Financial Considerations of Getting a New Pet

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Previously on this site, we have reviewed several topics relating to the joys and pains of pet ownership. We have reviewed the decision points around if you need to purchase pet insurance, helping out with dog fostering as a low cost alternative to pet ownership, and looked at the costs of different pet products. In addition, we’ve discussed whether or not Petco or Petsmart is a cheaper place to purchase your monthly pet supplies.

Today, I wanted to add to this running pet-financial discussion by sharing the story of how my girlfriend and I decided that we could financially handle adopting a second dog and how I account for the cost of dog ownership in my personal finances. And, by sharing our story, I hope to provide a template that you all can use if you are considering adopting or getting a new pet.

At the beginning of June 2012, my girlfriend and I decided to adopt a second greyhound dog, named Coat (shown in the picture below!). He’s a big sweetheart and very much likes to cuddle! I really don’t think he knows the definition of a “personal comfort bubble,” as I can sleep with my feet on top of him and not phase his snoring.

petsmart pets petco pet insurance pet emergency fund frugal living financial planning dogs dog food




One Time Expenses Associated with a New Pet

The first step in determining whether or not we could afford a second dog is to sum up any one-time expenses needed to obtain and get a new pet situated in our home. Since we already had an existing greyhound, Charlie, our house was already equipped for dogs, and little extra outfitting was needed. 

Listed below are the various things we considered for one time expense items and the corresponding amounts we paid:

  • Adoption fee 
    • $0 since we adopted him from some friends. 
  • Food bowls, water dishes, sleeping beds, leashes, collars, doggie clothes/jackets, etc
    • $0 since we already had all of these things from our current dog.
  •  One-time vaccinations
    • $0 since these had already been taken care of by our friends we adopted him from.


Planning for Regular Monthly and Yearly Pet Expenses

The next step was to tally up the regularly-occurring monthly and yearly pet expenses that we knew for sure would be incurred by having another dog.

Since my girlfriend keeps exquisitely detailed records for her current greyhound, Charlie, this step was pretty simple. By looking at her existing past receipts from Charlie’s routine expenses, we came up with the following expense amounts shown below on a per dog basis:

  • + $50 per month for high quality dog food and toothpaste (since greyhounds have special dietary needs and very bad teeth).
  • + $350 per year for regular basic annual checkup and bloodwork.
  • + $250 per year for Frontline and Interceptor to prevent against parasitic intrusions. 
  • Total = $1200 per year, or $100 per month in guaranteed expenses per year for each dog. 
Having tallied up these expenses, we then assessed our current income, expenditures, and financial priorities to see if we could accommodate these requirements. 
Even though $2400 total per year for both dogs is, without a doubt, a good chunk of change, we decided that it would be worth it for the happiness we get from having dogs around and to provide a greyhound with good quality of life. 

Pet Emergency Fund vs. Pet Insurance


Having determined that we could afford the regularly-occurring expenses of having a second dog, we then needed to decide how we were going to plan for the unexpected expenses. 

To do this, the first step was to determine how far/how much we are willing to spend to treat a dog in the event of a sudden life-threatening injury or illness. As I mentioned in the pet insurance article I wrote in 2010, I believe pet insurance is a good idea for people who feel that they would do and spend ANYTHING in order to save a pet’s life – chemotherapy, exploratory surgeries, multiple visits to the emergency 24 hr vet, anything.

For me, I simply was not raised this way, and instead believe that you should enjoy the time you have with a pet, but that you shouldn’t go to severe financial extremities to save one if a terrible illness occurs. Some veterinarian treatment is absolutely OK, but there is definitely a financial limit. Because of this belief, I knew that we would need a doggie emergency fund to account for unexpected injuries and illnesses for each dog. 

To get a feel for how much we’d need to save up for each doggie emergency fund, my girlfriend again went back in her receipt records for our current dog, Charlie. She then tallied up the total vet bills from the past 3 years she has had Charlie to determine what unexpected expenses tended to pop up over time.

