Having a pet can be expensive. I should know because I have dogs, cats and a bird. It seems like every week I am shopping at various stores to purchase more pet supplies. And ugh! I need to schedule a trip to the vet for Hannah - more money. Oh, and I can’t forget to renew their licenses. Lately, it seems like my husband and I have been spending so much money on our furkids. And I’m not alone. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners are estimated to spend more than $52 Billion on their pets in 2012.
Creating a pet budget
To understand rising costs and control your pet spending, creating a budget is a must. Personal finance expert, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox,The Money Coach®, recognizes that pets are family members. “Very few of us have infinite amounts of money. As a result, it is important to understand our finances and prioritize how we want to spend our money,” she told me. “A budget can help you do that.” Khalfani-Cox believes that while individuals should spend money on what they value, “no matter how you prefer to spend your money, you should not spend more than you earn or bring in.”
To get started on my budget, I collected receipts and listed all of my monthly pet expenses. This included food, treats, grooming services, dog walking/daycare fees, veterinary insurance policy fees, and entertainment (events, fundraisers, meet-up groups). Next, I considered yearly expenses. I included veterinary visits, teeth cleaning, licensing fees, flea and tick medication, pet sitting or boarding, vacation expenses, membership fees and pet supplies like toys, apparel (t-shirts, costume, coats/sweater), additional pet fees for car/homeowner policies, and charitable contributions.
Save money by bargain hunting and DIY
Once I had an idea of how much I was spending on my pets per year, I looked to see where I could save money. The two best options for saving money are to shop around and to have a DIY philosophy. You have to take time to comparison shop and take advantage of all cost saving measures, especially in this economy. So, when purchasing pet items or service I considered these money saving tips:
Pet food: Since I have multiple pets, buying in bulk saves me money. Join store clubs, check out store circulars and company websites for coupons and savings opportunities. (I have to admit that I write to companies all the time and ask for coupons.) You can also look for savings at online sites like PetFoodDirect.com and sign-up for autoship programs which can save you more money over a longer period of time.
Veterinary Care: Collect estimates for routine services from several vet practices and shelter clinics and compare costs. For annual check-ups and shots, I visit the veterinary practice of a local animal shelter. For a serious ailment or specific condition, I see my old vet or a specialist. I have really found that regular scheduled vet visits save the most money throughout a pet’s life.
Pharmaceuticals: I realized that if I purchased medication from my vet, the mark-ups would be astronomical. Instead, I looked for reputable online pet pharmacies, like National Pet Pharmacy, which are much cheaper. See if you have the option to purchase generic drugs. Also, ask whether your local drug store or supermarket will let you add your pet to their prescription savings plan. Many do these days.
Home Grooming: Learning to groom your pet not only gives you a chance to bond but also to detect lumps, bumps and odors that may be a sign of a health problem. A handheld shower, pet shampoo/conditioner, brushes/combs, pet toothbrush, pet toothpaste, a nail clipper and instructional material can all be purchased at a fraction of the yearly grooming fees.
Making dog treats: Instead of buying packaged treats, I make them for a fraction of the cost. Pet cookbooks showcase treat recipes made from a variety of proteins, different types of flours, vegetables, and herbs. But I enjoy developing my own recipes like apple muffins and canine sweet potato chips.
I continue to search for ways to save money without sacrificing the care that my pets deserve. Creating a pet budget, taking advantage of discounts and engaging in do-it-yourself projects helps me keep more money in my pocket and my pets happy and healthy. I am sure it will do the same for you and your pets, too.