Home Podcast Top #23: How to Budget and Save Money on Dogs

Top #23: How to Budget and Save Money on Dogs

When adopting your dog, you'll have to factor in the yearly costs that come with it – vet bills, grooming, food, and more. Some of the predicted prices of pet ownership out there may seem scary to future dog owners, but it doesn't have to cost an arm an a leg if you know how to budget.

Most often, pet owners unknowingly waste money on things and in places where they could've saved, so in this podcast episode, I'm going to talk about how to save money on your dog budget. We'll discuss emergency fund, food and supplies, vet costs and more.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

How to Budget and Save Money on Your Dogs?
(raw podcast transcript)

How to Budget and Save Money on Dogs

[00:00:19] This week I am talking about the most commonly asked question that I am ever asked by pet owners and it is how do you save money caring for your dog? Everybody is on a budget. We're all on a budget, summer tighter than others but everybody wants pets. They want to have the companionship, they want to have the fun of having a dog and being able to go out and explore and walk your dog have that companionship, with that love and that just that furry family member that really adds to your family. There's no other way to explain it.

Having an animal whether it's a cat or a dog, a horse, it adds something to your family that you can't get any other way. So, I am always being asked how can I save money? How can I cut money out of my pet budget? How can I stay on top of my pet budget? What can I do to make this more feasible for our family? And I'm often asked this by first-time pet owners, I'm often asked this by seniors who are on a budget. I'm often asked this by families, who want to have more than one pets. You know having more than one pet can be very beneficial. They you know enjoy being around each other sometimes there's you know if you have multiple say kids in your family and you want to get a couple of dogs. So, you know there's responsibilities for every kid.

[00:01:44] You know you have two kids, you are two dogs. So, that they each have their own dog. They can each take a dog for a walk and do that stuff. Whatever the case may be there's so, many reasons that people are looking to cut budgets. Right now, you know the economy's tough, people are losing jobs, the jobs that are out there aren't paying as well as the jobs that some people have lost. So, they need to make adjustments in their budget. But nobody wants to have to get rid of a pet to make your budget work and make ends meet every month. So, let's jump right into it.

I have six things that I want to talk to you about. So, their brief overview here is we're going to talk about your budget. You need to find and maintain your budget. Number 2: is going to be to set up an emergency fund for your pet. So, when those things come up like veterinary unexpected expenses; you're not having to max out credit cards or borrow money. Number 3: you want to look at ways to save on pet supplies, which would be things like bedding, toys, that kind of stuff, leashes and collars. 4: you want to look at ways to save on treats. 5: We want to look at ways to save on food. And then 6: is the dog care expenses or the pet care expenses, things like grooming, pet sitting, stuff like that. So, let's jump into it.

[00:02:57] Number one: your budget you need to be thinking about your budget when either if you are thinking about adopting a pet or if you have a pet but it's not fitting into your budget. You know the caring of the pet. So, the first thing you need to do is really sit down think about your budget; look at the things that 1st, look at the things that stay the same every month. Things like your rent or your mortgage, car payments, things that are the same every month. You have to pay them and you know 100 % exactly what that cost is going to be. So, list all of those things, then you're going to list the things every month that you have to pay but you are not sure exactly how much they're going to be. Things like electricity bills, those you know change every month but you can kind of figure out an average ballpark of what they are.

So, that's what you're going to do next is that things that aren't always the same but you can ballpark it. And what you want to do with those things is go on the high side. So, if your electricity bill sometimes is down around $60 but some months it's up around 100. You want to go with that hundred dollars every month because you don't want to underestimate. And then that's going to add; you're gonna have to take some money out of another area of your budget to make up for that. So, if you can go on the high side on those months that it's $60 you're going have an extra $40, that you can tuck away into an emergency fund, savings account something like that. But you know on those months that it's $100, you're not going to have to be making up for that.

Look at your budget, figure out those things that you need to pay every month the things that are always the same. The things that aren't always the same but have to be paid. Things like credit card bills, need to go on their cell phone bills. Any loans that you might have whether it's a vehicle payment or personal loan, anything like that that has to be paid every month needs to go down on a piece of paper. You figure out how much you're spending every single month on these things that absolutely, have to be done. And then you want to take into consideration the things that you have to buy like groceries for your family, gas for your vehicle, things that you buy every month that don't have a set expense.

