Anytime you want to change your lifestyle — swap furniture, acquire real estate, shift careers, add family members — you need to consult your budget. Your budget is among the most important financial documents in your household; it helps you keep your income, savings and spending under control, so you can remain on firm financial ground.
Getting a new pet might not seem like a significant change in lifestyle, but considering the expenses of buying the pet and caring for it, you should certainly take the time to adjust your budget. Here are some money management tips for new pet parents interested in keeping their budget in tip-top shape:
Add up One-time Expenses
To start, it might be easiest to add together expenses that you will only pay once (or maybe twice) in your pet’s life. For example, you will only buy or adopt your pet once, so shelter adoption fees or the charges from your pet’s breeder will factor into this category. If you plan to enroll your pet in a training course or otherwise hire a pet trainer, you should know roughly what that costs. Additionally, there are several everyday pet items that you probably don’t need more than one of, such as:
- Travel crate
- Litter box
- Cat tree
You might call a local veterinary office and ask about one-time vaccinations and other medical treatments. If you are responsible for spaying or neutering your pet, you should know how much that procedure will cost.
Finally, you could look into common health concerns for pets of the breed you are interested in; for instance, dogs with short snouts, like pugs and bulldogs, often have respiratory issues that require surgery to remedy. Knowing about these potential costs ahead of time will help you build your budget.
Estimate Recurring Expenses
Next, your pet will have recurring expenses, which you will need to plan and budget for. Thankfully, many of these repeat costs are relatively low and easy to manage. Some examples of common expenses include:
- Preventative medications
If you rent your current home, you consult your rental agreement to determine whether you will owe additional pet rent to your landlord, which could be a sizeable expense.
In addition to calculating recurring expenses on a monthly basis — which will factor easily into personal budgeting software to ensure you remain financially stable with your furry friend — you might want to try to calculate the overall cost of your pet over its lifetime. Knowing the size and age of your prospective pet will help with this, as you will be able to estimate how long your pet is likely to remain a member of your household.
Look for Ways to Save
There are several ways to cut pet expenses and afford a furry friend on a budget. Here are a few tips:
- Adopt an unwanted pet. You can find all sorts of pets who are “free to a good home” within your local classifieds. Additionally, some shelters waive adoption fees on pets who have gone unclaimed for a certain period of time.
- Buy in bulk. You can buy food, treats and other pet supplies at wholesale prices from bulk stores, but you will need to have the appropriate space to store all the excess or else your supplies could go bad.
- Buy used. Ex–pet owners sometimes sell or offer used pet supplies within local classifieds and online. You can also scour your local thrift stores for used supplies. If you don’t have any luck, you might consider going the DIY route with things like toys, beds and treats.
- Skip pet insurance. Often, pet insurers charge high premiums for breeds that are susceptible to health issues, which negate any savings you might enjoy through the program. It is smarter to open a pet savings account with an interest rate to help with medical expenses.
- Clean your pet’s mouth. You know that your oral health affects your overall health — and the same is true for your pet. By regularly brushing your pet’s teeth, you can avoid all sorts of medical expenses down the road.
If you are barely scraping by right now, getting a pet might not be the best financial decision. However, if you believe a furry friend will improve your life in a meaningful way, there are ways to budget to fit a new cat or dog into your household without wrecking your finances.