Just kidding, pets rock. They’re wonderful and often hilarious little additions to our lives, but they’re not free. Owning a pet is a serious financial undertaking and shouldn’t be entered into lightly. While I’m obviously in favor, I’m a cautious and contingent proponent.
Any pet is going to impact your monthly savings rate and should be considered a budget line item. It’s a hard truth, but, you’re going to save less money with a pet in your home. If you’re determined to move forward with pet ownership, be aware that not all pets are created equal when it comes to expenses.
I’ll speak mostly on dogs, since we only have Frugal Hound in our household, but many of these expenses and considerations hold true for other domestic critters. Check out Frugal Hound’s expense sheet here.
Do your research and identify a type of pet or dog breed that fits with your lifestyle. Consider:
- Activity level: pets requiring a lot of exercise can be costly if you’re not home during the day to provide activities for them. Hiring a dog walker or enrolling your hound in doggie day care are expensive! Some animals (like lazy & snoozy Frugal Hound or every single cat that ever lived) are perfectly content to hang out home alone all day.
- Grooming needs: some animals necessitate frequent haircuts, baths, massages, and other grooming-related actions. If you’re not equipped for in-home doggie spa days, be prepared to shell out serious cash at the groomer. Or, pick a creature with limited beauty requirements.
- Dog breeds insurance companies deem risky: some homeowner/renter insurance policies include a list of dog breeds that aren’t covered. This is key to know–if your dog injures a person on your property, your renter’s/home owner’s insurance covers you unless your dog is an uninsurable breed. Consult your policy to see if any breeds are not covered.
- Age of pet: adult pets are usually house broken, calmer versions of their baby selves. While puppies and kitties are undeniably the cutest things on earth, they are rambunctious and require training–can you do it yourself or will you have to pay for obedience classes? You know what I’m going to say about that: cha-ching!
- Be honest about your lifestyle:
- Do you own or rent your home?
- If you’re renting, does your lease allow pets? Do you have to pay a deposit for a pet?
- Even if your current lease permits pets, is it likely you’ll move during the pet’s lifetime? If so, consider the ease of finding future pet-friendly rentals.
- Are your neighbors likely to complain about a pet? How about a dog that barks incessantly all day long (do your research on breed proclivities).
- How busy are you?
- If you work full-time, can you be home every day at a reasonable hour in order to walk the dog? If not, be prepared to pay someone to do this for you. Dogs don’t care that you have a late meeting. They will not hold it.
- How often do you travel?
- Will you need to pay for boarding/kennels every time you take a trip? Or do you have family and friends who could take care of your pet in your absence?
- What are your hobbies?
- Are you gone every weekend to quilting fairs? Committed every evening with your junior arborist club? Can you take your pet with you or will you need a petsitter?
- Consider a pet who can enjoy your hobbies with you.
- Do you own or rent your home?
- How do you plan to acquire your pet? Some cost thousands of dollars and can only be purchased through a breeder. Others are adoptable through rescue organizations or the humane society. This is still not free–you’re going to need to pay something.
- Spay/neuter and shots: are these included in the purchase price or will you need to pay separately?
Count up the Costs:
There are start-up and ongoing costs to having a pet in your family.
- Spay/neuter and initial shots
- Paraphernalia: food & water bowls, bed, toys, leash, collar, etc
- Vet check-ups
- Medical expenses (hopefully you won’t have any major problems, but you should be prepared)
- License (depends on the city, ours charges $8/year to license a spayed/neutered dog)
But coming home to this: PRICELESS
Owning a pet can be fantastic, fun, and fulfilling–after all, who else will throw up in your lap and get fur all over your house?–but they’re expensive. Don’t be wooed into pet ownership prematurely! Approach it the frugal, thoughtful way–you and your critter will be happier. Do you own a pet? Are you considering a four-legged family addition? What tips do you have?