Another weekend is coming to a close, and what better to do on a Sunday afternoon than catch up with some reading. My column last week about Dogs and Children was full of important information, so I hope you got a chance to check it out. This week I found myself thinking about all the money that we spend on our pets, and I decided to set a “Pet Budget” for our household. I know many of you could benefit from the information too, so I wanted to pass it along.
Our dogs don't ride around in strollers or have collars with diamond studs and solid gold buckles. They don't get canine massages once a week or spend their days at the doggy spa. But that doesn't mean they aren't spoiled. They have more than enough toys to last the two of them a lifetime and they both have a few coats and sweaters hanging in the closet. It's easy to get carried away when shopping for your dog, and it's time that our family set a pet budget and stick to it!
Our family consists of myself, my husband, our 4 year old son, two dogs, two cats, two rabbits, and two hamsters. Yes, we like all our animals to have a friend of their own species. Our home is starting to become a Noah's Ark of sorts.
With all those animals it's not hard to spend hundreds of dollars each month on food, toys, treats, and accessories. There are lots of things that pet owners can do to save money. You just need to learn the in and outs of caring for your dog on a budget.
Caring For Your Dog on a Budget
Writer Sally Schloss explains it best in her article for everydayhealth.com:
- The aggregate cost of raising a dog over its lifetime varies. Two examples below are indicative of the range:
- $16,800 for 10 years ($140 a month/$1,675 per year)
- $48,000 for 10 years ($400 a month/$4,800 per year)
From 2000 to 2005, the Bureau of Labor estimated that pet services, such as veterinary and grooming costs, rose more than 5 percent. The increasing costs of all things pets are on the rise — from the necessities to unprecedented luxuries.
Of course, some dogs are more expensive to raise than others. Typically larger breeds are harder on the purse strings than smaller breeds. They eat more food and need larger dog bed and other accessories. Usually the price for pet products increase with the size. Some dogs also have health issues that require additional expenses. Our dog, for example, has a heart condition that requires prescription medication.
Setting your pet budget that should be done before you even decide to purchase a dog. Dogs aren't cheap, and you should seriously consider your family's discretionary income before you make the choice to adopt a dog. This article from MoneyStream has some great information about making sure you have the resources to care for a pet.
- People make sure they are financially secure enough to support a pet. Oftentimes, though, they forget that there is a time element that comes with owning a pet. Even if you opt for a fish, reptile, or some type of rodent, you will have to devote time to feeding them and cleaning their living space. Dogs and cats need more attention and time with you. Prepare to sacrifice time from other areas of your life to care for your pet.
Kiplinger.com put together a great slideshow about the nine most important costs that every pet parent should budget for. They start with the initial costs of a dog and work their way through the lifetime ownership costs of having a canine companion. They included a slide about emergency veterinary expenses, which I think is important because many potential pet parents don't factor them into their initial budget. They are an easily overlooked expense.
- An emergency not requiring surgery could cost about $2,000 to $3,000, according to Murray, while an accident requiring surgery often costs between $3,000 and $5,000. Trauma (such as getting hit by a car or getting attacked by another animal) and cancer are two of the most common health problems that dogs experience, according to Murray.Unfortunately, they are also often the most expensive. Treatment for cancer averages more than $3,500, while surgery after a car accident typically costs about $5,000. Be sure to budget for such emergencies, especially as your dog gets older. Some years you’ll tap this fund, and others you won’t.
Another great tip for caring for dogs on a budget is to do as much grooming yourself as possible. Taking your dog to the groomer for regular baths and nail trimmings can add up, but these are two tasks that could also be easily done at home. Freelance writer, Daniela Caride wrote an interesting article for Safe Bee that touches on at-home grooming.
- Taking your pet to the groomer can make a dent on your finances. Try to do as much as possible yourself without putting your pet at risk, says Judy Bell, vice president of Phinney’s Friends, a nonprofit in Massachusetts that helps low-income people keep their pets.
- Brush his fur and teeth regularly
- Check her ears weekly and clean as needed
- Check your pet’s paws weekly and ask your vet to show you how to trim nails
Even Oprah has advice for pet parents about caring for your dog on a budget. Of course, the article isn't actually written by Oprah, it's written by Billy Rafferty and Jill Cahr, but it's on her website. Some pet parents have to take their dogs to the groomers, and that's understandable, but you can still find ways to save money. For example Rafferty and Cahr offer a unique tip about requesting a shorter haircut, so you don't have to go to the groomers as often.
