Pets are like family to us.
They sleep in our beds, eat from our plates, and kiss us when no one is looking. (We might or might not kiss them back, but that’s beside the point.)
Even though we may think of them as family, pets are not furry children. Would you let your child relieve himself on the front lawn or catch a live mouse with her teeth? We certainly hope not.
But many of us spoil them like they’re our babies. Last year alone, Americans shelled out an estimated $58.5 billion on household animals. That’s a whole lotta puppy chow!
So how much should you be spending? While the exact amount is different for every budget, one thing’s the same: You should never, ever go into debt for a pet.
Instead, decide how much you’re willing (and able) to cash flow on your lovable Lab or temperamental Tabby. Then start saving that amount each month.
If there’s still a financial shortfall, here are four practical ways to fill the gap.
1. Pet Food
Gone are the days when Fido ate table scraps. Now he needs high-dollar vittles infused with probiotics, wheat germ and flaxseed. There’s even refrigerated dog food at your local grocery store! Come on, folks. Let’s not overthink this.
Just buy a bulk bag of dry dog food and pour it into a bowl. Your dog or cat doesn’t need a fancy feast. They just need food. Plus, there’s nothing fancy about a species that licks its rear end for cleanliness. Don’t give their taste buds too much credit.
2. Supplies & Medicine
Dogs don’t require parkas in the winter and sunhats in the summer. God has equipped them with everything they need to enjoy the Great Outdoors au natural—unless of course we’re talking hairless cats.
And while it’s perfectly okay to buy pet toys, don’t get sucked into making your furry friend more comfortable with a memory foam mattress or a deluxe cat tree. That’s what your lap is for.
When it comes to routine medicines like heartworm pills, see if you can save more by ordering from a reputable online distributor instead of your local vet. Or if your animal has acid reflux or gets carsick, ask your vet if an over-the-counter human drug (in a smaller dose) will work just as well.
3. Grooming & Boarding
This may be the most annoying part of pet ownership—paying for a sitter. If you can’t get a neighborhood kid to come over on the cheap, you may have to bite the bullet and board your pet. So before you plan your next trip, be sure to work this extra expense into your overall budget.
And when it comes to grooming, skip the overpriced Puppy Palace and shop around. While an occasional summer trim may be in order, there’s no need for specialty ‘dos and luxurious bath products. This is one category where mutts have it made.
4. Vet Care
When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s hard to separate your emotions from your wallet. We all want our animals to be active and healthy, but does that mean prolonging their lives until it bankrupts us? We say no.
If Fluffy has a tumor, get a second opinion and then ask some hard questions. Is surgery absolutely necessary? Will it really help your animal’s quality of life? Or will it just cause her more pain?
If she does require an expensive operation, ask for paid-in-cash discounts, save up for a few months first, or make the tough decision to enjoy the time you have left together. Even if it’s heartbreaking, you must put the well-being of your human family first.
Budget Out of Love
We know how important your pets are to you. So show it by working them into your household budget. If you discover they’re costing you too much, find smart ways to cut back or increase your savings.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with splurging a little on your pets—as long as you can afford it.