What Does Your $8.40 Do For You?

I walked into the grocery store yesterday behind a woman who turned to the head of the register line and snuck through. That was a clue to what she was buying, but I didn’t notice until I grabbed my mega chocolate bar and got in line behind her.

I know, I’m not supposed to be eating those right now, but I was weak.

The cashier said “Eight forty,” and that snapped me awake.


Eight dollars and forty cents for cigarettes that would last a day.

The government is taxing the crap out of those things to try and force people to quit.

We all know smoking is horrible for you. You can’t smoke in a bar, or most any other place people gather. Why? Because it makes people sick. Not just any sick. Lung cancer. Painful, agonizing death, sick.

Still, people smoke.

Before I got too high and mighty, I looked down in my hand.



Every time I drive to the store for one of these, or to Country Whip to get an ice cream sundae, I have a conversation with myself. It goes something like this:

“You know you shouldn’t do this.”

“It’s just one (insert highly-caloric indulgence here). I ran yesterday.”

“That photo is coming up in 40 days.”

“I’ll run tomorrow.”

“You’re just making it harder on yourself.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Like so many of our decisions in life, we talk about the rational aspects. The facts. The cost. The consequences. But what really matters in life when you get down to it is emotion. There is a reason I eat chocolate. It tastes good, but more than that it makes me feel good.

I’ve got a major neural pathway from my sweet taste buds to the big pleasure center in my brain.

I’m spoiling myself. Telling my body I love it even though I’m adding fat calories by the handful.

It would be better if I dug deeper to the reason I was going out for chocolate, but that’s not for the faint of heart. Sometimes my indulgence is a celebration, but more often something is bothering me and junk food is an escape. A signal to myself that it’s ok. I’m worthy.

At some level I believe these bad habits are really useful. In my case they help stave off worry about the future, book sales, or whatever peril I imagine my kids facing. When I’m done fattening myself up, I can go back to my day and cruise along.

I really admire those people who can turn a healthy habit into a reward. To substitute a long walk for chocolate or cigarettes. That relieves stress AND makes them healthier.

Kudos to them.

Years ago I worked for a company and one of the owners was really fond of saying, “Habit can be your strongest ally or your fiercest foe.” I’ve found this to be so true!

But can we really extinguish every bad habit?

Is there some good that comes out of being bad?  



35 Comments on “What Does Your $8.40 Do For You?”

  1. Censoring myself here because there are SO many things I could say to “Is there some good that comes out of being bad?” LOL I have to have my chocolate, but I keep M&Ms and Reece’s Pieces in the cabinet. When I need a chocolate fix, I go grab a handful. Both bags have been in the cabinet for several months. I have no idea where the will power comes from to only grab a handful every few days. (Next time try grabbing a regular size Hershey’s. Same rush, less junk.)

    • cjwestkills says:

      Someone told me that 80% of the enjoyment in decadent foods comes in the first two bites. I can never limit myself to two bites, but it is a great idea in theory.

      • Sue says:

        I agree, CJ. I can’t have it in the house because it calls to me until I cave … the only way I can avoid the bad foods I love is to leave them IN the grocery store……

      • Sue says:

        Oh, and by the way….the special dark is healthier for you than the milk chocolate kind (that’s a bonus from my point of view)…… : )

  2. Pam Stack says:

    CJ – here’s what I’ve learned in life. It’ so simple. Your strength is also your weakness. Roll with it. I have nothing profound to add to your profound words of wisdom.

  3. Shelly says:

    Well, the tobacco industry has been a good job source for many years – until all this regulation and taxation – which has driven tobacco companies to build plants overseas. And yet people still smoke – and we send these jobs away.

  4. shoutabyss says:

    I heard someone in front of me at the grocery store and pay $7.19 for a pack of cigs and I thought that was nuts. Wow.

    $8.40 for 30 days is an incredible $252. A month!

    For a whole year, that’s a whopping $3,066. I’d do almost anything for that kind of pocket change. For an average American that could be 10 percent or more of their entire after-tax budget.

    Of course, this assumes only one pack a day. For many the expenditure could be even higher. I have no knowledge about cigarettes but I imagine there may be “hot” deals out there. I don’t know if that’s a typical price or an atypical price.

    By the way, you can give up the chocolate. It’s hard but possible. I went hardcore on granulated sugar, soda and sweeteners in drinks. It’s still shocked I’ve been successful. Next up: Ice cream.

    • cjwestkills says:


      It is amazing how much that amounts to! Thanks for doing the math for us. That’s a huge number.

      I’m doing okay on my diet. I’m working out like a fiend for MANday!

      Good going on yours. I hope you’ll check in on Fridays when I talk about my progress.

  5. Cat says:

    REALLY thought provoking. So, I’ll only add this:

    Eating a chocolate bar now and then, if you’re a healthy individual, will NOT KILL YOU. Eating candy bars, in place of dinner can lead to other non-healthy habits that can kill you however. Eating a candy bar today is not going to hurt your “neighbor” either. So, moderation is the key.