You don't necessarily have to pay them you don't necessarily have to buy groceries. You know if you have stuff leftover from last month you can you can make it work. But you know things that come up that aren't 100 % have to pay. But you do they do pop up and you do have to pay them. So, you take that into consideration and then what you're going to do is you're going to have pretty much a ballpark figure of what your expenses are every month. And think about every little thing if you change the oil in your car every month and you drive through one of those places that cost you 30 or 40 dollars to drive through. If you buy lunch for work every month think about that stuff while you're making out your budget.

[00:05:52] Think about things can you cut certain things, can you cut buying lunch every day and bring your own. So, think about that get your budget under control and then you figure out how much you make every month, subtract what you have to spend out and you've got this discretionary income we call it. So, that's money leftover that you can use to go out to dinner, to go to the movies. It's the money where your budget is going to come in. So, you obviously don't want to use every dime of your discretionary income. Look at it. Figure out can I spend $200 a month, can I spend $100 a month, can I spend $500 a month, whatever it might be. You want to figure out what you can comfortably spend on a pet or multiple pets every month. And that becomes your pet budget.

This pet budget now don't say you know; why have $200 of discretionary income. So, I'm going to spend $20 a month on my pet, you're not going to be able to be a pet owner for $20 a month. You need to consider food supplies, treats, care for them. $20 month isn't going to cover it. So maybe, you need to rethink things if you don't have a pet already. This is the time to look at things honestly and say this isn't the time for me to have a pet. I don't have the money in my budget right now. So, then go back to your budget look at what can I do? Maybe right now, maybe in the next three months, six months, one year, I want to be a pet owner.

[00:07:18] These are the things I need to do. I need to pay down credit card debt. So, I'm not having to spend that much every month. You know next year I'm going to be paying this car off. So, I need to be you know looking at that how long can I drive this car? How long am I comfortable driving this car? You know before I'm going to I have to take out another car payment? Can I look at a car payment that's cheaper thing? All of these things that you can look at but in order to responsibly take care of that you need to think about your own budget and figure out what you can realistically spend on your pet every month. So, that's your budget. You've got that down.

Now, let's talk about a pet emergency fund because every single pet owner whether you have a cow, a horse, a pig, a dog, a cat, a hamster. You need to be thinking about a pet emergency fund. Now obviously the pet emergency fund for a hamster or a bird or a rabbit is not going to be to be nearly as much as an emergency fund for a dog or a horse. So, take that into consideration. What pet Do you have? What's a reasonable emergency fund going to be? Now let's just say dogs and cats because that's those are the most common pets that people have. So, what's you’re probably thing yourself Samantha. What, should I have? What ballpark figure should I have for a pet emergency fund because nobody knows? You could take your dog or your cat to the vet and they might need a $1500-$2000 surgery. You might take your pet to the vet.

I'm going to give you an example one of our cats had to just go to the vet a few months ago. He is double pawed and one of his paws is actually right in the middle of two toes. It is how it grows in and it grows and it curls in and around and grows back into his pocket. Something that is totally random. It's not very common. It doesn't happen often but it happened to our cat. It costs us. He had one of those claws on each of his front paws that needed to be removed. So, they had to sedate him and remove those claws. That was a $650 surgery that we never would have imagined.

One of our cats would have needed because I've never known a cat that needed that type of surgery before. So, I comfortably we feel like a thousand dollars for a cat is a good emergency fund. If something like that comes up you know you can dip into your emergency fund for things like spaying and neutering. You can dip into your emergency fund for things like you know a broken leg or in our example a claw growing into a paw that you never thought coming. It can be for things like if your dog or cat maybe is not eating maybe, there is a tumor growing and you need to have that tested to find out if it's cancerous or not. So, for me, a thousand dollars is a good comfort a good buffer as far as our cats are concerned.

[00:10:06] For dogs it really should be up more up close to that $2000 Mark. You really should have a couple thousand dollars just sitting in that pet emergency fund. And then you know if you're talking about say okay, we've had a dog in the past that had torn his ACL and needed that repaired at three years old. This Labrador tore his ACL and that was a $2000 surgery and his recovery and all of the medication was about $2000. We had that in our emergency fund so, we didn't have to go charge it on a credit card and pay interest. We didn't have to scrounge and look for family members to borrow money from. We didn't have to deal with any of that. It was in the bank we were ready to go. Our dog got the care that he needed. We didn't have to wait. Some people have to wait.

