feeling the pinch. We need to buy cigars at the great shops who help us all enjoy cigars.

  8. Jon N. Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    George: I agree completely re: B&Ms. The advantages of shopping at an actual store vs. shopping online are many. For one thing, you can develop a friendly relationship with the owner of the local store, and this relationship will, over time, pay off with great recommendations, the occasional freebie, some loyal customer deals, etc. But the real advantage, and one that online retailers will never be able to emulate, is the ability to see, smell, and feel (gently) the cigars up close before committing to them. You know exactly what you're buying when you can inspect a cigar physically. Obviously you can't do that online, so you're always taking a bit of a gamble and hoping your shipment arrives undamaged and without obviously flawed sticks inside.

    That said, online auctions and retailers do have their place. Generally, if one is smart about CBid, one can get some truly phenomenal deals every now and then. But the key word here, obviously, is "smart." It's very easy to lead yourself astray on CBid, as discussed above.

  9. Jerry @ Stogie Revie Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 8:38 am #

    Great article and great dialogue between George and Jon!

  10. TriMarkC Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    I’m a little late to comment on this article, but I found it very informative! I especially like the tip and follow-up comments to #2. I’ve bid a few times, and the one piece of advice I would add would be to read the unit count and the type of auction very carefully. Dutch auctions and standard auctions are two very different things!

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