Puppies for Christmas: Part 2

The Annual Cost of Pet Ownership: Have You Done the Math?
 
One-time pet expenses:
 
Spaying or Neutering: $200
Initial Medical Exam: $70
Collar or Leash: $30
Crate: $95 depending on size
Carrying Crate: $60
Training: $110
Total One-time Costs: $565
 
Annual pet expenses:

Food: $120
Annual Medical Exams: $235
Toys and Treats: $55
License: $15
Pet Health Insurance: $225
Miscellaneous: Dog: $45 (such as heartworm preventative)
Total Annual Costs: $695
 
According to this report, the total first-year cost of owning a dog is $1,270. I can tell you that we paid a lot more than either of these figures…on each dog individually (remember, I have a purebred from a breeder and a mixed rescue).
 
As you can see, having a pet can cost you over $1,000 in the first year, and well over $500 each additional year. Depending on the food you buy and your actual medical expenses, the costs could be much higher. Furthermore, these tables are not inclusive. If you travel, tack on pet sitting or kennel services, and if you rent an apartment, expect to pay a sometimes no refundable pet deposit or cleaning fee, if your landlord allows animals at all.
 
The Texas Society of CPAs has a PDF version of a
pet budget worksheet you can use to help you estimate pet ownership costs. While the page is geared at parents teaching kids the costs involved in pet ownership, the actual worksheet is universal and could be useful in trying to determine what your actual pet ownership costs might be.
 
These figures take into account having pet health insurance, which many pet owners do not. If your animal gets sick and you do not have insurance, vet bills can quickly escalate into the thousands of dollars. If you don’t have pet insurance, then potential pet costs are another reason to have an emergency fund of at least several thousands of dollars.
 

How to prepare for the unexpected
 
Kiplinger recently published an article on this topic,
the hidden and unexpected costs of owning a pet. The authors suggest putting away an emergency fund for unexpected pet health costs: “Owners will likely incur at least one $2,000 – $4,000 bill for emergency care at some point during their pet’s lifetime”, says Dr. Louise Murray, vice-president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, in New York City.
 

Four tips for would-be pet owners
 
What should we learn from this? Like a lot of things, the costs of pet ownership are unpredictable. As much as we can estimate cost for a year, it’s better to have a safety net in case of a major illness or other emergency. You never want to be in a situation where you have to choose between saving your pet’s life and putting yourself into serious debt.
 

Here are a few steps for making sure you can afford to own a pet:
 
1. Figure out how monthly expenses will affect your budget.
 
Are you currently overspending in some area (eating at restaurants, indulging a shoe passion, maybe) where you can cut back? Is that worth it to you? If the answer is “no,” you probably aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to keep a pet happy and healthy.
 
2. Set aside between $1,000 and $2,000, or a portion of your
emergency fund for that unexpected vet bill.
 
Don’t just say, “It would never happen to me.” As the Kiplinger article says, it is almost definite that every pet during its lifetime will have a major vet bill. Setting aside the funds for that is not optional!
 
3. Consider how you will feel if you are faced with a life-saving vet bill you can’t really afford before it happens.
 
If you don’t, you may be faced with a difficult choice between your pet’s life and being able to pay the rent next month. Don’t put yourself in this position; it’s not fair to you, nor your future furry friend.
 
4. If you’re worried about not being able to afford big vet bills, consider pet insurance.
 
When you visit your local vet, he or she will likely have a lot of information for you about purchasing the insurance, but you should do your own research. Not all policies are created equal.
 
What about you? Do you have a tip for saving money throughout your pet’s life? When were you ready to afford your first pet? What is your largest pet expense?

 
Summary
 
At the risk of sounding like my mom when we begged for a dog as kids, owning a pet is a significant financial responsibility. It’s not a decision to be made on a whim. Be sure to do the math before you take home your new friend.