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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.

pets
By:

January 30th, 2016

The Ultimate Guide To Help You Save Money On Pets

Whether you’re the proud owner of a dog, a cat, a bird, a rodent, a reptile, or a tank full of fish, you know all too well that the pet industry is big business. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent over $58 billion on their pets in 2014 alone. Clearly, when it comes to four legged, two-winged, or scaly friends, the pet industry has the general public by the purse strings.

Just like it’s hard to say no to your children, it’s hard for pet owners to deny their loyal companions anything. In fact, many people who own pets think of their animal friends as another member of the family. They want to pamper their pooches, spoil their kitties, and keep their pets as happy as can be. And of course, manufacturers of pet products as well as individuals who sell animals know that when it comes to pet spending, many people simply have no limit.

However, there are still lots of ways to be a loyal, caring, and compassionate pet owner without spending your entire paycheck on your animal. If you’re willing to do a bit of work and a little bit of research, it’s actually quite easy to save a lot of money on everything related to your pet. Here are some ideas for you to consider.

Get Your Friend For Free
Purebred animals are absolutely beautiful, and for an animal lover, it doesn’t get any better than a pristine example of your favorite breed. However, purebreds are expensive. A recent Forbes article cited the price of a purebred Golden Retriever puppy running as high as $3,000. At half that price, it’s still an exorbitant amount of money to pay for a pet. Even paying a few hundred dollars for an exotic bird or a rare and beautiful snake is unnecessary. Why? Because there are lots of ways to get a loving pet for free.

The first option is adoption. Visit your local animal shelter, and you’ll be overwhelmed at the cuteness of the puppies, kittens, and adult animals just waiting for someone to come in and love them. You might also watch your local newspaper and social media pages for pet adoption events near you. Some shelters and adoption organizations do charge a small adoption fee, but it will be substantially less than purchasing an animal from a breeder. No, you probably won’t get a purebred animal when you adopt, but you will get a pet that’s just as wonderful (and often much less maintenance).

Another option for getting a pet for free is to watch the local classifieds, listings on Craigslist, and social media postings for people who are giving animals away. You might find someone whose cat or dog just had a litter, or there might be individuals who can no longer care for their animal but want very much for it to go to a loving home. When you go this route, there are usually no costs involved, and you may even get a trunkload of pet food and gear at no cost from the animal’s previous owner.

Have Your Pet Fixed For Less
When your pet is old enough, it’s highly advisable to have it spayed or neutered. Not only can this prevent costly damage to your home from an animal marking its territory or being destructive because it’s in heat, but it will keep more pets from taking over your home (and your budget). Yes, there is a cost to have this minor procedure done. However, there is financial help available.

The ASPCA, the Humane Society, and other animal care organizations feel so strongly about getting pets spayed or neutered that they are willing to help out with vouchers and access to low-cost programs. The ASPCA has a web page that will help you find low-cost spay and neuter programs, and the Humane Society does as well. If you can’t find a low-cost way to do this near where you live, contact your local chapter of either organization, or contact your local animal shelter. They will almost surely be able to put you in touch with a qualified professional who will do the procedure for an affordable price.

Basic Preventive Care
It’s true: taking your pet to the veterinarian isn’t cheap. However, think of the cost as a hedge against bigger, more expensive health issues cropping up in the future. An annual visit to the vet can help you catch any small problems before they become larger ones, and regular vaccines and shots can prevent major illnesses from coming on as well. The particular needs of your pet will depend on what type of animal it is and its lifestyle. It’s a good idea to talk to your vet when you first bring your animal in; let him or her know that you are on a budget, and it is likely that you will be able to work something out that is best for your pet and best for your wallet.

save on pet food

Save On Pet Food
Just like you, your pet’s gotta eat. Also just like you, your pet can be quite healthy and eat quite well without spending a ton of money on food. Surely you’ve seen evidence of the gourmet pet food craze: doggie bakeries and freshly-prepared kitty treats. They’re lovely business ideas, and their purveyors seem to do very well, but if you’re looking to cut back on your pet spending, they’re just not for you. Fortunately, you’ve got some other choices.

It may seem like the best thing to do to feed your animal without spending lots of money would be to buy the cheapest pet food you can find. While this will offer you some initial savings, cheap pet food is typically made with loads of fillers and by-products, all of which can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive system and cause potentially expensive health issues. Your best bet to save now and save later is to buy a good brand of doctor-recommended food — not the bargain stuff, but not the top of the line stuff either.

Definitely buy your pet food in large quantities to get the best price per pound. For example, at the popular pet retailer Pet Smart, a six pound bag of Purina ProPlan dog food costs $12.99, or approximately $2.17 per pound. However, that same exact food in a 35 pound bag is $38.99 — just $1.11 per pound! That price is before any additional coupons or discounts that you may find. Clearly, buying the largest bag you can afford can cut your pet food costs almost in half.

