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Before Getting a Pet, You Should Have This Much Saved

Cuddly? Yes. Expensive? Also yes.

by Cara Haynes
June 5, 2019 | Money

My partner and I thought our new goldendoodle puppy was the greatest bargain. He was sweet, absolutely adorable, loved to be outside, didn’t shed or bark — and we didn’t pay a cent for him.

We got him from a kind coworker who wasn’t in a place to handle a dog anymore. It was a little earlier than we’d planned to get a dog, but everything was just too good to pass up. What could go wrong?

Well, first he swallowed the bolt cover from the toilet. We didn’t even know that could come off until it was in his mouth and down his throat. After rushing him to the emergency vet and dishing out $180, we thought we could finally relax.

But we visited the emergency vet twice more after that.

“Goldendoodles just eat everything,” they told us. “You have to watch them like a hawk.”

We did, but then one morning he woke up sick. He wouldn’t eat his food and just wanted to sleep (that never happens).

We took him to the vet for an X-ray. When the vet came back into the room, he let out a long sigh.

“A piece of a rubber toy is stuck in his lower intestine,” he said. “He’s going to need surgery.”

I was shocked. A couple days and $1,600 later, we brought our little guy home to recuperate.

Owning a pet is actually a pretty big deal

Did we have pet insurance? No. Did we have a pet emergency fund? No. We weren’t planning for any of this. Luckily we had other savings, but his surgery was still a financial hit we didn’t anticipate.

Illustration of red headed man with tattoos holding his chihuahua. Pet Ownership Costs pbs rewire
Pet insurance is not exactly cheap, so it’s not for everybody. But it can be a lifesaver for ongoing medical costs or unexpected emergencies.

Although we were just as enamored as ever with our puppy, we knew it was time to take serious financial action when it came to planning how his bright, furry life would blend with ours.

It’s easy to make the mistake as a first-time pet owner of thinking that once you pay for the pet and everything they need, you’re done. All that’s ahead of you is replenishing their food and enjoying them, right?

Not quite. Take it from me: the most expensive adventures of pet ownership are still ahead. So, before you bring home your furry or scaly friend, make sure you’re aware of how your life will change and what it will cost you.

[Read: Should You Pay Up for That Expensive Pet Surgery?]

Budget for your pet’s monthly needs

The first and most obvious financial box you need to check before getting a pet is making sure your monthly budget can feed and groom and doctor another living thing.

“Medications to mediate pain are one type of expense, and potential surgeries are at the higher end of the scale — but with any living creature, expect the unexpected,” said Jeff Franklin, owner and operator of Cobra Canine.

Even if the difference between these decisions is just a few extra dollars, that can be a big drain on your budget over the years to come with your pet, so it’s important to prep for it now.

Here’s a list of questions to consider while creating your monthly pet budget:

  • What kind of food does your pet need? How often will it eat?
  • How often do you anticipate vet checkups?
  • Will your pet need any regular medication or treatments?
  • Does your pet need professional grooming?
  • How often do you travel? Will you pay someone to care for your pet while you’re gone?
  • Do your living circumstances permit animals? Will you have to pay a monthly fee?
  • How much exercise does your pet need?

Additional factors like age, breed, species and any special needs your pet may have can also affect your budget.

The answers to these questions will evolve over time, but an expected monthly budget is a good place to start. If nothing else, it’ll keep you from tossing yet another cute toy in the cart every time you buy food.

[ICYMI: Consider This Before Getting a Dog With Your Significant Other]

Make a pet emergency fund

Paying for an emergency is the absolute last thing you want to think about when you’re caught up in the euphoria of a new pet. But with an emergency fund set up, you don’t need to worry about it.

Saving at least $500 for unexpected pet costs is a good starting point, but it would be wise to have at least $2,000 saved (unless you have pet insurance).

This is especially true for dog owners.

“With average annual medical expenses for dogs costing $786, it's important to set aside money for their care,” said financial expert Andrea Woroch. “Be sure to include extra funds for emergencies, as unplanned visits to emergency clinics and overnight stays can add up fast.”

This fund can also pay for any damage your pet causes, like a replacement for a chewed rug or a mutilated curtain. Not every emergency requires a veterinarian.

 Consider purchasing pet insurance

Pet insurance is not exactly cheap, so it’s not for everybody. But it can be a lifesaver for ongoing medical costs or unexpected emergencies.

Always shop around before you buy a policy. Check with your vet to see what they accept and if they have any advice on the type of policy that would be right for your pet.

“Pet insurance policies vary based on the age and breed of your pet, just like you’ll see price variations for human insurance, but having this in place can help cut back on medical bills,” Policygenius managing editor Myles Ma said.

Even though it’s a little less fun than bringing home a pet on a whim, planning financially is better for you and them in the long term.

“If potential pet owners were shown this list prior to adding an animal to their home, we believe that less animals would end up in shelters,” Franklin said. “If you don’t prefer the expenses added into your budget, best to stick with a pet rock.”

But let me tell you — prepping your budget can really be worth it. Goldendoodles are a million times cuddlier than pet rocks.

Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes is an editor and freelance writer who thinks words are probably the most important thing we have. She spends too much time thinking about them, whether that means reading the labels on her shampoo bottles or sending novel-length texts to her husband. When she's not doing word work, she enjoys doing leg work in the mountains with her goldendoodle, Dobby. You can find her wherever there is chocolate-chip cookie dough within walking distance.
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