Reducing Pet Costs: Thinking Through the Budget
Maybe this series hasn’t appealed to you yet because you, like many people don’t have a pet. I too was in your position just seven months ago. Furthermore, I never imagined myself having a pet–I’d never grown up with them, and other than the occasional childhood fantasy, never seriously considered getting one.
Life is funny sometimes, because here I am seven months later, trying to shoo a kitten off of the keyboard. My journey to pet ownership was very unique – while it worked perfectly for me, it was clearly a very rushed process, leaving me little time to consider all the implications of what this new responsibility meant. Had I done it all over, these are the things I should have thought about before I jumped in. And then I’d probably have jumped in all the same, but with a little more foresight and the knowledge of what I was getting into- at least financially!
Having a pet has improved my life immeasurably, but not knowing the costs associated with them has definitely put an unexpected dent in my budget.
Type of Pet
I know I’m always so excited to see a baby French bulldog, or a beautiful Maine coon cat, but since purebred animals are exponentially more expensive than shelter animals, my pets will probably always be rescues- not to mention the emotional reasons I have for getting a shelter animal. If you are interested in purebreds, do some homework regarding costs- they vary greatly depending on location and type of animal, anywhere from $200 to $800 and up from a breeder. Similarly, there are many rescue organizations that specialize in a certain kind of pet and may have a purebred available for less than half the cost. Even if you’re not interested in a purebred, most animal adoptions have costs associated with them, so be aware that almost any adoption will cost something- probably in the range of $50. If you are interested in buying a more exotic pet, note too that they often costs a little more than a traditional adoption.
While $50 doesn’t seem unmanageable- especially to a child!- the first year costs, when tabulated realistically, can be prohibitive. National statistics show that dogs cost approximately $1,260 during their first year, while cats are a little less at $1,070. A lot more than the $50 adoption fee! If you do decide to get a pet, using this handy spreadsheet can go a long way in understanding the true costs of pet ownership.
In our household budget, we projected that Francie and Hammy would each cost us $50 a month, which at first we thought was more than generous. But with yearly vet visits, litter for two cats, and an inordinate amount of kitten food, this number is pretty realistic. Over the course of the year, we expect to spend $1,200 on both of them combined- not including emergencies!
In addition to the first year costs, there are the annual costs to think about. Again, national estimates put it at about $700 per animal. If your pet has a 15 year lifespan, the overall costs of your pet over it’s lifetime will be between $10,000 and $15,000. I’m sure by following some of the advice in the previous posts, you could reduce your costs, but there will still be a significant investment involved in owning a pet. Make sure you take into consideration your other financial plans- are you saving for a home, paying down school debt, or starting a new career? $10,000 can go a long way to making those dreams come true.
For me, the ROI of owning a pet is far more than any other financial instrument I know– the consistent companionship, entertainment and emotional connection is something I have yet to get from any other part of my life. That is a decision to make for yourself. However, taking into account the financial aspect of pet ownership will allow you to be a more responsible and prepared pet owner and companion.