Ruffing it: Smart Budgeting Tips for New & Wannabe Pet Parents
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Who let the dogs out? More like bring ‘em on in!
Living through a pandemic may have encouraged you to think more deeply about who you want by your side when the going gets ruff. If a new pet is part of that equation, you’re not the only one: according to a survey by the ASPCA, nearly one in five American households has taken in a cat or dog since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. That’s a lot of growing families!
Welcoming a fur baby into your life is a big step. There are a lot of benefits to being a pet owner, from constant companionship to stress relief, but there are a lot of responsibilities to consider too—not least of which being the financial obligation.
If you are seriously debating the merits of pet parenthood, we’re here to help you think through the decision and make the necessary adjustments to be sure you’re financially ready to welcome home a new addition to your fam. Here are a few points to consider before signing the dotted line for your lifetime best friend.
- What kind of lifestyle can I provide for my pet?
Over the past year, many of us have been working from home and have gained more flexibility in our schedules to accommodate daily walks and playtime. But it’s important to consider what life will look like with your fur baby in a post-pandemic world.
For example, think about what your pet’s life will be like if you start working in an office again. Can you bring your pet to work? If not, will they be able to stay home alone all day when you’re back in the office, or will you need support to feed and walk them during the day?
- Is my housing situation right for a pet?
Depending on what point you’re at in your life, your current space may not be the most accommodating for your furry friend. For example, if you’re living in a tiny fifth floor walkup apartment, maybe it’s best to hold off on getting that big dog you’ve always wanted.
If you’re planning on moving in the next year or two, will it be a place that your pet will be happy in? Are you living in the suburbs or the city? Are there parks nearby and is it safe to walk your pets at night? These are all important, long-term questions to ask yourself before committing to the next 15 or so years with your fur baby.
- Can I afford to take care of my pet?
When you’re scrolling through thousands of adorable pets in need of a home, it’s easy to forget: animals can be very expensive! Take a moment to consider all of the expenses you will need to cover: pet food, toys, bedding, hygienic needs (potty pads, litter boxes), training services, pet shots and other vet visits, walking services, pet sitters for when you’re traveling…the list goes on. It’s free to fall in love with your furry companion, but not to make sure they are living their best, healthy life.
While taking care of a pet is not cheap, it is possible to stay frugal and still give your Fido or Mr. Whiskers a great life. Get started with the tips below.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
There are a number of benefits to adopting a new pet versus purchasing from a breeder. Not only are you taking in a dog or cat that may have been abandoned, abused, or surrendered, adoption fees are also a lot less expensive than buying from a breeder. According to the Animal Humane Society, average adoption fees can range from $34 – $600 depending on whether you’re taking in a cat or a dog, the breed, and the age of the animal.
By contrast, buying directly from a breeder can cost in the thousands, especially if you are in the market for a popular or rare breed. Some other benefits to adopting are that often rescue organizations will cover upfront medical costs including vaccinations, spay or neutering services, and more. These animals are also more likely to be trained by a previous owner, while a new puppy will require a lot of time and effort to become housebroken and learn basic behavioral cues.
Invest in Insurance
As much as we wish that we could predict the future, the truth is you never know when disaster or injury might strike. Vet bills can reach well into the thousands, so having coverage can save you a lot of money in the face of unexpected health issues.
The same way that you would invest in health insurance for yourself, it’s a good idea to purchase it for your pets as well—taking into account your animal’s age, existing needs, and health issues associated with their breed. There are three main umbrellas under which pet insurance plans fall:
Wellness: This covers any typical routine checkups and tests.
Accident: This covers any accidents that could occur, like your animal being hit by a car or ingesting something dangerous.
Accident & Illness: This coverage is the most comprehensive and covers injuries, illness, disease, and changes to your pet’s normal condition.
Use Zip to Budget for Pet Supplies
Use the Zip app to split any in-store or online expense into four, rather than paying for your purchase upfront. You can use it at Petsmart to buy tasty treats, or online at Chewy.com for your discount cat costumes (we don’t judge—you do you!). Using Zip can help you stock up on all those creature comforts, ensuring that your furry best friend can live their best four-legged life.
Shop Bargain Pet Stores
Did you know that being a savvy shopper can extend to your fur babies too? There are a number of discount pet stores with deals that you can take advantage of, from traditional pet stores like Chewy to retail chains like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, and more. Make sure to sign up for the rewards program at the spot you frequent most, whether it be Petco or a small business near you.
Buy in Bulk
Think Costco grocery shoppping, but for your pets! Buying in bulk saves you money on things that you are going to ultimately need a refill on, like dog food or cat litter. You can also sign up for a subscription service like BarkBox that delivers a fresh supply of pet essentials on a monthly basis.
Get started with Zip today
Zip’s editorial content is not written by a financial advisor. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.