Most people feel like their pets are truly part of the family. Scrolling through social media, you’re likely to see just as many photos and videos featuring the adorable antics of four-legged friends as you are to see people, right? Many Americans find that bringing an animal companion into their lives—or two, or three, or four—provides benefits like unconditional love, a reason to play, lots of laughs, and someone to spoil.
You could almost say that building a loving, trusting bond with a pet is priceless. But the truth is that every pet comes with a price tag—whether you adopt a stray or purchase a purebred.
One of the kindest things you can do for your animal is make sure you have the budget to support it throughout its life. Before getting a pet, do your research to find out how much they really cost—only then can you track and manage your expenses accordingly to make sure you’re fully prepared:
Predicting the Costs of Owning a Pet
When you lock eyes with Fido or Fiona at the shelter—or when you’re overrun with a pack of puppies when you go to visit the breeder’s latest litter—money is about the farthest thing from your mind. You’re thinking about their big eyes saying “Pick me!” and how rewarding it will feel to give them a great new life.
But this is the time for a much-needed reality check. You’ll only be able to provide what they need if you have the funds.
One report from Petfinder estimates dog owners will spend between $395 and $2,455 in the first year alone, then between $326 and $1,967 each year following. First-year fees include adoption, supplies, licensing and vaccines. Recurring costs include food, treats, toys, vet care, etc.
Petfinder estimates that bringing home a cat will cost something similar: between $405 and $2,285 for the first year, then between $340 and $1,825 for subsequent years.
The exact amount you spend on your animal will depend on many factors, like where you get it, its size, whether you buy pet insurance, renting vs. owning, cost of living in your area and its health, to name a few. Keep in mind that these are merely routine costs. If your pet has an emergency injury or illness, costs can climb into the thousands overnight! This highlights the importance of keeping a designated fund solely for pet-related costs.
Tips for Managing Your Expenses
With that being said, even people with tight budgets can make pet ownership work if they manage their finances well. Using an expense tracker from an app like Clarity Money can help you understand where you’re money’s going, which enables you to optimize your spending and saving.
If you’re worried you may not be able to afford the pet you want, or even the one you have now, consider the benefits of breaking your budget down into categories. An app can help you see where your money’s going so you can make the changes you need to. If you realize you’re currently spending 25 percent of your take-home income at restaurants/bars, you can then cut back in this department and apply the savings to building up your pet emergency fund.
Honesty is key when it comes to accurately tracking your expenses so as to better manage your money. So is making the process easy. By using a mobile app to budget, you’re able to get insights on the go. Many busy Americans prefer an approach like this rather than having to sit down and manually log expenses into a spreadsheet after the fact, although that tried-and-true strategy works too. Tracking your expenses by category will help you identify room for change.
Aim to save up a few months’ worth of pet expenses in a special fund. Anytime you use money from this account, work on replenishing it. Then you’ll be ready for anything, whether it’s a midnight trip to the emergency vet when Sadie swallows a sock or paying the pet deposit on your new lease.
It’s safe to assume pets usually cost more than we think they will, which is why it’s so important to build them right into your budget.