A Guide to Saving Money on Pet Care

Each year, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) releases a report on what Americans spend on their pets. In 2018, we spent $72.56 billion. There’s a definite trend in spending on pets, and that trend is going up. We spent $3 billion more in 2018 than we did in 2017 and $3 billion more in 2017 than in 2016. In fact, since 1996, when $21 billion was spent on pets, Americans have more than tripled their spending on furry friends. Where is this money going? Toward food, general supplies, medications, vet bills, and other animal services. What does this mean for the average American pet owner? One report states that a dog will cost roughly $27,000 to $42,000 throughout its life, while a cat will cost on average between $21,000 and $30,000. Does this mean you are doomed to go through life with only a goldfish (cost of ownership: about $70)? No. Your dog or cat can be well taken care of on much less money if you make some savvy choices.

Make a Budget

The first thing to do to keep your pet spending under control is to make a budget. Decide how much you are going to spend on food, supplies, toys, and services like dog walkers or groomers. Then, you have to stick to your budget. It’s also essential to track your pet-related spending, including on things that busted your budget. Knowledge is power, and knowing how much you spend monthly (or annually) on food, litter, or cute sweaters will help you to keep your spending in check and make sure you are maximizing your pet-care dollars.

Consider Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a hot topic among pet owners. Pet insurance works best if you can get it when your pet is quite young, before they’ve been diagnosed with any issues the insurers might consider preexisting conditions. Most reports say insurance for younger pets costs around $40 a month, which means you’ll be spending about $480 annually. Just like car or home insurance, you are insuring them against catastrophes, like your pet being run over or being diagnosed with cancer. Some plans also include wellness plans that cover preventive care. Compare policies carefully, since coverage varies widely.

Start a Pet Savings Account

Believe it or not, your pet needs a savings account. Your pet especially needs a saving account if they don’t qualify for affordable insurance or you decide against getting it. You can start by putting the money you know you’ll spend on predictable expenses (supplies, checkups, registration) into the account, then start working on a pet emergency fund. Treating an unexpected health issue will cost an average of between $800 and $1,500.

Keep Your Pets Vaccinated

One area where you don’t want to skimp is keeping up to date with your pet’s vaccination schedule. A properly vaccinated pet is at a much lower risk of contracting illnesses, some of which can be fatal.

Additionally, many municipalities require pets to have up-to-date vaccinations. Most groomers, pet care services, and boarding facilities require current vaccination records before your pet can use their services. The American Kennel Club estimates that a dog’s first set of shots will cost between $75 and $100, but there are ways to save on these costs. The Humane Society has a list of places where you may be able to find low-cost vaccinations. Shot Vet is one such service that operates nationwide.

Have Your Pet Neutered

Another veterinarian service you don’t want to skip is having your animal spayed or neutered. Spayed and neutered pets live an average of two years longer than unaltered pets. Fewer hormones mean less restlessness and a lowered urge to roam. Neutered pets also have lower rates of infections and injuries, which result in lower vet bills. You’ll also be spared the cost of dealing with litters of babies. For female pets, spaying lowers the occurrence of breast cancer and uterine infections. For males, neutering lowers the rate of prostate problems and the rate of testicular cancer. Like all surgeries, it can be expensive. However, there are low-cost options available.

Save Money on Medications

The good news is that there are more medications available than ever before to treat your pet’s ailments. The bad news is that they can be just as expensive as human medications. Typically, buying a drug from your vet will be the easiest way to fill the prescription, but it’s also the most costly. Instead, ask your vet for a paper prescription for the medication. The first place to check for lower prices is the pharmacy where you fill your own prescriptions. Also, discount services like GoodRX will apply coupons and list the costs of the drugs at local participating pharmacies. Many websites function as mail-order veterinary pharmacies. General pet supply companies (like Chewy) also fill prescriptions.

Make Their Toys

Pet toys are cute, but pet toys are also expensive. Luckily, many toys are easy to DIY. These DIY toys will make your pets and your wallet happy.

Choose Affordable Accessories

Pet accessories are adorable, but they’re also expensive! Don’t worry, though; there are ways to outfit your furry family member without breaking the bank. First, shop for pet clothes in unexpected places, like discount grocery stores. Often, they’ll have sweaters and coats for between $5 and $10 instead of the $25 and up charged by pet stores. Opting for very basic collars, halters, and leashes over expensive versions will provide the same function while saving you significant money. Also, don’t be afraid to search Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for items like pet carriers or cages.

Sign Up for Loyalty Programs

The same way you save money on your groceries and household supplies works for pet food and pet supplies. Sign up for loyalty programs at local and big-box pet stores. Follow your favorite pet food brands on social media and sign up for their email lists. This should ensure that you receive coupons for your pet’s favorite brands. If you choose to purchase pet food online, often, signing up for auto-ship will provide an ongoing discount on your purchases.

Learn to Groom

Certain breeds need regular grooming, and all dogs need frequent bathing. Some pet owners choose to outsource their pet’s grooming and bathing needs, but that can add up. The cost to groom a dog is between $30 and $90 per visit! You can save that money by doing it yourself. Bath time is easy: Grab some pet shampoo, a comb, and a brush, and dedicate a towel to your furry friend. Bathing your dog is an easy task once you get the hang of it. Trimming your cat’s nails is also a simple task, once you (and your cat) get used to it. Clippers are a relatively cheap investment, and you should be able to purchase everything you’ll need to groom your pet for the cost of one professional grooming session.

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