Ordering your pet’s food online can also save you big. First, sites like wag.com often offer 15% or 20% off a customer’s first order. Make that discount go a long way by ordering several bags of food! Next, wag.com, chewy.com, and other pet websites offer auto-ship programs, which are essentially a pet food subscription. You sign up to get your pet’s food delivered to you every few weeks (you choose the interval), and you pay a lower price per bag than people who order at will. For example, wag.com offers a 5% discount on all autoship orders. Finally, many sites have loyalty programs for customers. For example, Petco offers Pals Rewards, which gives members a 5% bonus as well as other exclusive offers.

Check For Used Supplies, Skip the Fancy Toys And Clothes
Buying a kennel, cage, food bowls, storage bins, scratching posts, and pet accessories brand new probably is not necessary. You can often find these things used at garage sales or for sale in classifieds or online, and doing so can save you half off or more of the original prices. The same goes for fancy pet toys and clothes. Yes, it’s important to keep your pet happy, but your pet doesn’t know the difference between a $40 toy and a stick. Keep toys simple, like tennis balls or socks full of catnip. Ultimately, your pet’s favorite toy is you, and the best thing you can spend on it is your attention. Bringing your dog to the park or snuggling with your cat is better than anything from the pet toy aisle.

As for pet clothes, you can certainly dress your pet up like a fashionista if you’ve got the funds. However, that’s not at all necessary, and that money is almost always better spent on more important things. And really, big dogs don’t need clothes. If you’ve got a small pup that needs to be kept warm, a sweater or two is fine, but save your money and don’t overdo it. Cats generally hate anything on their bodies, so dressing them up can be skipped completely.

Do Your Own Grooming
Pet grooming business are easy to find, and most large pet retailers offer grooming services as well. While it’s definitely easy to let a professional else handle the cleaning and grooming of your pet, it usually costs a minimum of $30 per session. More services and bigger animals cost more, and even if you get it done just a few times a year, you’ll still end up spending at least a hundred bucks or so on something that you really can do yourself.

If you’re a cat owner, you can relax: cats don’t need much. Some need their long hair trimmed, and an occasional bath isn’t a bad idea either, but on the whole, cats typically prefer to groom themselves. Dogs, however, are another story. On a regular basis (usually about every other week), take an hour on a weekend morning to give your pooch a good bath. If it’s warm outside, an inexpensive plastic tub is a great place to do it; otherwise, your bathtub is the best option. While you’re at it, brush your dog’s coat, trim the nails, and clean the teeth. Not only will doing all this yourself save you a fair amount of money, but it’s a great bonding experience between you and your four legged buddy.

Low Cost Pet Care When You’re Out Of Town
If you’re leaving on a getaway, whether it’s for a few days or a few weeks, you’ve got to make arrangements for your pet. Of course, kennels and pet boarding houses are lovely: they lavish all sorts of attention on your animal. However, they cost quite a bit, and there are less expensive options for pet care when you’re away from home. Care.com estimates that pet boarding starts at $20 per day, with more expensive kennels and hotels running as high as $90 per day.

One option is to find a local enterprising teenager who is good with animals. He or she can come over to your home every day to feed and play with your pet. What you pay will be a fraction of what pet hotels cost and it’s a win-win-win situation: your pet is happy, you’re glad that your pet is happy, and the teenager is happy to be making some cash.

Another idea, which won’t cost a thing, is to create a pet care co-op situation with some other pet owners in your area. With no money exchanging hands, you all take turns taking care of one another’s animals when it’s necessary. Another pet owner can come to your home to provide care, or your animal can spend your away days at someone else’s home. As long as you can return the favor when another pet owner is out of town, everyone gets what they need for their pets, and everyone saves money.

save on pet insurance

The Insurance Quandary
Should you get health insurance for your pet? It depends on your budget, your pet, and how attached you are to keeping him or her in your life. Obviously, insurance isn’t free, and if you are truly looking to save money on your pet expenses, then you may decide to go without it. However, there are some good reasons to have pet health insurance.

Most pet owners think of their animals as their children, and the thought of losing their pet is excruciating. If their pet needs an expensive medical procedure to keep it alive and they don’t have insurance, they’re faced with a horribly difficult decision: spend a huge sum, or put their baby down. Additionally, some breeds of dogs and cats are more prone to certain health issues; if this is the type of animal you own, it may be less expensive for you in the long run to have insurance. If you can afford the cost of insurance, you may find that it’s worth it. But again, if you are watching every penny, getting pet health insurance can probably be skipped.

Consider A Less Expensive Pet
We’ve mostly been talking about dogs and cats as pets, but there are other animals that make great companions. Consider hamsters and gerbils, which are small, inexpensive, and don’t require much; you can also find a cage and supplies used, which will save you even more. And don’t forget about fish, which are a perfect first pet for children. Goldfish are especially inexpensive. They need little more than a large bowl of water and some flake fish food, and they are fun and relaxing to watch and care for. If you do choose to go for a dog or a cat, though, there are still a lot of ways for you to have a loving, faithful companion and not break your budget.

 

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