If your dog has a tumor. They may have to wait a few months before they have that tumor biopsied and tested to see if it's cancerous. In that time you have no peace of mind because you're worried your dog might be uncomfortable depending on where the tumor is growing and things could be getting worse if it is a cancerous tumor. Things are developing and growing and changing and you're not able to help your pet at that time because you don't have the money. So a pet emergency fund is an absolute must for every pet owner. You know those are just my personal comforting ballpark figures. You need to think about it for yourself.

[00:11:26] What can you feel comfortable having in the bank for your pet that you feel is going to cover most general emergencies. And even if it won't cover it let's say your dog ends up having a tumor. The tumor needs to be biopsied it comes back that its cancer. You have a young dog they recommend chemotherapy or some kind of cancer treat. It's maybe going to cost you 3 or $4000 you will only set aside $2000. Maybe what would have happened. Let's say the surgery. All of the care for your diet is going to be $4000 with a 3 or 4-year-old dog even though your dog is young. You might look at that if you have zero dollars in the bank and say we can't afford this, we can't afford to put on a credit card. We can't borrow it from family members and we can't afford that.

So, you have to have your dog put down at the age of 3 or 4 years old. Whereas if, you've got $2000 in the bank already you can say okay, we've got half of it. So, now we can put the other half on a credit card we can borrow the other half from family members. We can make this work and we can have our dog that's only 3 or 4 live another eight or 10 years and we can afford this. So, it is something that's really important even for more major surgeries that are going to cost money. It's important for the little things that come up that you're not expecting. So, a pet emergency fund absolute necessary.

[00:12:52] Let's move on to number 3: on my list which is saving on supplies. 1st of all first time pet owners, seasoned veterans. We all see things that we want to buy for our pets that we do not need. They're cute, they might be convenient. It might be something that's going to save us a little time. It might be something that's going to make our pets happy. You know whatever the case may be you don't need to buy every single thing you see for your dog. If you have a Labrador retriever and he is a double coated dog who sees plenty warm when it's cold out. He doesn't need that jacket, even though it looks so cute and you just can't wait to dress him up. He doesn't need it. So you need to think about the number one thing this applies as do we need it.

Is it an expense that we need? If it fits into your budget. And it's not a necessity but you got the money in your budget to do it. It's okay, you should still think about it and consider what's the best thing to do? You know you spend $20 on the jacket or do you squirrel that $20 away into your pet emergency fund. These are things to think about. But if it's in your budget it's up to you at that point whether it's a necessity or whether it's something that you don't need and then whether you choose to buy it anyway even if you don't need it. If the money is there that's your choice. If the money is not there you shouldn't be shopping for extra things you need to think about the things that your dog has to have and start from there.

Hopefully, if you can cut back if you're a dog owner that has a pet already if you're cutting back you're saving a little bit of money and maybe you can get to a place in the future. Where your budget is not so tight and you can start buying those unnecessary things again. If you're a first-time pet owner not buying those unnecessary things is going to allow you to get that emergency fund built up. It's going to allow you to have some wiggle room in your budget to play around with a little bit. Especially, as a first time pet owner. You know that's really important. So, think about whether you need it, whether it's necessity; things that you do need.

You can save where you can and that's really important to think about things like dog beds, dog toys. They're necessities but you can make them yourself for much; excuse me, cheaper than what you can buy them for at a pet store. Jump online, if you're say you know you're getting a new job. You want a dog bag, jump online and just type in DIY dog bed, DIY dog toys. You will find a million different videos and articles showing you how to quickly, easily and affordably make your own dog supplies. I have my dog toys out of old socks and bottles. That is one of our dog's favorite things. If you put an empty water bottle inside an old tube sock that is their favorite thing in the world to chew on. It makes a crinkling noise it's soft on the outside. I tie a knot in the sock.

[00:15:48] So actually tie a couple of knots in the sock and that gives them something to chew on as well. That's softer and squishy. They love those and it cost me absolutely nothing because 1: I'm going to throw that sock in the trash. And 2: we have water bottles in our returnable. I live in the state of Maine. So, we can we can return our bottles for our 5 cent deposit I know you can't do that in every state. So, anyway we do save our old bottles here in Maine. So, we have bags of bottles that we collect and then turn in you know after you have a bunch of them but it's we have the bottles laying around anyway. We have the socks that are just going to go in the trash. So, essentially, I don't spend any money on those and things I've already purchased that I would have I would just be throwing out.

