Friday, October 10, 2014

10 Ways to Save Money on Pets

If you're trying to save money, pets can seem like an unnecessary expense. . .But they're so cute and cuddly! Having something warm and furry to snuggle, being woken up at two in the morning by sandpapery kisses, having someone who's always happy to see you even when you're grumpy. . . Surely these things are worth a little expense, right?

I adopted Rogue (pictured) this summer after providing a foster home for him for a year for a local rescue society. (He just wasn't getting adopted in a timely fashion. I don't know why. Look at that face!) Initially, I hadn't planned on adopting a pet at this time because of my college expenses. But in the grand scheme of things, I have to admit his monthly maintenance isn't breaking the bank.

Here are some things to consider when adopting a pet, and further, some tips to help the money-savvy pet owner save some dollars!

  • It's obvious, but it merits repeating. Consider your lifestyle and budget. Animals come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and lifespans--and have a variety of needs! Fish? Cheap and unlikely to stick around longer than a couple years. Dogs, on the other hand, can be very expensive to maintain and require a lot of attention. I feel like cats are middle-of-the-roaders. They may live for twenty years, but they're pretty good at entertaining themselves. For weekends out of town, you may not even need a pet sitter. And for much of their lives, if they're healthy indoor cats, your primary expenses will only be cat litter and food.
  • Consider fostering if you're not ready for the lifetime commitment that comes with pet ownership. Almost every town has a humane society--if you search for local animal shelters on the internet you may find a handful of other independent or more specialized ones as well. When fostering an animal, you provide love and home for it until it is adopted. The organization is responsible for vet expenses, and will often provide food and other equipment, too, if you need. 
  • Even if your housing or financial situation doesn't allow for pets, you can still cash in on some furry love by volunteering at a local shelter. SOMEbody has to clean the kennels and play with their inmates. :)
  • Adopting adult animals is usually a lot cheaper than adopting kittens or puppies. Frequently, they are already spayed or neutered;, Their personalities are already formed, too, so it's easier to judge how they'll fit into your family.
Once you've taken the plunge....

  • Many pet supplies can be found at thrift stores -- fish bowls, hamster wheels, water bowls. Maybe even pet beds, although I would probably launder one before bringing it too far into my home.
  • Make your own pet toys. Sad but true: Fluffy will probably think a wadded up piece of printer paper is WAY more exciting than the deluxe wind-up catnip-filled scurrying mouse toy you got him. Your old slipper may delight Fido more than the entire pet section of Walmart.
  • Coupon! It seems like pet food is always on sale somewhere. If you coupon for nothing else, you could still save a bundle by doing it for pet food. Walmart has a printable coupon link towards the bottom of their webpage which I recently discovered, and it seems to provide a lot of the same coupons that newspaper inserts do. Additionally, if you watch for new products by your favorite brands, there are often high-value coupons associated with them--some even tucked into the products themselves for your next purchase.
  • Free Samples. Signing up for free sample mailing lists can be the start of a lifetime of spam, it is true. However, I subscribe to Sweet Free Stuff and they seem to e-mail fairly responsibly. I get two a day from them. And they almost always contain free pet food samples of one kind or another. I will note that cats are often said to have finicky stomachs and switching their food a lot can distress them. Personally, I have only had cats with seemingly iron stomachs. :) But even if you're worried about yours, you can use free samples to merely "stretch" your regular food a little farther by stirring them in to the usual.  Plus, you might discover a great new product that your pet loves!
  • Another thing, free samples usually come with high value coupons. Double win!
  • Finally, keep your pet healthy! Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight, and paying attention their hydration and nutrition will help them--and you!--out over the long haul. It's also a good idea to think realistically, up-front, about how you will approach end of life care. Sad but true: our furry friends won't live forever. If you think about this in advance, it may help later when, emotionally, you may want to treat and treat and treat your pet's medical problems past what is merciful both to their comfort and your finances.

How do you save money on pet expenses?