The unconditional love you get from a pet is priceless, but keeping your beloved pets happy and healthy isn’t cheap. Here’s how to set a realistic pet budget and save money on pet care costs.
How Much Does It Cost to Own a Pet?
According to Rover.com, the annual cost of owning a dog can range from $650 to $2,115 a year—but many people spent a lot more. Cat owners don’t have to spend nearly as much. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance estimates that it costs about $634 a year to keep your cat fed and healthy.
On one extreme end of the spectrum, it costs the average horse owner $3,876 a year to feed and board their four-legged companion. On the other end, it costs about $50 to $70 a year to keep the average goldfish alive.
As a responsible pet owner, it’s important that you look at your household budget before you bring a pet home. That’s especially true if you don’t have a pet emergency fund set up to cover unexpected vet bills. You should never put yourself in a position of having to take out a high-interest loan or dip into your retirement savings to save your pet’s life.
With that having been said, there are plenty of ways to cut down on pet expenses without impacting your companion’s quality of life.
Adopt From a Shelter if Possible
When considering where to meet your new best friend, the question of “adopt or shop” is a hotly debated one. Many people feel that adoption is the only acceptable option, but make sure that the shelter or rescue group has taken care of vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and other basic health needs.
There’s no pet more expensive than a free one, especially if you’re taking in a stray. That’s not to say you should never do it but be aware that the veterinary costs will typically be much higher for a stray.
Pet-Proof Your Home ASAP
Pet costs don’t just include food, toys, and trips to the vet. Animals explore their environment and express their feelings using teeth and claws. If you don’t want your pet to chew up your laptop cords, scratch your floors or furniture, or knock over beloved keepsakes, then you need to pet-proof your home. While training your pet not to chew or dig is certainly possible, take responsibility for protecting your valuables.
Subscribe and Save on Food
The biggest annual pet cost other than veterinary care is food. Some pets may need a specialized or even medically supervised diet, while others can thrive on inexpensive store-brand kibble. Regardless of what food you choose to feed your pet, you can often save money when you buy it online and have it shipped to your house. Setting up a regular delivery can save you even more.
Store and Dispense Pet Food Properly
Pets can be finicky about their food. While some of that is due to the whims of our furry (or scaly) friends, it might be because of how you’re feeding them. Measure a single serving of food and present it at a regular mealtime. If your pet doesn’t finish the entire thing, then take the food away rather than letting it sit out. Dry food can go in a sealed plastic container, while wet food can go in a baggie in the fridge until the next mealtime.
Not only will your pet appreciate the fresh food, but you will also avoid inviting vermin into your home for leftovers.
Learn How to Train Your Pet Yourself
You don’t have to pay top dollar for pet training. In fact, you can learn to do a lot of it yourself. Think of it as a fun chance for you and your pet to learn together! The Spruce has a great rundown of basic obedience training and resources to help you get your new pet used to how things work at your home.
While dogs may require a certain amount of training to ensure that they’re safe and happy in your home, that doesn’t mean you can’t train other pets. Cats can be trained not to scratch certain pieces of furniture. Rats are very smart creatures that can be trained to play games and do tricks. Even rabbits can be harness trained to go on walks with you!
Help Your Pet Get Plenty of Exercise
A sedentary lifestyle is just as bad for your pet as it is for you. An active pet is typically a healthier pet, so encouraging your animal companion to play and go on walks is important. As an added bonus, pets who get enough exercise and stimulation are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems. You might just solve two problems at once—and save yourself money in the process.
See Related: 21 Financial Commandments to Follow in Your 30s
Cut Back on Toys and Treats
Yes, you want to spoil your pet. But let’s be honest: how often do they prefer the bag or box the toy came in over the toy itself? Pets are pretty easily amused, and you don’t need to spend a big chunk of your disposable income on new toys. It’s also easy to overdo it on the treats. Feeding the occasional treat is fine—especially if you’re doing obedience training or need to give your pet medication. However, treats are usually high in calories and shouldn’t replace a healthy diet.
Buy Supplies in Bulk
Buying pet supplies and food in bulk can save you a lot of money in the long run. Cat litter is typically much less expensive per ounce when you buy a larger container. Treats also cost less when you buy a big box instead of a smaller bag. With that in mind, don’t buy so much that you can’t carry the supplies home yourself! Also, be sure that you store pet food, straw bedding, seeds, and anything else that might attract vermin in sealed plastic containers.
Reconsider Pet Insurance
Should you get pet insurance? If your pet is relatively young and healthy, then the cost of pet insurance isn’t typically worth it. In fact, you’re better off putting money into a savings account for emergencies than paying a pet insurance premium. Many pet owners have been frustrated by limited policies and insufficient coverage, according to this in-depth guide by The Penny Hoarder.
Groom Your Pet at Home
Pet grooming can get expensive! A professional groomer can help your pet look and feel like a million bucks, and without their specialized equipment, it can be difficult to achieve the same results at home. You can invest in your own grooming kit—or you can stretch out the time between professional grooming sessions by regularly brushing your pet.
Despite what you might have heard, cats don’t actually need baths (unless they get into something nasty). Brushing your cat can help reduce hairballs, and clipping their claws will minimize the damage they can do to your furniture. Be very careful when clipping claws, however, as it’s easy to hit the quick by accident.
Shop Around for Medication
If your pet needs to be on long-term medication, you might be shocked by how expensive it can be. That price isn’t set in stone, though. Many vets charge wildly different prices for the same prescription. Even online pharmacies can offer a range of prices. Shop around for your pets’ prescriptions to get the best deal. Pet Meds is a great first stop but check around to make sure that you aren’t overpaying for anything.
Stay Ahead of Dental Care
Your pets can’t tell you when they have a toothache. Many of them will suffer in silence until the problem becomes too obvious to overlook, such as by losing weight, acting aggressive or lethargic, or breaking a tooth.
Some vets may not be equipped to handle pet dentistry, which means you’ll have to see a specialist. While you can’t completely avoid the risk of gum disease and tooth decay, you can help your pet’s teeth stay healthy. Brushing your dog or cat’s teeth is something you can do at home. There are also special dental treats that they can enjoy.
Limit Your Use of Pet Daycare and Pet Sitters
Pets are a lot like toddlers in some ways. They’re adorable, but they can also be a handful. That’s especially true when you need to go out of town. Cutting costs here is not a great idea. A good pet sitter earns their fees by taking great care of your beloved companion. If you’re planning to travel, then factor that cost into your trip rather than trying to find a bargain at the last minute. Setting up a pet sitting club with friends, family, or neighbors could be a good alternative—as long as you’re prepared to return the favor.
Get Your Pet Regular Check-Ups and Vaccines
One of the best ways you can save money on your pet costs is by preventing major health problems before they start. Regular check-ups, flea and tick prevention, and vaccine boosters should all be part of your pet’s routine. Rather than waiting until a problem strikes and then scrambling to come up with the money to cover it, help keep your pet healthy and happy year-round.