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We have two golden retrievers and we treat them like our children. We spoil them, love them, and will do anything for them.

Pets are part of the family but they often have expenses that can seriously add up. Start by tracking your pet expenses and creating a budget for them. Look to find opportunities to save a few dollars and you’ll be able to use that money elsewhere.

Here’s how to love your pets and give them a great life without breaking the bank.

1. Adopt Instead of Buying from a Breeder

We knew that we wanted golden retrievers because we love just love that breed of dog. Unfortunately, there are very few goldens in shelters, so we ended up having to buy our dogs from a breeder. Breeders can cost a few thousand dollars, so they are not the cheapest option.

If you are looking to save money, the better option is to adopt a pet. There are hundreds of local rescues that can help you find the perfect dog or cat for much less money. Plus, you’ll get the satisfaction of being able to help an animal that may otherwise be stuck in a kennel or a less fortunate situation.

2. Choose a Smaller Pet

If you haven’t picked out your new pet yet, consider a smaller dog or a cat. Small animals eat less food and treats, which can save you several hundred dollars per year. According to the ASPCA, large dogs can cost $225 per year in food while a bird only eats around $75 in food. Smaller dog beds and toys are less expensive than the large breed animals.

Medical expenses are usually cheaper with small dogs and cats are even less expensive. Other types of animals like guinea pigs, fish, and birds all have even lower costs. Depending on the type of companionship you are looking for, it is possible to get a pet that costs less than a large dog.

3. Reuse Toys and Supplies for Your Second Pet

When we got our first dog, we spent a considerable amount of money buying a crate, bedding, and toys. Our second puppy still had startup costs, but they were less than the first dog because we could reuse some of it.

For example, our first dog got pampered by the grandparents with toys and we had a ton that he didn’t really like to play with. Instead of throwing them out, we kept them and let our second puppy play with them. She loves those toys and stays entertained without us having to spend a ton upfront.

By having two dogs, we were able to pool their supplies together so that they can share and rotate. Our older dog doesn’t use a crate any more, so we can use that for the puppy now. They also share 3 beds in different parts of the house (plus the couch) instead of each having their own beds.

4. Try Simple Toys

Sometimes, you can save money by keeping your pets entertained with simple toys. Our goldens absolutely love tennis balls. This is great because they are cheap and they can entertain them for hours. We can buy a bag for a few dollars and we often find used balls when we go on walks in parks.

On one of our walks, we came across an old kickball that had been popped and discarded. Surprisingly, our dogs actually love playing with it. They will play tug and chase after it for hours.

Similarly, cats can stay entertained with crumpled up paper, feathers, and homemade scratching posts. Finding simple yet safe toys like this can be a cheap way to keep your pets entertained.

5. Shop Around for the Best Food

Pet food is one area that I do believe you should be prepared to spend enough money on. Better quality food will keep your pet healthy and can help avoid issues associated with a proper diet. By keeping your pet healthy proactively, you can actually save money in the long term by avoiding extra vet bills.

That said, always shop around to get the best deal on their food. Buying pet food from your local pet store may be convenient, but might not be the cheapest option. We personally love using because they have competitive pricing and their customer service is second to none.

Keep an eye out for coupons and deals that can help to reduce the cost of your pet food. Sign up for loyalty programs from your favorite pet food companies and take advantage of their offers.

6. Keep Your Pets Healthy

Do whatever you can to keep your pets healthy. Not only will it give them a better quality of life, but it helps to avoid unexpected vet bills.

This includes giving them the vet recommended vaccines, bringing them to regular checkups, and giving them heartworm and Lyme disease medicine. Take extra precaution to make sure they don’t eat things that are harmful, like chocolate, raisins, socks, and batteries.

Accidents do happen, but many of them can be avoided by taking enough steps to watch and pet-proof their environment. Be careful to keep your indoor cat indoors at all times. Keep your dog on a leash to avoid them from running into the road.

With some foresight and good luck, you’ll be able to avoid emergency vet bills that can cost thousands of dollars.

7. Get Pet Insurance

No matter how careful you are, there are times that your pets may need emergency veterinary care. Our puppy once snatched a full chicken wing from the table without us noticing until it was too late. Even though she ended up being fine, we had a few tense days waiting to see if she might need emergency surgery.

To help avoid the cost of these emergencies, you can get pet insurance. Like any other type of insurance, you will pay a premium and the insurance provider will pay all (or most) of the vet bill in certain situations. Be sure to shop around to find the best rates and coverage that fit your expectations.

8. Spay or Neuter Your Pets

Spaying your dog or cat does cost something upfront but can be well worth it later to save money. By eliminating the possibility of her getting pregnant, you can avoid the larger expenses associated with supporting a whole new litter. A litter of puppies or kittens can cost hundreds of dollars to raise, feed, and provide veterinary care.

Neutering your male animals is also the responsible thing to do as pet owners. It will prevent stray animals out on the streets and reduce the burden on kennels and rescues. You may also see an indirect cost-saving benefit by having a less aggressive pet that won’t destroy your home and belongings.