  • As it turned out, there was a pattern of expenses that revealed itself. About every other year, unexpected vet expenses of about $1500 per year would pop up
  • Most often, these expenses were due to dental work (extraction of teeth, etc since greyhounds have very bad teeth) or leg injuries (since greyhounds run very frantically and can injure themselves).
  • From this pattern that emerged, we determined that each of us would need to carry a doggie emergency fund totaling $1000 at any time.



how I save for yearly and monthly pet expenses

Having figured out the amounts of regularly occurring expenses and doggie emergency fund we would need to expect, I then turned my attention to the question of how to most effectively save up these amounts and integrate them in to my personal finances. 
Regarding the monthly basic expense of $50 for dog food and toothpaste, I would simply incorporate this in to my zero-based budgeting system each month. So, no problem there. 
However, saving for the yearly expected expenses ($600 per year) and doggie emergency fund ($1000 at any time) would require one extra step. Since I am a big fan of automatic savings for financial goals, it was a natural step for me to simply set up an automatically recurring transfer from my checking to savings account each month in order to save up the required $1600 total. For me, I opted to spread out the savings over a little more than one year, so I set the total automatic transfer amount to $111.00. 
So far, it’s been working very effectively and haven’t yet missed the money one bit!

Real-time record keeping of expenses

Having gotten my pet savings plan figured out, the next step was to create a spreadsheet and tracking system to maintain good visibility on actual expenses as they occur.

This tracking system took the form of a simple Google Docs spreadsheet containing 3 columns:

  • Date of expense item
  • Expense item description
  • Expense item category (food, household items, health, and pet sitting)
  • Expense amount
Whenever a new doggie-related expense is incurred, I simply record the item on the spreadsheet, and boosh! Done! I get to see the total spent and what categories incur the most money! 

Comparison of Actual vs. Planned Expenses So Far – Two Month Check In

Having had the two dogs now for almost 2.5 months, I figured it would be interesting to summarize our current expenses to date and how they compare with how I planned above.

So far, we have spent $766.21 total on the two dogs since the beginning of June 2012.

  • Food - $213.15
  • Household Items – $26.24
  • Health Expenses – $466.82
  • Pet Sitting – $60

The pie chart below shows a % break down of the expenses.

petsmart pets petco pet insurance pet emergency fund frugal living financial planning dogs dog food

As you can clearly see, health expenses have been by far and away, the most expensive item. However, this is in line with what we were planning, and we have not yet needed to dip in to our doggie emergency funds.  Food is the next highest expense thus far, but the amount (~$200), is almost perfectly in line with our budgeted amount.

So, overall, it looks like we’re doing a good job planning for the cost of owning a second dog.

How about you all? How you do you plan financially for pet expenses? Do you have a pet emergency fund or insurance? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

Comments

  1. Our pet expenses come out of our monthly spending money. We would also be OK using our emergency fund for an unexpected pet expense but I personally think pet insurance is a rip off. I am glad you adopted greyhounds… they are normally very good dogs.

  2. Shannon-ReadyForZero says:

    My fiance and I have been desperately wanting a dog (a French bulldog – awesome for apartments and city living but unfortunately known to have health problems) but we’ve not sat down with our budgets to see how realistic this really is. This article is super helpful though so maybe we can finally have that puppy talk :).

  3. Great breakdown on the costs of pet ownership! We've lucked out and been able to find a vet who does everything very affordably, but really really cares about our dog. I think it's the combination of her being in a bad area + her doing it for the animals, not the $$. But she has definitely made pet ownership a lot more affordable.
    My recent post Top 6 Best Used Cars Under $10,000 – 2012 Edition

    • That's great to hear! There's also a vet about an hour away from us that we have heard offers really cheap vet service. It's amazing they haven't heard what the competition is charging and jack up the prices!
      My recent post The Pros and Cons of a Down Payment Assistance Program

  4. I've been considering getting a dog and I'm less worried about the cost than taking care of it. My gf and I both work during the day, so we're not sure what to do with the dog during the day. We live in a 1200 sq ft condo btw :)
    My recent post Why Borrowing From Your 401k is a Bad Idea

    • Thanks for reading Harry. My sister is very concerned about leaving her dog alone all day while she's at work. However, I've generally found that dogs do just fine when left alone.
      My recent post The Pros and Cons of a Down Payment Assistance Program

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