Many of us get a lot of joy — and other upsides — from pet ownership.
Besides the pleasure of companionship, pet owners realize a range of health benefits, from lower cholesterol and blood pressure to increased opportunities to exercise and socialize. (At least if your pet is a dog: It takes determination to carry your fish tank to the park!)
And there’s even a case to be made for the financial skills of pet owners: Over at CreditDonkey, Sarah Greesonbach (@awyeahsarah) argues that committing to a critter flexes your financial muscles when it comes to evaluating long-term costs and investments.
Which brings us to expenses: There’s no denying that owning a pet does cost money, from food to training to veterinary bills. (Money Under 30 cites ASPCA figures that the first year of dog or cat ownership alone will cost you north of $1,000.)
So how do you stretch your pet dollar? Plenty of personal-finance blogs have taken this subject around the block. Here are some critter tips from prominent money bloggers:
Buy in bulk. Carlton Ryan at MoneyWise points out that lots of pet supplies — from dry food to cat litter to potty pads — have sufficient shelf life to save by buying in volume. And if you already belong to a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club, odds are you can get bulk pricing there.
(Another MoneyWise tip should be taken with a grain of salt: saving money by feeding your pet table scraps. While the article does qualify that suggestion by noting that not all human food is great for pets, veterinarians generally take a dim view of this practice. You’re probably best advised not getting veterinary tips from a finance blog.)
Groom ‘em yourself. Some finance bloggers are braver than others (or Mazlo!) about getting in there and giving Fido the salon treatment. “I've never taken any of my pets to a professional groomer for their coats,” writes Christa Avampato (@christanyc) for WiseBread. “You can easily buy salon-quality products and gadgets that make taking care of your pet's fur an inexpensive and even fun task.”
After buying a set of professional-quality grooming tools to give our own Goldendoodle a socially isolated shave and haircut, Mazlo applauds WiseBread’s can-do attitude but questions its universality.
MoneyWise also advocates grooming at home — within limits. “As with dog training, there are some situations when it's best to call in the professionals. A seriously matted dog, a pet whose nails haven't been trimmed in years, or a fearful animal may best be handled by a pro.” Amen, Carlton.
To insure or not to insure? Purchasing an insurance plan for your furry buddy requires some real consideration. NerdWallet has some good thoughts on the subject, along with a side-by-side comparison of three popular insurance plans for dogs and cats.
“I tend to recommend against it,” CFP Shanda Sullivan writes in NerdWallet. “Odds are that your pet won’t incur enough veterinary bills each year to justify the insurance premiums. And if you have more than one pet, those can add up.
“However, if you visit the vet regularly or your pet is a breed that is known for health issues, you might want to consider coverage.”
Bottom line. For many people, some sort of animal companionship tends to improve the quality (and even the length) of their lives. But they’re a financial as well as an emotional responsibility.
As with other things money can buy, assess the psychological ROI of acquiring a furry buddy — for better or worse.