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Living the Cigar Life on a Frugal Budget – Part 1


We all know the economy hasn’t been the best these last several years, after the financial boom in the 90’s and the fizzle in the mid 2000’s. Everyone took excess to the highest points possible, just to watch it all fall back to earth and hit us with a dose of reality. Everything was overdone and extravagant. We bought mansions on credit. We took our cars to the extreme. I know you remember thinking about buying some 22″ spinners, didn’t you? Ok, I didn’t either.

The Good Life?

However, one thing that I’ll never forget from this time period was the emphasis that was put on living the “Good Life.” In fact I remember coming across one of the first issues of Cigar Aficionado where they started a section called the “Good Life.” In case you’re not up to date on your subscription, let me explain to you what it entails; simply, it showcases all the overindulgent things that you could buy if you have a few extra hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around burning a hole in your pocket.

Now let me say this, I’m a huge fan of this magazine and they are one of the reasons that I started my site. This particular section of their publication, however, doesn’t interest me at all. To me, their “Good Life” section targets a very small, very affluent demographic. It’s not for the average Joe or average cigar smoker. So excuse me when I don’t take the time to read about the time you bought a $25,000 humidor for kicks and grins. I can find hundreds of better things to do with that money.

With that said, I’m here to offer you my advice and my knowledge on how to live the cigar life on a frugal budget. There is no reason you can’t enjoy all the fine things in life without breaking the bank.

The Cigar Smoking Dogma

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. You don’t have to be of a particular race, income, or status to smoke cigars. Too often I see this stereotype played out in movies, magazines, and advertisements. You see the affluent, sophisticated, white male smoking a stogie in his rich mahogany man cave with his crimson leather back chair. Now, I’m not going lie to you, if I had some extra cash lying around begging to be spent the first thing I would look at is a custom man cave. But I don’t see a windfall coming my way anytime soon. So, as it stands right now you can find me smoking cigars in my 2 car garage sitting on a Coleman camping chair. Not quite as luxurious as the ads make it look is it, right? But you know what, I absolutely love it and wouldn’t change it. That’s my escape, that is my man cave. For me there is no better way to relax than sitting out there and reading a book or catching up with AoM on my Kindle and slowly drawing on a great cigar.

So get over the fear that you’re not going to fit in at a cigar bar. We’re all in there relaxing and enjoying these cigars together. In fact, it’s almost like a brotherhood. We even call ourselves Brothers of the Leaf (BOTLs).

Don’t Be Intimidated

Too often I talk to others online who say they are intimidated to smoke cigars or to even walk into their local cigar shop ( a brick and mortar, affectionately referred to as a B&M). They said when they walk into the shop they feel outcasted and unwelcome. I’m not sure if this is their particular shop or if they are just introverted people. I know personally, I’m a fairly introverted guy and I have to force myself to be social and talk to others at the shop. It’s very easy to hide behind a computer all day and forget how to interact with people. So going to the cigar shop is one way that forces me to interact with others that I typically wouldn’t. Once I light up a cigar, the next thing I know I’m talking to the guy next to me like we’re old college buddies.

How to Buy Cigars on a Budget

Now that the elephant is out of the room we can get on to the matter at hand. If you’re anything like me, you have to create a budget every month or else you’ll buy all sorts of pointless crap. Then you’ll be left scraping the bottom of the barrel at the end of the month just to pay the bills. I personally set aside $75 a month to buy cigars. Now to some of you this may seem like a lot, especially if you’re not an avid cigar smoker. However, I can assure you just like any other ‘lifestyle’ purchase, this can be gone in one fell swoop if you’re not careful.

Buy Online or Support a Brick & Mortar?

I’m going to tell you right now, I’ve never bought a cigar online. I’m not opposed to it, for many people it’s the only option to purchase cigars because they don’t have a local shop to go and purchase. I check out cigar deals everyday to see what’s available and if there are any “can’t miss” deals or boxes available. I’ve just never pulled the trigger on purchasing any. Truthfully, I enjoy going to the Brick and Mortar (B&M) too much. To me it’s like walking around in a grown man’s candy store. I love walking in and waiting for that first smell of tobacco to hit my nose. I feel like a modern day discoverer, looking around to see what’s new, what’s moved, and what’s on sale. I always want to be able to go into these stores and have this experience and that’s why I love to support my local B&M’s.

I do understand that it’s really difficult to pass up on some of the great deals out there online. If you’re an avid cigar smoker, you can save a ton of money by purchasing in bulk online. Especially if there is one particular blend or brand that you smoke consistently. There are some incredibly useful sites that have been created to help you find good deals on your favorite stogies and burn through your cash.