9. Ask for a Puppy Package

When we got our second puppy at 8 weeks old, she needed to go to the vet every other week for the first few months for checkups. Those first few months are full of vaccines, tests, and well checks to make sure they are growing appropriately. Unfortunately, those also cost a good amount of money.

Our vet offers a “puppy package” that gives a discount off all of the services required for a puppy for the first year of their life. It is a flat fee that we paid up front, so we knew exactly how much it would cost and had the comfort that everything would be included.

Ask your vet to see if they have any type of special offer for puppies and kittens. If they don’t, you can always ask if they would be willing to bundle a few checkups together for a discount.

10. Buy Pet Food in Bulk

Buying pet food in bulk is a good way to cost costs because you can often get a lower price per pound. Check the cost per unit on all of your pet’s food and see if it decreases by buying in bulk. Instead of buying a 10 pound bag of dog food, a 50 pound bag may be cheaper per pound.

Buying less frequently can also reduce shipping costs and make your shopping trips more efficient.

11. Feed Them Some Human Food

While your pets should have a stable diet of actual pet food, you can supplement their diet with human food. It can be cheaper to buy meat and veggies in bulk for your family and then give some of it to your pets.

It is healthy for dogs to have chicken, carrots, green beans, and eggs in moderation. A few baby carrots could be a healthier and cheaper alternative to a more expensive dog treat.

Of course, be careful with this and understand exactly what is safe for your pet to eat. Food like onions, garlic, and grapes can all be deadly for animals.

12. Store Your Pet Food Appropriately

Buying pet food in bulk can be a good idea on paper, but make sure you are able to store the food appropriately. It won’t help you if you end up wasting food if it goes bad on you.

Our dry dog food is able to be stored for a long time, but we make sure to keep it in an airtight container so it doesn’t dry out. Storing it in a cool, dry place also helps to prolong its shelf life. Wet dog and cat food may need to be refrigerated or frozen to keep it as fresh as possible until it can be eaten.

The point is to be prepared and don’t over-buy if you can’t store the food for a certain length of time. If your cat food has an expiration date in 6 months, it doesn’t make sense to buy a year’s worth of food.

13. Avoid Buying Supplies at the Vet

Vet clinics will often have pet food, toys, and supplements available for sale in their lobby. In our experience, all of those supplies are more expensive at the vet than other places, including medications.

Always do your research so that you know what those items should cost. It might be possible that they have competitive prices, but you should at least compare it to online vendors like Chewy or 1800 Pet Meds.

If the vet recommends that you buy a certain type of food or medication from them, buy the minimum you can to get your pet started. Then, go home and shop around to find the best deal that you can on the same item.

14. Exercise Your Pets

Pets are like humans and need exercise to be healthy. Regular exercise for your dog can help them stay happy and healthy, reducing vet costs associated with obesity.

Besides keeping them healthy, pets that get regular exercise will be less destructive in your home. A bored dog is much more likely to chew on furniture or rip apart your couch cushions. Avoid having to repair your house by taking your dog for regular walks and letting them play outside.

15. Fence in Your Yard Yourself

Dogs and cats both need space to explore and play in. Having a fenced in yard can allow your dogs to get plenty of exercise. A cat patio can be a good option to allow your indoor cat to enjoy the fresh air.

Fences and enclosures can be very expensive when installed by a professional. It would have cost us around $10,000 to install a full fence around the perimeter of our yard but we cut that cost by installing it ourselves. We also opted to have use a nice metal fence in the highly visible areas but use a less expensive chicken wire along our wooded back section.

Look for ways to reduce your fencing costs by shopping around for the best deal, installing it yourself, and using less expensive material, wherever possible.

19. Train Your Pet

Training your dog can be one of the best investments you can make. It allows you to remain in control, prevents accidents in your home, and can avoid behavioral issues like aggression. A well-trained dog can avoid numerous expenses from having to repair your home to health emergencies caused by running away and getting in trouble.

Hiring a dog trainer or attending an obedience class can be expensive. Save money by learning about dog psychology and training your dogs yourself. After you have learned how to do this with one dog, your second dog will be much easier.

20. Find a Trusted Pet Sitter

When you go out of town and need a pet sitter, it is helpful to have a sitter that you trust and know has reasonable rates. We used Rover to find 2 or 3 different dog sitters that we can use when we go out of town. Since we pre-vetted them, we are comfortable with their rates, their quality, and giving them access to our house. This helps to save money instead of trying to find someone last-minute.

As another option, you can see if a local high schooler would be willing to watch your pets while you’re away. They are probably cheaper than a professional pet sitter but may not be as consistent.

21. Try Grooming Your Pets

Dog grooming is an expense that can add up quickly. Especially for larger dogs or more complicated hair styles, it could cost $75 or more each visit. Instead of taking your dog to a groomer on a regular basis, try doing some of it at home.

For our dogs, we usually bring them to a groomer every 4 to 6 months. In between that, we bathe them ourselves, trim their nails, and brush them daily. By doing as much as we can ourselves, we dramatically reduced our grooming costs while still keeping them looking good.

Many people don’t feel comfortable trimming the nails of their dog or cat. It can be difficult to do and most pets don’t really enjoy it. If this is your case, try bathing and brushing your pet yourself but have a professional take care of the nails.

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