Adding a pet to the family is not exactly a frugal undertaking, but most pet owners would argue that the pros outweigh the cons (myself included!). If you’re thinking about getting a pet, or you already have one and would like to reduce your pet-related expenses without sacrificing your furry family member’s well-being, consider the following tips on how to be a frugal pet owner.
Frugal Pet Care 101
Getting a Pet
If you don’t own a pet or you have one and you want another, where should you get one? There’s a never-ending debate about purebred breeders versus animal rescues, and each side has its own share of pros and cons. From a frugal standpoint however, shelters are the winners.
For the low cost of the adoption fee (which pays for the animal’s medical treatment and helps the shelter keep its doors open), you can save an animal from euthanasia. Adopting an older animal is especially rewarding, since these guys are less likely to be adopted (thus, more likely to be euthanized) and you don’t have to pay for an expensive spaying/neutering procedure or the numerous shots they need in those first few months of life.
Personally, I find that heading to your local pet shelter and taking a look is the best way to find a pet. We visited 2 shelters before we found our dog and we knew almost instantly he just clicked with us. Our shelter fee included him being neutered and his first vet visit free, along with his microchip and a free 30 days of pet insurance. We also got the ‘pet starter kit' for $50 which included a color, leash, food, bowls, chew toys, crate and dog treats.
Buying Pet Supplies
Once you have a pet, what's next? Ideally, you should have some supplies before bringing your furry friend home, but you’ll need more food, toys, crates, etc. during the course of your pet’s life.
Petco and PetSmart are popular retailers of pet-related items, you have to watch these stores very closely. We were looking at a crate and found it on Chewy.com for $810 but it was $130 at Petco. But if you play coupons and sales with their award programs right you can really score a deal.
When you shop online for your pet supplies make sure you are shopping via eBates to get cash back on every purchase. Also concider Amazon for your pet suplies. They do some great deals, and have online coupons. Plus you can earn free amazon gift cards to use to snag free pet items!
If you have a young pet, you might want to consider buying pre-owned supplies. For example, puppies grow quickly, so buying used crates until they’re full-grown will save you quite a bit of money in that first year of puppyhood. The only issue here would be sanitary; if you buy something used, be sure to clean it thoroughly because young animals are more susceptible to disease.
When it comes to pet food, it’s best to buy mid-range food. Not the cheapest you can find (which tend to have problematic “filler ingredients” such as corn and wheat gluten), but the most expensive brands aren’t necessary, either. You can also save money on treats by feeding your pet cheese or vegetables (assuming it’s an omnivore or herbivore).
Your Pet’s Health
Obviously the physical well-being of your pet should be valued over costs (to a certain extent), but there are still ways to cut back on the cost of veterinary care. For instance, switching to generic flea prevention medication could save you up to 50% or more (depending on how much you spend currently). Switching veterinarians is also an option. Nicer clinics with a wide variety of services (e.g., open 24/7, exotic pet care, advanced surgical facilities, etc.) tend to charge more per visit, regardless of the reason or services rendered. Shopping around for a new, quality veterinary clinic can help you significantly cut back on pet care costs.
Also worth noting, some clinics offer lower prices for vaccines on certain days (ask your local vet office if they have a “low cost vaccine clinic”) and others offer specials on dental services during certain months of the year.
As for pet insurance: it’s up to you to decide. Many people choose to forgo insurance for their pet, only to receive a multi-thousand dollar bill for their pet’s procedure or hospital stay later. Others pay a monthly fee to cover their pet and never end up using the insurance at all. An alternative to outside pet insurance would be to put a certain amount of money away each month into an emergency savings fund that’s strictly for pet-related expenses.