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How to Save Money on Pets: 10 Tips and Average Costs

Jordan Bishop • January 18, 2024

Pets are more than just animals: they’re part of the family. According to the 2023-2024 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, two-thirds of U.S. households own a pet.1

Of those, 65 million own a dog and six million have a reptile. And one out of three pet-owning households are headed by a millennial, which shows pet ownership is far from going out of style.

As much as we love our pets, though, caring for them can get expensive. Around 28% of pet owners spend more than $1,200 per year on their pets, and an additional 35% spend between $600 to $1,200 per year.2

The good news is it is possible to save money on your pet. Let’s look at a handful of ways to minimize your pet care costs so you can have one of your own without breaking the bank.

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How much do pets cost?

The costs associated with pet ownership can vary widely, influenced by factors like the type of animal, its size, and individual needs.

First up is food. For dog owners, annual dog food expenses can range from about $250 for smaller breeds to $700 for larger ones. Cat lovers generally spend between $120 to $500 annually on food. Smaller pets like rabbits, hamsters, or fish are generally less expensive, usually costing under $100 per year for food.

When it comes to vet expenses, dog owners typically spend $200 to $400 a year in routine veterinary expenses, while cat owners spend a bit less. However, emergency medical care can significantly increase these costs, sometimes reaching thousands of dollars for more severe health issues.

Beyond the basics, pets also need toys, bedding, leashes, and other accessories. Pet owners tend to spend between $50 to $200 a year on these items.

So, the average annual cost of owning a dog is between $500 and $1,300, while cats tend to cost $250 to $1,000 a year, and other, smaller pets are generally less. These costs vary based on your pet’s size, health, and the specific choices you make, but it is possible to bring these costs down.3,4,5,6

10 tips for saving money on pets

Here are ten ways to save money on your pet if you love your furry friend but want to reign in your budget:

#1 Keep your pet fit and healthy

Regular physical activity and a balanced diet are essential for your pet’s long-term health and happiness. Exercise helps prevent obesity, reduces the risk of chronic diseases, and even improves your pet’s mental health.

Keeping your pet fit today can minimize the need for costly treatments for preventable conditions later on. Plus, regular exercise will strengthen your bond with your pet, making it a rewarding experience for both of you.

#2 Get smart about vaccinations

Vaccinations are essential in preventing serious diseases in pets, but they can get expensive. Fortunately, cost-effective options like mobile vet clinics and veterinary schools can significantly reduce your costs without compromising the quality of care. These clinics often provide vaccines and other routine services at lower prices, making preventive healthcare more accessible to all pet owners.

#3 Spay/neuter your pet

Spaying or neutering your pet is a responsible decision with plenty of benefits. It can prevent certain types of cancers, reduce the risk of roaming and aggression in males, and eliminate the possibility of unwanted litters. It also contributes to controlling the pet population and reduces the burden on your local pet shelters.

By avoiding the potential costs and responsibilities associated with unplanned offspring, you save money and contribute to your pet’s health and the broader welfare of your community.

#4 Be proactive about dental care

Proactive dental care for your pet can prevent a host of health problems and save you a lot of money on future veterinary bills. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth reduces the risk of dental diseases, which aren’t just painful for your pet but can also lead to more serious systemic issues affecting the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Investing in dental toys, healthy chews, and regular dental check-ups can also help maintain your pet’s oral health both today and in the future.

#5 Groom your pet at home

Grooming your pet at home is a great way to cut costs. A bath and cut for a medium-sized dog (26 – 50 lbs.) starts at $47 at Petco, but basic dog grooming or cat grooming tasks like brushing, bathing, and nail trimming can be easily learned and done at home.7 This saves you money and strengthens your bond with your pet.

Regular grooming also helps you stay aware of any changes in your pet’s skin or coat condition, which ensures you’ll detect any potential health issues early on.

#6 Buy supplies in bulk

Buying pet supplies in bulk can save you a lot of money, especially for items with a long shelf life, like pet food, litter, and treats.

Many pet stores offer discounts for bulk purchases, and you can also take advantage of sales and special offers when they come up. As an added bonus, buying in bulk also reduces how frequently you need to go shopping, saving you even more time and money.

#7 Use coupons

Coupons can offer significant discounts on pet food, grooming products, toys, and even medications. You can find them in local newspapers, pet store flyers, or through various coupon websites.

Some pet stores also offer digital coupons through a loyalty program, though don’t forget to check the expiration dates on each coupon to ensure you use it before it expires.

