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Save Money on Pet Care

by Emily Guy Birken

We’ve all heard the terrible stories about families so hard hit by the recession that they can no longer keep their furry, four-legged family members. It’s heartbreaking to think about having to make the choice between groceries or pet food, and thankfully most of us will not be in that terrible bind. However, owning a pet is never cheap, and with budgets strained all over the country, it is important to think of ways to keep Fido and Boots happy and full without spending a fortune. Here are some ideas for keeping your pet costs low without sacrificing quality:

How to Save Money on Pet Care

1. Buy in bulk. Pet food and medications are expensive! When it comes to food, it can seem like it’s cheaper to buy the generic kibble and leave it at that. Unfortunately, the cheaper brands of food (even the ones with advertisements!) are full of fillers and additives that will not be good for your pet. When you factor in the cost of vet visits for ill pets, it really is cheaper to buy the optimum food for your pet. To save on the cost of the premium food, buy the largest size available and store the extra in an airtight container. If you have a deep freezer, freezing extra food will make it last even longer.

For even more savings, you can purchase your food and meds online from retailers like petfooddirect.com and amazon.com and sign up for a subscription. Subscribing for the item will save you up to 15% off the purchase price and you will never run out of your preferred brand.

2. Do it yourself! The first time you try to clip your dog’s nails or bathe your cat is often your last. It can be nerve-wracking to convince your pet that it really does want to let you hold its paw or dunk it in a tub of water. But paying someone else to do this is not necessarily the best use of your money. If you’re unsure of the best method for grooming (or training, for that matter), visit your local library for a book or check Youtube for a tutorial. Chances are, someone out there has had similar problems with your breed of pet and learned how to overcome them. Otherwise, how could the groomers and trainers stay in business?

3. Barter services. For singles with pets and dual income households, figuring out how to get the dog walked in the middle of the day can lead to expensive walkers, sitters or doggie day care centers. Instead of spending money on these services, why not trade time? In exchange for another doggie service (like once you’ve mastered the art of grooming, for example), you could trade dog walking with a neighbor or friend from the dog park or vet. Even if you don’t or can’t trade in-kind services, remember that you could do other work for trade, like tutoring, tax help, babysitting, etc, to “pay” for your animal care.

Similarly, the next time you go out of town, trade pet sitting services with a friend or neighbor rather than kennel your four-legged friend. Your pets will probably be happier in a more familiar environment and you’ll save money (and get a chance to bond with another dog when your friend goes out of town.) It’s a win-win-win.

Being a pet owner is a big responsibility, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to have a big price tag. With some planning and creativity, you can save money and enjoy your furry family for years to come.


Published or updated April 6, 2011.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Echo

I’m glad you suggest not to cheap out on pet food since it really will hurt your wallet in the long run when they get sick.

My wife used to work in a vet clinic and did some pet grooming so it’s nice that she can handle that herself with our pets. She also has insight on what is a “need” vs. what is just a sales job by your vet.

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2 Pat S.

If you are intimidated about clipping your dog’s nails, think about getting a rotary pet nail trimmer. It keeps you from hurting them, and is pretty easy to use.

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3 Andy

I’d like to support what Echo said about not buying the cheapest pet food you can find. Something that we’ve found is that, if you shop carefully, you can save a lot of money by buying pet supplies online (especially pet food through Amazon). You get the benefits of buying in bulk without having to make a trip to the store. You can also more easily compare prices online than you can in a retail outlet.

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