Are you thinking of getting a pet, or maybe you already have a pet? One of the biggest concerns pet owners experience with owning pets is the finances. Let’s face it, owning a pet is very similar to owning a child, except pets can be less expensive to have- sometimes! I have three dogs and a cat, and I was lucky enough to be blessed with two of my three dogs having severe allergies. This means expensive limited-ingredient premium pet food, medications, and paying close attention to them not getting into anything (including the other dog’s food or the cat’s food). And of course, they still must have treats like every other pet, so it’s the constant search for limited ingredient treats, chew toys, and things I can stuff their daily medication in so they will take their medication easily.
As I mentioned, owning pets can be kind of like caring for kids, right? If I didn’t include my pets into my financial plan and budgeting, I would be in a world of hurt. So, what does it mean to budget for your pets? What kinds of items should we consider budgeting for? What do pets need? Let’s discuss a few items that should be in your budget for your furry babies.
If you’re looking into getting a pet, be prepared for the up-front costs within the first few months:
Are you looking at a purebred dog or cat? Will you be adopting from a shelter? Or maybe adopting online from a social media posting or a classified advertisement? How much will it cost for you to get that pet- the adoption fee? My own opinion here- as harsh as it sounds, if you can’t afford the adoption fee (or the fee the breeder is asking for that amazing purebred pet)- you can’t afford to have a pet! Over even a few years of owning the pet, that adoption fee will seem small compared to the cost of keeping the pet and properly caring for the pet.
- Make sure you have all the supplies needed for your new pet, including bedding and containment, feeding and watering supplies, leashes/collars/ID tags, and toys/entertainment items.
- Is the pet up to date on necessary health care items such as vaccinations? Deworming? Depending on the area, don’t forget the Flea/Tick/Heartworm medications. Is the pet spayed/neutered?
- Are you adopting the pet knowing they have a health issue? Have you researched the costs potentially associated with the health issue?
- Did you know that there are certain breeds known to have certain health issues? If you are adopting a purebred animal, make sure to do the research ahead of time so you know what you could possibly experience down the road.
Why are you considering getting a pet? Or, with your current pets, what activities and hobbies do you share with them?
Will you be getting the pet to compete in pet-related sports such as agility, flyball, dog/cat shows, or something else? Don’t forget to include the cost of training/items needed to compete in this hobby.
- If you’re considering a dog, how are the pup’s obedience skills? Make sure to consider the time invested in properly training the pup as proper obedience will be needed for a positive and safe relationship with the pet. If you don’t know how to properly train your pet, consider the cost of obedience classes. They are affordable and fun! So many dogs are surrendered to shelters every day because they are not properly trained and exhibit behavioral issues that the owners don’t know how to address.
- How will you keep the pet healthy, both mentally and physically? If you work 10-12 hours a day, will you be up for exercising and playing with the pet before or after work every day? For dogs, there are also daycare or dog walking services available if you don’t want your pup to be cooped up that long during your work week- but again there is a cost for that.
- Consider your marital status, career status, and family situation when adopting an animal as well, if any of those dynamics could possibly change soon, how will your pet be affected by this and what accommodations might need to be made for this change?
Tips and tricks for minimal stress with budgeting
How do you budget currently? Do you have a monthly budget or a weekly/biweekly budget based on your income? Whichever way you budget, factor the costs of regularly purchased items into however you break down your budget time-wise. Example: If you organize the budget monthly, calculate the monthly cost of all the pet items for the month, even if you use them over a longer period than a month. That way, when it comes time to buy them again, you already have the money saved up. An example would be a six-pack of flea/tick/heartworm medication- you buy six months’ worth, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the money already saved up when it comes time to get that next six-pack?
- Include food and any regular medications your pet takes (even the flea/tick/heartworm meds if you live in an area that has those pesky parasites). You need to keep track of these items anyways so that you don’t run out of them when you need them.
- Check your pet’s schedule for regular preventative care, such as vaccines and dental cleanings, or the spay/neuter if they need it. Break those costs out into a monthly cost, that way when it comes time for them to be completed, you already have budgeted for them. If you don’t want to do this over the whole year, then give yourself 1-2 months before they are due, so you are prepared and it’s not such a big item for you all at once.
