Start-up costs for our furry pandemic friends are way behind most owners. According to Rover.com, during the pandemic, initial costs ranged from $720 to $1,810 for cat parents and from $1,315 to $3,290 for dog parents: bowls, leashes, crates, microchip tracking, nail trimmers, poop bags and litter boxes, flea or tick prevention, various types of food, a bed, adoption costs, vaccinations, sterilization / castration and more.
It is the continuous costs that are the biggest challenge for pet owners facing financial difficulties amid rising inflation; some costs are up 30 percent or more from 18 months ago. These include food, grooming, vet visits, toys, flea and tick prevention, and more.
Depending on the food choices you make for your pet and any regular medications your pet has to take, these costs could easily double or triple the typical new range by 2022 of $800 to $3,500 per year for cat parents, and $1,000 to $1,000. 4,000 per year for dog parents.
Training, boarding, dog walking, pet insurance, special medical care and day care for your pet can easily add thousands to your annual expenses.
If you’re between a rock and a hard place – am I giving up my pet to save my finances? — but are committed to keeping your pet out of the shelter, let’s run through some options.
Get crystal clear on all costs you incur to do know about.
Take 20 minutes. Sit down with your pen and paper (or computer) and start listing all your pet’s upcoming expenses — food, training, a vet visit, etc. Sometimes it can be helpful to review your transactions from the previous month. Don’t forget to include the less obvious things, such as pet insurance (if applicable), medical procedures, and dog walking. Put a price next to each item and add it up. If the song staring back at you is scary, take a deep breath. That’s what we’re working on.
Identify and implement all the ways to save on daily expenses now.
Some ideas for saving are by buying food, bags and waste in bulk, using digital coupons, switching to a cash back credit card, or redeeming loyalty points for cash or pet products. Are there any changes you can make to your pet’s diet that can reduce feed costs? Can you make your pet’s treats? Are there any lifestyle changes you can make to do things like dog walking and training or to eliminate boarding costs? If you’re really in trouble, most food banks and animal shelters have some pet food reserves to help you get by.
Put off all the fun stuff and use the time to save.
No, you should not delay proper medical treatment for your pet, including dental care. But almost everything else can be on the back burner. If you were planning to upgrade a crate or install newer security gates, see how you can extend the life of what you already have. If it’s an absolute must-have, the second-hand market is a good place to start or borrow from a friend. If you were planning to adopt another animal to keep your pet company, hold off.
Collect some money or ask for help for pets.
If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your job and salary, loving your furry friend is an extra motivation to take action. Additional work available? Take that second job, extra shifts or become the go-to dog walker for your apartment building (it pays up to $20 per hour). Weigh the financial benefits of extra work against how much time you have available because your pet still needs you. Get extra creative and sell items you don’t need on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace – shoes, toys, electronics, etc. – and they’ll use this money to cover the costs. If you have friends and family who care about you and your pet, you can ask them for help with practical supplies.
Build reserve funds so you don’t get caught up in this position again.
When you start to have flexibility in your budget, start saving — for yourself and your furry family. Having emergency reserve funds can help pay unplanned vet bills or even cover the basics, such as food, if you find yourself out of work. Building up a reserve can mean sacrificing your lifestyle. Skip the takeaway and put that $40 in your reserve fund. Then save at regular intervals, such as weekly or biweekly, forever.
Some pet owners include pet insurance in their regular monthly budget, and prices and coverage vary widely. This insurance is intended to part of medical costs. I’d suggest that if you don’t buy pet insurance, you allocate the same amount to your emergency reserve fund — say, $65 a month — if you need that money to pay your pet’s future medical bills out of pocket.
Be honest with yourself when you need to find a new home for your pet.
A lot has changed in the past two years. You may go back to the office and not be home enough for your pet. You may be suffering from high inflation, making it impossible to keep track of your accounts. You may have to deal with job loss. If keeping your pet isn’t an option, start a thoughtful process to see if you can find a new, healthy, and happy home for them. This is difficult, but it will keep them out of the containment system.
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