Dog poop bags is another thing of course we all need it you take your dog for walks you go to the public park whatever the case may be. You can use old shopping bags and you don't have to use just won't cut them into pieces cut them in half. If you have a very small toy breed. You can cut them probably in quarters and use that plastic to scoop the poop instead of expensive dog poop bags you can use old newspapers. If you subscribe to the newspaper, you can use old newspapers to clean up your dog’s waste. So, there are ways to save and think about step outside the box get creative with it. Where can you save money on things that you have to buy but you can cut some of those expenses and then the last tip that I want to give you on saving on supplies is to buy second hand. There's nothing that says that to be a good pet owner you have to buy brand new supplies for your dog.

If you are looking for a dog crate and you're only for example in our house, we create our dogs when they're puppies when we're house training and that's it. And after that we don't really use the crate. We still have one crate in our living room that's open all the time we use it as a little den a little hideaway for her dog. But they don't have to go in there when we're not at home anymore they're house trained. So, we use the crate for six months maybe a year. If our dog is a tough one to train and that's it. So why go out and buy a new crate for one, two, $300. When you can buy a second-hand crate for 25, $40, $50. I see them all the time. Somebody selling them on Facebook. You can buy them used on E-bay or Amazon. There is absolutely nothing in the rule book that says that dog owners have to buy brand new products for their dog. So, keep that in mind.

[00:18:08] Now let's move on to number 4: which is treats saving money on treats. First of all, make your own treats. They are so much cheaper than buying in the store. For example, jerky treats, a lot of times are for the higher quality, the good quality ones, are upwards of $10 a bag and you might get enough treats to last a few weeks for pennies per treat. You can make your own treats, right at home in a dehydrator or your oven. Go to your local butcher. You can often find products like chicken liver or beef liver. Any kind of organ meat that the butcher is not going to use or sell. They may either give it to you for free or very cheap.

Bones are the same way sometimes local butchers will give you bones for your dogs or they will sell them to you very cheap. So, go to your local butcher or talk to them. Let them know that you have a dog, you're on a budget and you're looking for what they can give you that's fairly cheap. So, organ meat is actually great. It's extremely healthy. And of course, marrow bones a lot of dogs. Dog owners let their dogs chew on marrow bones. So, go to your local butcher and talk to them about that first. Make your own treats at home you can buy again.

Jump on online and look for dog treat recipes, on our sister Web site; topdogtips.com. I post recipes every week on there and there are tons of recipes that you can make very cheap at home. You can cater them to your dog's needs and they are so, much cheaper and healthier than the treats that you can buy in the store. You can also dehydrate vegetables at home sweet potatoes is a great one sweet potatoes are a super food for a dog and you can dehydrate them at home either in a dehydrator or in your oven. They last a long time and they are great healthy treats for your dog.

[00:19:49] So, look into saving some money on dog treats that way you can segue now right into number 5. And which is saving money on food. So a lot of the same things you know you can look into making your own sometimes that's more expensive but sometimes it is a little bit cheaper as well to look at different recipes look at what your dog needs and check that out. If you want to buy commercial which most people do because it's a lot more convenient buy in bulk, bulk bags will save you money. This is especially important if you have multiple dogs or large breed dogs that eat a lot of food.

Buying in bulk almost always saves money you can also look for subscription services and a lot of time subscription services will sell high-quality foods but they'll give you a bit of a discount. If you sign up for this subscription service for say six months or a year. So, it's convenient you're getting the dog food delivered to your house you're not having to go out and pick it up. You're getting a high-quality food and you're saving money because you're signing up for the subscription service.

Those are two different ways to get your food out a little bit cheaper. Shop around you wants to look for high-quality foods the highest quality food that you can afford. Again this comes back to your budget but it's something that you really want to think about the higher quality food that you feed your dog the less of it that you have to feed.

[00:21:07] Higher quality feed means that you can feed less quantity. And at the end of the day, you want your diet to be healthy and get the nutrition that they need. But you also want to think about cost. If you're having to feed less quantity of food you're going to be saving more in the long run. You might be able to buy a cheaper food at a lower price but you're having to feed more because it's full of fillers and artificial ingredients that your dog's body doesn't process it turns it into waste and it immediately dumps that those ingredients that it doesn't want. So, your dog is having to eat a higher quantity to actually get the nutrients that his body needs.