- When your dog gets a haircut, ask your groomer to cut the coat a “step” (or slightly) shorter. The shorter haircut can stretch the time between professional appointments, but make sure the cut isn't too short since exposed skin is prone to sunburn. And because you'll extend the time between appointments, brushing becomes critical—the coat on some dogs can mat up overnight.
This article from ExpertBeacon has a slew of tips for potential pet parents as well, and if you already own a dog or you have in the past, you'll get a chuckle out of some of these. My favorite is the tip entitled “Don't assume you're getting an angel.” Boy if that isn't the truth! So many pet parents adopt puppies and dogs thinking that it will be easy to train them at home. That's not the case with every dog.
- When you bring home your little bundle of joy, don’t just assume that because he is cute he is going to be perfect. One expense many new pet owners neglect to budget for is their behavior and training. And again, this is an upfront investment that will pay dividends down the road. Basic dog training classes cost in the neighborhood of $150-$200 for a six to eight-week class, and keep in mind that if your dog develops any problematic idiosyncrasies like resource guarding or dog-aggression, you may need to consult a private behaviorist for further help.
Even if you are able to train your dog at home, you'll still have the added expense of training aids, additional treats, and any videos, books, or other training materials that you use for direction and guidance. And don't forget the toys!
Your lovely little bundle of joy will be chewing up sneakers and eating the legs off your kitchen chairs before you know it. Investing in a good collection of chew toys will save you hundreds of dollars in replacement items. billcutterz.com gives some great advice for making your own toys to save a little money.
- Many animals love to play with ordinary household items and don’t require colorful, expensive toys. Who hasn’t witnessed a cat assuming ownership of a shoe box or a dog staying occupied for hours with a simple piece of rawhide. Use your creativity to provide makeshift toys that your pets will love. Just be careful that they are not dangerous. Bones are not a good idea for dogs, as they are known to choke on them. And cats (or dogs) should not be given any type of loose plastic. But you can easily create a cardboard or carpet sample scratching post.
Sometimes you can save money by spending a little more. I know it sounds contradictory, but I'll let this blog explain:
- It might not seem very frugal to pay $40-60 for a bag of food, but paying a little more for a good quality food will almost certainly save you a ton in vet bills down the road. Not all dog foods are created equal. Many cheaper brands are chock-full of fillers, meaning Fluffy will have to eat a lot more of it to get her nutritional needs met. While there is much debate, I believe fillers such as corn gluten meal and meat by-products are not ideal and should not be in the top 7 ingredients of any food (or at all).
There are all sorts of additional expenses when you bring a dog into your family, and traveling is one of the biggest. Whether you bring your dog with you or leave him at home with a pet sitter or at a boarding kennel, you're going to be paying extra. Have no fear, The Travel Channel has you covered with their tips for budget-friendly pet travel.
- Any vacation can put a dent in your bank account if you’re not careful, but traveling with your pet doesn’t have to. Actually, traveling with a pet will often save you money over leaving your pet at home, says Len Kain, cofounder of Dogfriendly.com. This is because kennels or pet sitters are hardly budget-friendly (often $30 to $60 per day or more).Also, traveling with a pet may persuade you to do cheaper or free activities, such as walking along the river or bay, visiting outdoor museums or visiting walk-up restaurants. A pet makes it more difficult to attend a Broadway show or a very expensive restaurant.
I also found this great book, Pampered Pets On a Budget: Caring for Your Pets Without Losing Your Tail. I really recommend it. It's a great read and you can buy it in printed form or as an e-book. I chose the e-book, and it was a really interesting read. There are some really unique tips in here, so I think it's worth spending the $10 on. You'll save a lot more than that with the great tips inside.
- The purpose of Pampered Pets on a Budget is to help pet parents uncover new ways to save on the products and services you need to take great care of your pets, without compromising your pet’s health and wellness care or severely damaging your pocketbook.While no one book will answer all of your questions, Pampered Pets on a Budget will provide a starting point for the important things you need to know to enjoy your role as a pet owner.As you begin reading, be sure to remind yourself why you purchased your pet and what role that pet plays in your life. By combining those reasons with your love for your pet and the education you will receive from Pampered Pets on a Budget, you will be able to make important decisions about your pet’s health and lifestyle—without losing your financial tail!
If you've got some tips and tricks to share about caring for your dog on a budget, please post them in the comments below. Also, if you find any other great articles, blogs, or books we'd love to hear about those as well. Enjoy your week!