Owning a pet can be a dramatic, emotional journey. There’s no way around it. However, you don’t want financial pressure and stress adding to those already ramped up emotions. If you’re thinking about becoming a pet owner, it’s important that you carefully consider the financial costs of doing so first.
The good news is, you can certainly own a pet on a budget — as long as you go about the process thoughtfully. Here are some tips to help you cover all of your financial bases before you dive into the pet-owning journey.
Start with a Budget
Everyone needs a budget to help organize and oversee their finances. When considering a pet, it’s even more important that you begin the journey to pet ownership by addressing the budgetary side of things and assuring yourself that you can, indeed, afford to get a pet.
If you already have a budget, get it out and look for areas where you can put money aside for pet expenses. If you don’t have a budget yet, it’s time to make one:
- Calculate your income and expenses (including potentially having a pet).
- Set reasonable short- and long-term financial goals.
- Avoid adding to your debt.
- Adopt strategically thought out shopping habits.
Once you’ve established a solid budget, you’ll have a firm idea of how much money you can spend on a new pet.
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Factor Upfront Costs
The first year of owning a pet is always the most expensive. Petfinder.com puts the costs of the first year of owning a dog between $395 and $2,455. This includes buying their initial equipment, paying for heartworm, flea, and tick prevention, and covering adoption fees.
If you’re interested in a purebred pup, the costs can increase significantly. Either way, it’s important to add up the costs as you consider the breed, your vet, and where you’ll buy your initial pet supplies.
Remember the Essentials
Next up, you’re going to want to address the essential items that go into maintaining an animal year after year. In the above Petfinder.com estimate, the cost for owning a pet after the first year drops somewhat — although not much — to between $326 and $1,967.
In other words, the costs will continue to roll in over time as you pay for things like food, annual vet visits, and continued prevention medication. Once again, it’s important that you ensure that you can afford the costs in your own budget.
As a note of encouragement, part of the reason the ranges here are so large is because of the range in quality of some of the options. The truth is, you don’t need to spend $250 on a dog bed and crate. You can buy perfectly decent options for $100 or even less, although you may need to replace them sooner. You even have options when thinking about things like poop bags for walkies. If you want to take your responsible stewardship a step further, try You Buy; We Donate Poop Bags. You pay a little extra, but you’re also contributed to the replanting of trees.
Think About Your Own Added Expenses
While you may be focused on what your new dog or cat may require, it’s also important to consider what additional costs a new pet could add to your own life.
For instance, will you need to switch to disposable contacts or invest in eye drops due to allergic reactions? Will you need full-blown allergy medication? If you have kids, will you need to purchase an extra gate or two to keep the dog away from a baby or anxious toddler at certain times of the day?
There are many ways that a pet generates small, easily-missed expenses to your personal life, and these can certainly add up over time. Being aware of as many of them as possible before you get your new animal companion can help you stay within your budget.
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Replace Excess Spending with More Activity
At the end of the day, your pup really just wants you. Sure, that toy is nice, and they may scarf down a treat as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that an extra half-hour spent with you can mean the world to them.
With that in mind, if you find that you can’t afford to buy them rawhides every month or you can’t splurge on premium dog food, that doesn’t mean you can’t provide the best life possible for your pet. On the contrary, if you make an effort to replace a lack of toys or fancy food with more face-to-face time with your pet, chances are you’ll be giving them all they ever wanted, and all at an affordable cost too.
Consider Pet Insurance
The keyword here is “consider.” Pet insurance is often touted as a solution to all of your potential pet problems, but, in reality, pet insurance isn’t a panacea nor is it a scam. It’s simply another possible way to reduce your overall pet expenses. The age, size, and breed of your animal can significantly increase or reduce your pet insurance rates. In addition, the size of your pet insurance deductible can make a difference in your regular payments.
As with most regular insurance, pre-existing conditions won’t be covered, either. It’s also important to read the fine print to ensure that you know what other things aren’t covered under a particular policy. What does this mean for those trying to be austere with the cost of their pet? It typically boils down to one of two choices:
- First, if you find a good policy that covers your pet at a reasonable cost, you can work it into your monthly budget and rest assured that if something goes south you likely won’t be spending thousands of dollars to keep your best friend alive.
- Second, if you can’t find a good rate or you don’t want to spend money on a problem that doesn’t exist yet, hang onto your money and take the risk.
In the first situation, you need to make sure you can afford your insurance over the long-term. Paying for insurance when your animal is healthy and then bailing on it before something goes wrong is wasteful. If you opt for the second choice, it’s wise to set aside at least some of the money that you would have spent on insurance in order to help minimize the cost of any pet emergencies that might arise. If nothing ever comes up, you can eventually spend the money on something else.
Owning a Pet on a Budget
From cleaning up your budget to counting the costs and considering your potential pet’s overall quality of life, it’s important that you go into owning a pet on a budget with both eyes wide open.
If you do your homework and you’re confident that both you and your pet will have richer, more fulfilled lives through this decision, then don’t let the costs stop you. Dive into the pet-owning journey with confidence and expectation for the affordably good times that lie ahead.