Great Sites to Find Deals

One of the best sites running right now that I enjoy browsing from time to time is Cigar Monster. It’s just like as they offer a new cigar deal everyday, and they offer multiple deals throughout the day. Another cool feature about this site is the option to “Name a Price”. I’ve fooled around with this a few times and offered some ridiculously low prices just to see if they would take them… They didn’t. I’m not sure what the lowest offer is that they typically take, but I’m sure it’s not below their wholesale cost. Either way, it’s another way to get some great deals on cigars in bulk if that’s something that interests you.

Cigar Monster
Cigar Monster

Cigar Auctions? Sure Why Not!

If you’re addicted to eBay there are also a few auction based websites for cigars as well. Cigar Auctioneer and Cigar Bid are two of the largest and more popular ones. I’ve personally never gotten into this. I feel like you don’t save that much money on the products on which you’re bidding. However, if you’re a master of auctions then this could be right up your alley. Personally, I would rather wait for them to come on sale rather than checking in on the auction all day long. The option is out there and available to you though.

So these options are great if you’re wanting to buy cigars by the box, but what about if you’re just looking to test out some new sticks or blends that you’ve heard about?

Sample, Sample, Sample.

Practically every site out there offers some sort of cigar sampler pack. I’ve seen them all, but to me the best sampler packs are available on Famous Smoke. They have a variety of sampler packs available. If you know you’re a medium body cigar smoker then they have a sample pack for you. If you know you like Robustos, they have a sample pack for you. If you’re looking for some dirt cheap cigars then they have a sample pack for you. They have gone out and created some samplers that can fit just about everyone’s budget and taste.

Alec Bradley Sample Pack

The options are nearly limitless for finding some great deals on cigars online. All that being said, how do you go about finding great cigar deals at your local shop? Well, it’s fairly simple. Unfortunately most shops don’t accept your Proctor & Gamble coupons that you receive in the Sunday circular. So you’re going to have to catch them when they’re having a sale or some sort of promotion.

In-Store Promotions

The cigar industry is a very unique industry. They still have salespeople that travel to stores and show love to their accounts. In some instances they will even throw cigar parties. At these parties there are often promotions going on. It’s the typical “buy three get one free” sort of thing. This is always a great time to search out a deal. Usually if you play your cards right and you’re a fan of the brand that’s throwing the party you can get a great deal on a box of cigars. I’ve gotten upwards of 40% off of a box at one of these events. They’re happy to do it because you know what? They’re moving product which makes them look good. Of course it always helps if you get the host a little liquored up! By the end of the night they’re usually wheeling and dealing. Now I’m not saying I’ve been the culprit behind this, but I have reaped the benefits a few times just by hanging around until the end of the night.

Becoming Buddies with the Help

In all honesty, the help at your local B&M will be your greatest ally. They will help you discover new cigars to try and if you get in really good with them they’ll start cutting you discounts. This is obviously harder to do if you’re not in the shop regularly enough for them to remember you. However, if you go in and make buddies with them, then there is always the chance they can start giving you the friends and family discount. Even if it’s 10 -15% you’re still saving money! That’s a W in my book.

Well that just about covers buying cigars on a frugal budget. Trust me there are many other avenues to cover, including storage, humidification, and accessories, but I want to leave you with one final thing: enjoy cigars and remember they are an artisanal product. If you’re smoking a premium cigar that was hand made by someone, it – in fact – touched many hands before you picked it up. So savor them, enjoy them, but above all respect them.

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4 thoughts on “Living the Cigar Life on a Frugal Budget – Part 1

  1. SpecAG

    your last comment about being an artisanal product is so true! And I think its often forgotten. Not on purpose mind you. It’s like the pro athlete making the move look easy. You love to see it, but you can’t do it yourself. It’s the same with hand made premium cigars.
    I had the chance to visit the Perdomo factory in Esteli, Nicaragua in Feb of 2012…. best, informative trip I ever have taken. My love of the leaf was enhanced 10,000 fold and appreciate even more what it takes to get it into my hand.
    That is why it is critical for the BOTL’s to pay attention to their state and the federal legislation pending. If any of the current efforts to curb or control cigar shops and manufactures succeed, well, it will be a very sad day and we will see the B&M’s disappear even more than they already have these past few year’s.
    Enjoyed your site.

    1. Eric Scism

      Couldn’t agree more! I can’t wait to go visit Esteli. I know i’ll walk away with a ton of knowledge!

  2. Travis

    Do y’all have any recommendations for someone who can’t afford a decent humidor? I have about 10-15 sticks that I want to take care of.

    1. Eric R. Shelton

      I bought a really cheap acrylic jar type humidor for my time in Afghanistan. I’ve got a nice humidor at home, but that $20-$30 cheapie worked just fine for my time “over there”. I just threw in a cheap water pillow refillable type moisturizer and used bottled water since better solutions weren’t available, then stored it in a dark spot like my locker. Inelegant maybe, but it worked just fine.

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