    People don’t smoke a cigarette now and then. They smoke all the time. Smoking is PROVEN to kill. Even if they did smoke only occasionally, forcing someone else (like me) to breathe their smoke is insensitive and un-healthy for others.

    In my mind, you’re talking apples and oranges.

  6. wolfshades says:

    A food friend of mine said something true (she was quoting someone else – I have no idea who):

    At our base level, we are motivated by two things. Pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. Avoidance of pain is the motivator when your doctor says that you will die if you don’t quit (xxx).

    I lost a lot of weight while in pursuit of an acting career. Then, when I had a falling out with my agent, the pounds crept back on. So you’re right: it’s important to look at the motivators, beyond just the momentary high.

    I love wine but will curb the impulse to drink any if I want to out for a drive somewhere. Doesn’t seem like such a pleasurable thing then.

  7. CJ, I’m going to make a guess here, but if you’re buying dark chocolate to snack on (I’m going by the photo you put up), that’s not too bad of an addiction to have. There are TONS of benefits in eating dark chocolate.

    PS: Don’t beat yourself up over indulging in chocolate, or anything for that matter. You’re only human, and there’s a reason why chocolate is referred to as a “natural anti-depressant’.

    • cjwestkills says:

      Chocolate is my anti-depressant of choice!

      I am beating myself up because I need to lose weight for this photo coming up.

      • Unless all you’re eating is chocolate? I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s nothing wrong with the treat. Don’t beat yourself up for being human, and love you the way YOU are… That’s a lesson I struggle with every day after my 4 abdominal surgeries and 3 pregnancies (oddly enough, I smile at my stretch marks and glower at my surgical scars). BUT, one of my favorite quotes is, “There is true beauty in imperfection.”

      • cjwestkills says:

        That’s true. Right now I have a goal. It is short term and I am determined to make it.

      • No beating yourself up! First of all, there’s the 80/20 rule (no, I didn’t make that up). If you eat right 80% of the time, you can eat junk every now and then. You’re also exercising more so that’s another plus. And, do you really think we’re all so shallow that we only want to see a half-naked guy if he looks like Mr. America? No, we’re just shallow enough to want to see any guy half-naked as long as he doesn’t look like Homer Simpson.

      • cjwestkills says:

        I REALLY hope I don’t look like Homer Simpson.

        Laughing at that one.

  8. Kelly Cleveland says:

    C.J, while what you say rings true, my bad habit, smoking, (I don’t pay $8.40 per pack) is what I was in the processing of getting over, when my husband passed away suddenly, it was my outlet to help me through it. While I do know that it is bad for you and others around you, that is why I don’t/didn’t smoke around others. Some people do things, habits, be they good or bad, to help them cope with what life throws at them. Not saying that it’s the right way to go, but we are human and do have flaws. We can not all be perfect and if we were, life would be very predictable . Though I am proud to say that I am now on my way to being an ex-smoker.


    p.s. I needn’t think you should worry about your little bit of dark chocolate.

    • cjwestkills says:


      I wish you the very best. Your message hit the intent of my post exactly. There are things going on in our lives that drive our bad habits, in your case maybe only temporarily.

      Do take care and good luck quitting!

  9. One of my goals with this cleanse is to change my rewards from food to other things like going to the movies, getting apedicure etc, but these are SO much more expensive then a simple cady bar. I’ll need to come up with something else. Something that is cheap or free and is still a reward.

    • cjwestkills says:


      A great reward is a walk through a park or along the beach. In most cases it is free AND it is good for you. You can clear your mind and get healthier at the same time. A reward that improves you. How cool is that!

  10. poworker43 says:

    For some reason I thought of Miss Piggy when reading this and she once said, “Never eat more than you can carry.” So I figure a chocolate bar here and there – I should be able to carry that. lol
    Good thoughts though and if they ever start taxing chocolate then I’m in trouble!

  11. Ann White says:

    Thinking about addictions, as a hospital chaplain I was called to console a man weeping because he was going to die because of his diabetes. I asked him if that’s what the doctor said. He said, “yes……..if I don’t change my ways.” obviously I said, “well if you change your ways, what’s the prognosis?” he said: “I could live 30 more years.” The man was already in his 50’s. At first I thought it was a no brainer. But then I thought of myself carrying extra weight when we know the concept to lose it is so simple, it’s the practice and chocolate that get in the way. So I sort of understood.

    • cjwestkills says:

      It is so hard to change our habits!

      I joke about my chocolate addiction, but I know it is a serious issue for some. Diabetes and heart disease kill many people and if we could modify our diet and get some exercise, we could give ourselves a chance to live happier healthier lives.

      That is one of the reasons for my Friday MANday series. Not only for myself, but to inspire those who follow along and exercise with me.

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