Consider that and then, of course, measure the food. Every dog food package whether you're buying canned wet food whether you're buying dehydrated food whether you're buying a kibble it tells you how much food a dog of your dog size needs so you look at your dog's weight and there are some factors that play into it. The biggest one is activity level if you have a young active dog. If you have a working dog, you might need to increase a little bit from what the package says. But talk to your vet about that. Or a canine nutritionist to see where you are. What you should be feeding your dog every day and measure it out. A lot of pet owners free feed or they put you know well my dog maybe should have about two cups of food in the morning two cups of food at night. You know because that's what their dog will eat one: you're aiding your pet and becoming obese.

And two: your dog doesn't need that much food so their body is going to again process immediately into ways. It doesn't need it and it's going to get rid of all of the access. So you're you're feeding food, you're paying to feed them more than they need and it's costing you money is the only thing it's doing and possibly leading to your being obese. So, I'm going to just recap. Saving money for food. Buy in bulk if you can or look for subscription services that might be a little bit cheaper. Shop around look at different places. You know you might have your favorite place to buy dog food is your local pet store but you may be able to get it cheaper online. So, think about that higher quality food means you're going to be feeding less quantity. And of course, measure the quantity that you are giving your dog.

[00:23:24] So, now we're going to go to number 6: which is my last tip for you guys when you're trying to save money in your pet budget. And that's dog care. And so, this is everything that you need to care for your dog for the veterinary care, to grooming, to you know any services that you might need like a pet sitter or a boarding kennel. So, 1st let's talk about veterinarian care. How can you save money on vet cared? And of course, when your dog needs veterinary care, he needs veterinarian care. But there are certain things that you can do at home. For example Flea and tech remedies, a lot of people go to the vet to get those.

[00:24:00] And oftentimes they are higher price there if you know for example we give our dogs kept star which is a pill that you can feed your dog to prevent fleas and ticks. I buy caps are online. I don't buy it from my that it's much cheaper online and don't have to pay the vet visit to go in there and have you know have my dog be given the flea and tick medication. So, you can save there. So, there are certain things that you can buy cheaper in other places. You don't have to get from your vet. But the biggest thing to cut down on vet care is preventative measures, make sure that you're feeding your dog the correct amount, that you're not overfeeding, he's not going to be obese. That leads to so many health conditions. Make sure he's getting the exercise that he requires.

He's moving those muscles and joints he's burning the calories that he needs to burn. He's staying in shape. So, some of those preventative measures will actually save you in the long run on veterinary care. And they're free walking your dog, measuring his food, that kind of stuff it doesn't cost you any money. Flea and tick care is a huge preventative. It does cost you money. But I'll see you on the long run. If your dog's not getting Lyme disease from ticks and you're not having to pay for the Lyme disease treatment you know you're saving money on the treatment from the diseases they would get from fleas and ticks. So, grooming DIY grooming, it is easy. It fosters the bond that you have with your pet.

[00:25:27] And it's something that you can do for so, much cheaper all you're going to need to do is buy the supplies if you have a cat or dog that needs to be shaved. We have a long haired cat that we shave in the summer she goes outside so she gets things tangled in her fur. I shave her myself. My husband and I he holds her life saver and it works out fine. Dogs can cut their nails you can clean their ears you can clean their tear stains. You can bathe them all of your animals you can breathe and brush on your own.

[00:25:55] So DIY dog grooming save the money on the professional groomer. The next thing that I wanted to touch on was care when you're away and that might mean a dog walker, a pet sitter or something like that. Tap into the resources that you have around you that won't cost you anything. Friends, family exchange favors if you have another pet owner that you're friends with or is a family member let them know you know if you watch my dog for me if you walk my dog for me I'll do the same for you. I'll watch your pets when you're away. And a lot of times you can exchange favors and not have to pay for boarding facilities or things like that. So, those are my tips to save money in your pet budget. This is such an important topic so, I'm going to recap again for you.

Number 1: figure out your budget and what you have to spend if you don't have a pet already. It might not be the best time if it is the last time you need to figure out what you can afford to spend. So, number one 1: your budget. Number 2: your pet emergency fund. Number 3: save on supplies. Number 4: save on treats. Number 5: save on food. And number 6 save on those dog care essentials. So, those are my tips.

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.