4 Ways to Save on Pet Expenses

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai.  Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

My family had pets for as long as I can remember–cats, dogs, even rabbits for a while.  When I moved out on my own, I took my two cats with me.  After they both died within 2 years of one another, my  husband and I couldn’t stand how empty the house felt without a pet.  Within 2 months, we adopted another cat, who we still have today.

Pets can certainly enrich your lives, but they can be expensive!  Some financial experts recommend that if you have debt, you shouldn’t own a pet.  I wouldn’t go that far, but I would suggest that you take steps to minimize the cost of owning a pet while still providing the pet with a good quality of life.

Luckily, there are many ways to save on pets and their care:


1.  Consider pet insurance.

Just like humans’ medical care, animals’ medical care has advanced.  It’s now possible to treat an animal’s condition that previously was untreatable.  The problem is that you may not be able to financially afford the treatment.  Pet insurance is one way to be able to afford more services, but consider this carefully.

Many people find that there are so many restrictions and upfront, out-of-pocket costs that pet insurance doesn’t really save them money.

A better idea, if you’re disciplined, may be to set aside money yourself to create your own “pet insurance” fund.  If you own a cat, for instance, set aside $25 a month for the animal’s care.  At the end of the year, you have $300, but the cat’s annual check-up and shots may only cost $150.  Now you have $150 to roll over for next year.  Do this for the first 7 years of the cat’s life, when most indoor only cats have very few medical needs, and you have over $1,000 in an emergency fund strictly for the animal’s care.  Continue to put this money aside and let it grow, and when the cat is older, you’ll have the money to cover her care.


2.  Find alternatives to boarding.

Another large expense can be finding someone to care for the animal when you’re gone.  Sure, you could board your animal at a kennel or the vet’s, but that is not cheap.  Instead, consider hiring the neighbor child to come in and feed and water your pet as well as taking him out to play, if necessary.  If that’s not an option, you could also use a site like dogvacay.com.  People who are vetted and insured are available to care for your animal for just $15 a day.


3.  Find reasonably priced food.

Unless your dog or cat has a health condition, there’s no need to buy the most expensive food available at your veterinarians.  While you probably don’t want to feed your animal the cheapest food available, keep in mind that there are several mid-priced brands that offer good quality food for a reasonable price.  Often, shopping at Amazon instead of the grocery store or a pet store can make the price even lower.


4.  Love your animal, but realize it’s not your child.

Some people go overboard when they become pet owners.  They dress their animals in cute little outfits and buy them expensive, cozy beds.  These animals get many presents under the tree at Christmas.

If you want to have a pet on a budget, realize that Fido is your pet, one you love very much, but he doesn’t have to be spoiled like that.  Your wallet will thank you.

Owning a pet can be expensive, but there are ways to lower that cost and make pet ownership much more affordable.  We still have debt that we’re working on paying down, but we wouldn’t miss being pet owners.  Instead, we just monitor our costs carefully.

How about you all? What other ways do you save on pet expenses?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/randysonofrobert/2639402501/


  1. We have a dog, Ruby who we love but no doubt she is an expensive dog. What we do to save money is cut coupons for her dog food. Purina normally circulates coupons every few months for $2 off a bag of food. I when this coupon comes out I will usually use my parents coupon too (since they don’t have pets) and stock up on food while I have th coupon. doesn’t sound like much, but it does add up when you are feed a 70lb dog

  2. It might sound a bit cruel, but I think item 4 needs to be expanded a bit. For example, when facing huge vet bills, remember it’s a pet and not a child (or a human family member). Paying for small vet expenses/check-ups is one thing, but forking out thousands of $’s to treat a serious medical condition isn’t worth it for you financially. Case in point, my mother-in-law spent a few thousand $’s to treat her 10+ year-old cat’s cancer. She definitely could not afford it, but did so anyway. The cat has lived a good life and, while it is still alive, may not live much longer. Sometimes it’s best to realize that, be strong, and let go.
    Mr. Utopia recently posted…You Could Lose Your Mortgage Interest DeductionMy Profile

  3. We just canceled our pet insurance. The rates continued to rise each year as our dog got older and we found out that they wouldn’t cover most of the issues that could arise due to the type of breed. I wasn’t going to be paying that much per month for something that would almost be useless.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted…5 Rules For Using Credit Cards And Not Getting Into DebtMy Profile

  4. Grayson–I’ve heard that about pet insurance. Setting money aside yourself seems to be the best way to go.

  5. We buy dog food in bulk. It saves a ton of money.
    Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted…The Sherpa Mailbag: Your Student Loan Questions AnsweredMy Profile

  6. We had two cats that both needed special food and medicine for ongoing issues. (Sadly, I had to put one of them down last week) I always shopped around for the best price. For example, I used to buy the food from an online source, but they became too expensive so I started getting it through my vet (though I continued to check the prices). At the same time, one of the medications was twice as much through my vet as it was to get it online. So, mix and match to make sure you’re getting the best price.
    Money Beagle recently posted…How Much Do You Have Saved For Christmas Gift Spending?My Profile

  7. I agree with saving for your pets! We save money for our dog every week, and it is a huge comfort to know that we have money specifically for her if she ever has an emergency.

    I agree with not paying to board your pet if you can help it. First, it helps you wallet; second, it helps people like me who do dog/house sitting. 🙂 I have helped out one family for probably around 8 years now, and though she pays me quite well, I know I’m also saving her tons of money by not having to board a dog and four cats.
    Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances recently posted…Your Journey to Financial Freedom, Step Four: Non-Monthly BillsMy Profile

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