This article first appeared on ClarkHoward.com.
Welcoming an animal companion into your home can be a rich and rewarding experience, but if you’re not deliberate with the expenses, it can become a real money drainer. But just because having a pet can be expensive, doesn’t mean it’s an absolute. There are almost endless ways to keep pet costs in check. Look to these dozen money saving ideas to save a few bucks on dear Fido, Fluffy or Fang.
Do your research on health problem before choosing a purebred dog
You may have your heart set on a certain purebred dog, but it’s important to make an informed decision. The breeding that gave your dog that sweet and squashy face may come with certain health issues that can quickly drain your bank account, or worse put you in the heartbreaking situation where you’re choosing between euthanasia or expensive and painful surgery. Talk to your vet about breeds to avoid before you bring home your next four-legged family member.
Exchange pet sitting with a neighbor
Boarding a pet while on vacation is an expensive endeavor that’s easily remedied when you and a neighbor care for one another’s pets. This is certainly easier with cats, who don’t need to be walked, but can work with dogs as well. Out for walk with Fido? Bring the neighbor’s dog along! A friend of mine who lives in a Queens, NY apartment, reports that her entire building watches one another’s pets and says it’s a great community builder.
Stop buying pet toys
Whether it’s a simple milk ring for the cat to bat around or a tennis ball inside of an old sock, simple pet toys are often the best. Your animal doesn’t know the difference between a pet specific toy or a cheap-o alternative. You can tie your own rope pull-toy and you can certainly dangle a length of braided yarn for the cat. And don’t discount the most frugal dog toy ever invented . . . the stick!
And while we’re on the subject . . . pet costumes? Really?!
Click HERE for more homemade pet toy ideas.
Avoid Costly Grooming
Certain dog breeds can get matted fur without regular grooming, but there are choices beyond the pricey big box groomer. Just like we humans can save a few bucks by going to a beauty school for our styling needs, the same is true for Fido. And while you’re there, put your phone down and pay attention to the technique. Many people groom their own dogs, and a grooming kit can pay for itself within a few uses. First attempt not a roaring success? Keep trying, as you’ll only get better.
Want a pet but it doesn’t fit your lifestyle? Foster instead!
If you feel incomplete without a pet, but aren’t in a situation for a long term animal, fostering might just be the solution to your problem. Whether it’s caring for tiny kittens, a dog who’s just had surgery or a cage full of ferrets, rescue organizations are always looking for responsible people who are willing to open their homes for short term pet stays. And since expenses are usually covered, this can be a great way to spend time with a furry friend when your budget doesn’t allow for a new family member. Just make sure you’re not the type to adopt every pet who enters your home!
Look to your humane society for small animals
Sure, your humane society is home to dogs and cats just waiting for their forever homes, but they can also be a source for small and caged animals. Whether you’re looking for a guinea pig, a turtle or a cockatiel, make sure to go beyond the pet store for your small animal companion. And once you’ve chosen that small pet? Check out secondhand sources like Craigslist for used equipment.
Look beyond your veterinary clinic for medication and spay-neuter services
Many area shelters and animal rights groups offer low cost or free medical care and spay-neutering. It may take some research to find these services within your community, but a call to your humane society or even your own veterinarian’s office can glean a wealth of information. Don’t put off this important component of pet care due to a low bank balance.
Work as dog walker
If you’re a dog lover, but not at a point of life that allows for a four-legged companion, being a dog walker might be the perfect compromise. You’ll get to establish relationships with your neighbor’s dogs, enjoy healthy exercise and then go back to your dog-free home. No feeding, no vet bills, no soiling of your new carpet, and you’ll even put some extra money into your wallet!
Adopt an adult pet
Yes, kittens and puppies are sure to melt your heart, but adult animals need loving homes as well. They’ll come fully vaccinated and spay/neutered, plus they should be well past the piddling on the couch phase of life. See? You just saved the cost of a new couch!
Skip the designer pet food and head to Costco
Costco brand pet food is highly rated and recommended by many humane societies. You can have the knowledge that you’re feeding quality food to your dog or cat, without the financial pain. And while you’re at Costco, make sure to check out their low cost pet medications.
Choose hearty fish for your aquarium
Sure it’s fun to have an aquarium full of exotic fish, but the most frugal choice is always going to be the heartiest fish. Whether you choose guppies, which provide guppy babies or the lowly goldfish, it’s best to leave the tricky-to-keep-alive fish to the experts. Talk to the staff at your pet shop and do your research before bringing home another poor doomed animal.
Embrace the mutt
Not only are mixed-breed dogs less likely to have breed specific health issues, they’re also wonderful companions who will enrich your life. Think of them as one of a kind designer animals who were created specifically for you! You get the best of multiple breeds, and you’ll likely just pay a low adoption fee. And the best part? You won’t be supporting unsafe and unethical puppy mills. If you’ve got your heart set on a certain breed, find a rescue organization that specializes in that specific breed. Be patient and you’ll find one that’s a perfect fit for your family.
Whether you’re a dog person, a cat person or even a chameleon person, there are multiple ways to keep your expenses under control. Adopt responsibly, keep your purchases in check and research your health care choices. Pets enrich our families’ lives and they deserve our best.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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