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How to Budget for Your Family Pet

Written by Teri Cettina on September 3, 2015 in Family Money  |   No comments

Buying a pet is exciting—getting the first vet bill for that pet, less so. If you’re adding a furry, feathery, or scaly friend to your family, you’re also adding a new category of expenses to your household budget. From supplies to medical expenses–both planned and…

FamilyPetBudgetBuying a pet is exciting—getting the first vet bill for that pet, less so.

If you’re adding a furry, feathery, or scaly friend to your family, you’re also adding a new category of expenses to your household budget. From supplies to medical expenses–both planned and unexpected–your new pet will carry costs that you will need to learn how to manage.

If you’re a particularly money-savvy family, you may want to add a “Pet Care” category to your budget. Over time, you’ll get a good sense of how much you need to set aside each month for regular pet-related expenses.

To start, here are some of the major costs to consider:

Initial purchase price. Odds are, buying a pet from a breeder is likely to cost you more than getting a pet from a rescue organization or local shelter. You may want to set aside some money in advance if you’re buying a pedigreed Labradoodle, for instance.

Pet supplies. If the animal you’re buying is new to you, your initial supply costs could be steep. Bedding, kennels, litter boxes, aquariums, cages, and hutches aren’t cheap. Consider buying used supplies in good condition from friends or through reputable online sources. Trust me: People who have previously had pets like hamsters or birds may give you a load of space-hogging supplies for free just to get the bulky items out of their storage areas.

Food. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates you’ll pay between $55 and $235 per year for dog food, depending on the size of your dog. Fish are bargain eaters at only about $20 per year for food. Birds and hamsters are also relatively cheap to feed, at $50 to $75 annually. A surprise: Rabbits eat more than many dogs and are estimated to cost $190 per year to feed. Cats average approximately $115 per year to feed. Bear in mind that the ASPCA says that these costs are the bare minimum and notes, “You shouldn’t expect to pay less than this, and you should definitely be prepared to pay more.” Use these estimates as a base for your household budget.

Spaying/neutering. If your new pet isn’t already neutered or spayed, you may need to pay for that service yourself. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) maintains a list of low-cost spaying/neutering services for most local areas. For example, in my hometown of Portland, Ore., it’s about $35 to $60, depending on the size of the animal.

Training. This is an optional service for dog owners, but it may be money well spent. You could save significant time and money by not having to search for a runaway dog or reimburse the neighbors for a pet that nips at them or digs up their shrubs. The ASPCA estimates $110 for a basic training class.

Grooming. Dog breeds with fast-growing fur or that require special grooming care will cost you more than their short-haired counterparts. The ASPCA guide suggests planning up to $400 per year for professional dog grooming. Similarly, some long-haired and show cats may also require professional grooming. Other pets such as birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, and reptiles are typically maintenance free when it comes to grooming.

Walking. Will you need help exercising your dog while you’re working or busy with family? A dog walker typically charges $15 to $17 for a 20-minute walk with a single dog, according to Costhelper.com. You may be able to save money by hiring a responsible neighbor or local teen. You can also find walkers online using reputable sources such as Findadogwalker.com. Of course, walking your pet yourself is good exercise for you, too.

Veterinary care. A routine vet checkup will run you around $196 for a cat and $235 for a dog, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey. A surgical visit will cost you more—on average, $398 for a cat and $551 for a dog.

Pet insurance. Premium costs range from $175 to $225 annually for cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA. Whether insurance is a good use of your money is somewhat of a personal choice. Consumer Reports found that, in general, the insurance is not a bargain unless you end up paying unusually high vet bills. The magazine’s advice: Watch out for payout limitations and annual premium increases; don’t bother paying for a wellness care rider; get the highest deductible you can afford ($1,000 for instance); and plan for your insurance to only cover catastrophic pet care costs.

Teri Cettina is a personal finance and parenting writer/blogger. Prior to becoming a freelancer, she was an employee communications writer and editor for a large regional bank. Follow her on Twitter: @TeriCettina

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.

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