- Are there any other special needs for your pet that are regular or seasonal items? Training classes? Daycare or dog walking?
- I’m not sure if you include your pets during the holidays or not- but budget for it. If you buy your pets a present or new bed/other items for the holidays, put it in the budget with all your other holiday shopping items. If you are going away for the holidays, budget for the cost of taking the pets with you or having a pet sitter/boarding kennel watching them.
- Plan on replacing items such as bedding and toys occasionally due to wear and tear. You will know how often this needs to be done, put it in the budget for the appropriate time to purchase these items.
- Most importantly, have an emergency fund of some sort set aside for your pet. Emergencies are considered anything unplanned- whether it is a bad ear infection, broken tooth, or a true emergency- they can and will happen at some point in your pet’s life. This can also be a regular expense budgeted for. A minimum recommended amount for a pet emergency fund should be anywhere from $500- $1000.00 (total) in savings. In a true emergency, this would cover very minimal care but at least it is a start. I usually look at what I feel comfortable with as a yearly goal and put a set amount aside each month to go into the pet emergency fund.
Other ways to budget and save money with pets
- As we discussed- it is so important to have a pet emergency fund. I know most people discourage the use of credit cards, but if you are responsible enough, one way to have an emergency fund is to reserve one of your credit cards for a pet emergency fund if you do not want to save up the cash right now. And this will also ensure you don’t spend anything on the card in the meantime!
- There are several credit card companies that your veterinarian could recommend that offer a credit card for pet medical expenses, and they often offer 0% interest if the balance is paid in FULL within a promotional period. The catch is you must make sure you pay it off in that time frame to avoid penalties. And, of course, you will need to have a decent credit score to qualify for a credit card of any sort.
- Consider pet insurance. Yes, this is another item to include with the budget, but pet insurance can help offset the costs of pet healthcare greatly when it comes to accidents, injuries, or illnesses. Often pet owners will discover that the yearly cost of having the pet insurance policy is much less than even one vet visit.
- Does your veterinarian offer a pet wellness plan? If so, check it out. Wellness plans are usually packaged deals on wellness items for your pet such as vaccines, preventative medications, and even preventative screenings or dental cleanings, all for usually a bundled discount.
- Your veterinarian may also offer specials during certain times of the year, make sure you budget a few months prior to taking advantage of any special offers. A common “season” is Pet Dental Health Month in February- a lot of veterinarians celebrate this and offer a good discount on dental cleanings during this time. Start to budget for this a few months ahead of time.
- If your pet is on any medications or health supplements, shop around. Consider checking an online pharmacy or asking your veterinarian if you can get a generic medication, or perhaps a bulk discount if you purchased a larger supply. Also check online retailers for pricing on your pet’s food, even if your pet is on a prescription diet from the veterinarian.
- During the holidays and more-so AFTER the holidays is the best time to stock up on pet supplies such as new bedding or toys and treats as they are trying to close out all the pet supplies. OR, instead of “Black Friday” shopping in person (as that is insane!) shop online for some deals for your pets. You can also skip the pet stores- department stores and even warehouses like Costco or Sam’s Club generally bring in pet items around the holidays and they can be much more cost-effective than pet store items.
- Lastly, check local thrift stores for pet supplies. I know some folks frown on this idea, but a lot of department stores will dump their extra unopened items on the thrift stores to sell. Not everything at a thrift store is trashy. My husky will tear up any dog bed- so I must buy him comforters. He never tears those up for some reason! I get the comforters from the thrift store- throw them in a sanitizing cycle in the washer and they are good to go!
A happy budget and happy family/pets
Now you have some tips and tools for creating a killer budget when it comes to pet expenses. To summarize, start with a list of your pet expenses, break the list down by order and frequency of spending, and plug them into your budget accordingly. Give yourself a comfortable length of time to save up for larger expenses, and make sure to work that emergency fund in your budget as well. Add in the small occasional items when you have room in the budget and preferably when you can get them on sale. Owning a pet brings so much joy to our lives, but without a budget, it may feel very daunting with the upkeep and proper care of your pet! Don’t get caught without having included your pet-related items in your budget!
Do you have any great ideas on including your pets in budgeting or saving money with your pets, that I have not discussed? Let me know in the comments!