Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.
I’ve always wondered, how much does a dog (or cat!) cost over its lifetime? Some people feel that their family or their home isn’t complete without a furry friend or two! Many millennials have been taking that to another level by choosing pets as ‘starter children’ — upwards of 44 percent of millennials have chosen to opt for a pet and put off starting their families.
How much does a dog cost? What about a cat?
What is this preference toward pet ownership costing members of the millennial generation? And what can young families do to budget their pet ownership expenses?
The Cost of Owning a Pet
How much does it actually cost to own a pet? That depends largely on the kind of pet. Furthermore, it is dependent on the health of the pet, and the age of the pet when it is adopted. Let’s take a closer look at the overall cost of pet ownership.
See Also: The True Cost Of Anything
It starts with adoption. Choosing to purchase a cat or dog from a breeder can be expensive. Hundreds, or thousands of dollars expensive, in fact! Of course, this depends on the animal’s breed and pedigree. Adopting a rescue pet from an animal shelter can be much more cost effective. Plus, it enables families to give an abandoned animal a loving life. Many animal shelters run regular specials, especially when the population gets too high, lowering or even waiving adoption fees in an effort to help their residents find their forever homes.
Once a pet comes home, there are other costs to consider. Food, supplies and grooming costs all add up quickly.
The most expensive cost of owning a pet isn’t the food that they eat or the cost of sending them to the groomer once a month — it’s the cost of a trip to the vet. Even if the pet is healthy throughout their life, regular checkups, flea and heartworm treatment and the cost of getting the animal spayed or neutered can be expensive.
These costs aren’t stopping millennials from adding furry, four-legged members to their families, though.
Budgeting for Pet Ownership
Millennials have earned a bad reputation for being irresponsible with money — it’s all those Starbucks coffees and avocado toasts that are keeping them from being able to buy homes and start families, right? When it comes down to it though, millennials are better at budgeting than many previous generations and know first-hand how to make a dollar stretch.
Budgeting for pet ownership falls into that. A few tips and tricks to help make that budgeting easier include:
Consider All the Costs – It’s not just the adoption or purchasing that needs to be taken into account. Vet bills, food, grooming, medication, and end-of-life care all need to be factored into the budget. Our favorite way to budget, and visualize cash flow is with this free tools.
Don’t Forget Equipment – For families that have previously owned pets, this isn’t as big of a cost because they probably have old collars, leashes, and bowls lying around, but for new pet owners, the cost of pet equipment needs to be considered.
Purchase Pet Insurance – Just like for humans, pet insurance covers some trips to the vet in exchange for a monthly payment on the policy. It can be a lifesaver — literally, in the pet’s case — and can also save a pet owner from having to mortgage their house to pay for vet bills.
Don’t Forget Other Costs – Adopting a pet doesn’t just take money. It also takes time and effort that the new owner must be willing to put in to ensure that the animal is healthy and happy. This includes taking the time to exercise with a dog, play with a cat or change the water out of a fish tank. Regardless of the type of pet, it will require more than just money to care for it.
Set Aside Money – Even with pet insurance, it’s a good idea to have money set aside for emergency trips to the vet. Some basic trips, like ones for dental care or check-ups, might not be covered by pet insurance. Pet owners will need to set aside money for those instances.
Preparing to Bring a Pet Home
New pet owners will need to prepare to bring their new family member home. This includes pet-proofing the house, removing anything that could harm the pet and making sure that they have a safe and loving home to welcome them.
There are a lot of things that most pet owners might not think about that can be dangerous to pets and should be removed from the home or at least put in a place that the pets can’t get to them.
Poinsettia plants, for example, are popular around the holidays. If a cat gets into them and starts eating the leaves or the flowers, it can be fatal. Xylitol is a common artificial sweetener that shows up in everything from sugar-free gum to some low-sugar peanut butter, and it can cause fatal liver failure in dogs. Keeping these kinds of important precautions in mind can help you avoid a costly vet bill later.
Bringing a pet home is a great way to add more love to a home. However, it is not something that should be done lightly or without preparation. Preparing to bring home a new pet requires more than just signing on the dotted line and paying for the adoption fees, and anyone who is thinking about adding a pet to their family, regardless of which generation they belong to, should take the time to prepare.
Summary: 3 considerations for potential pet owners
The costs of pet ownership are unpredictable. It is best to have a safety net in case of a major illness or emergency. No one wants to be in the situation where you have to choose between saving a pet’s life and going into debt.
The average American spends 33 percent of their income on housing. Transportation and food are the next largest burdens to your budget. Are you currently overspending in one of these three areas? The best way to visualize your expenses is with the free tools on Personal Capital. Where you can cut back? Can you cut back? If the answer is “no,” you probably aren’t going to want to make the sacrifices necessary.
1. Discover how monthly expenses might impact your budget (get to know your money)
2. Save between $1-2K, or designate a portion of your emergency fund for an unexpected visit to the vet.
3. Ask yourself: How will you feel if faced with a vet bill you can’t really afford before it happens?