#8 Comparison shop for pet insurance

Insurance costs can vary significantly based on coverage, deductibles, and your pet’s age and breed, so comparing quotes from multiple insurance providers is always a good move. Don’t just focus on the price; consider the extent of the coverage provided, customer service, and claim processing times.

Some websites offer tools to compare different pet insurance plans side by side, making it easier to make a well-informed decision.

#9 Make your own pet toys

Making your own pet toys is a fun and cost-effective way to entertain your pet. Homemade toys made from household items like old socks, towels, or cardboard boxes can be just as engaging as store-bought ones.

Getting crafty saves money and allows you to tailor toys to your pet’s specific interests and needs. Just make sure that any toys you make are safe for your pet. Avoid small parts they could accidentally swallow.

#10 Schedule routine vet check-ups

While regular veterinary check-ups might seem like an upfront cost, they’ll save you money in the long run by catching any health problems early when they’re easier and less expensive to treat. Preventive care, like vaccinations and routine blood work, can help ward off more serious illnesses, leading to lower veterinary costs over the course of your pet’s life.

If you do even a handful of these things, your pet will be healthier and happier, and your wallet will thank you, too.

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What to do with the money you save

Saving money on your pet expenses opens up many opportunities for you. Here are some ways to put your savings to use.

Build an emergency fund

An emergency fund is a financial safety net for unexpected expenses, not just for your pet but also for you. Ideally, you should save enough to cover three to six months of living expenses. Your emergency fund can be particularly useful for unforeseen veterinary bills or your own personal emergencies, giving you greater peace of mind and financial security.

Pay off debt

Using your extra funds to pay off personal debts, especially credit card debt or loans, is a smart move. Reducing debt lessens your financial burden and improves your credit score, which can lead to better interest rates in the future, saving you even more money.

Invest in a savings account

Putting your savings into a high-yield savings account can help your money grow faster over time. This is a low-risk way to earn interest on your savings, and it’s also a smart option if you want to save for a specific goal, like a vacation or a large purchase.

Donate to animal charities

Donating a portion of your savings to animal charities or shelters can be a fulfilling way to use the money you’ve saved. This helps support other animals in need and contributes to the welfare of less fortunate pets.

FAQs

How can I reduce my pet expenses?

Reducing your pet expenses isn’t difficult, but it requires you to be thoughtful about things like how and when you buy pet supplies. Regular vet visits for preventive health care also minimize the need for more expensive treatments for preventable health issues.

How can I save money on pet insurance?

To save money on pet insurance, compare policies from different providers to find the best rates and coverage. Consider opting for a higher deductible to lower your premiums, and insure your pet while they’re young to avoid higher costs and coverage exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

How can I save money on pet boarding?

To save money on pet boarding, you can use in-home boarding services, which often offer more competitive rates than traditional kennels. You can also set up pet-sitting exchanges with friends or family, which would be an even more cost-effective solution.

How do I financially prepare for a pet?

Financial preparation for a pet includes creating a realistic budget for ongoing expenses like food, vet visits, and grooming, and setting aside an emergency fund for unforeseen medical costs. It’s also wise to consider the costs of pet insurance as a way to manage potential future veterinary expenses.

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1 Information from American Pet Products Association's Pet Industry Market Size, Trends & Ownership Statistics as of December 20, 2023: https://www.americanpetproducts.org/news/News-Public-Relations/pet-industry-market-size-trends-ownership-statistics/

2 Information from GOBankingRates's Here's How Much Americans Are Spending on Their Pets in 2023 — How Do You Compare as of December 20, 2023: https://www.gobankingrates.com/saving-money/pets/americans-spending-on-pets-2023-how-do-you-compare/

3 Information from American Pet Products Association's Industry Trends and Stats as of December 20, 2023: https://www.americanpetproducts.org/research-insights/industry-trends-and-stats/

4 Information from Humane Society of Huron Valley's Cost Of Owning A Cat: https://www.hshv.org/cost-of-owning-a-cat/

5 Information from The Spruce's The Cost Of Owning A Dog as of December 20, 2023: https://www.thesprucepets.com/the-cost-of-dog-ownership-1117321/

6 Information from Kiplinger's The Cost of Owning a Hamster and 4 Other Small Household Pets as of December 20, 2023: https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/spending/t063-s001-the-cost-of-owning-5-popular-small-household-pets/index.html

7 Information from Petco's Dog Grooming: Dog Baths, Haircuts, Nail Trimming as of January 16, 2024: https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/s/dog-grooming

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