7 ways to manage pet expenses - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

7 ways to manage pet expenses


By Andrew Housser

Pets are a joyful part of many people’s lives. But like any long-term commitment, pet ownership requires responsibility, too. The “dog days of summer” – named after the time of year when the days are the hottest and the dog star, Sirius, is at its height – are good days to plan how you will budget for your furry friend’s needs.

A 2017 survey of pet owners found that 98 percent underestimated how much a pet would cost them during their lifetimes. In fact, the cost of caring for a pet over 10 years ranges from $27,000 to $45,000 for dogs, and from $21,000 to $30,000 for cats. Still, 93 percent of pet owners said their pet makes them happier. That level of satisfaction can make pet ownership a worthwhile investment for many people – as long as it fits into the budget. 

The day-to-day costs of pet ownership might fit into your budget. But before you launch into a relationship with an animal companion, it is smart to plan for larger – and unexpected – expenses as well.

Invest in necessary vaccinations. Annual checkups allow veterinarians to keep tabs on the well-being of your pets and potentially spot problems early. Regular vet visits can cost $50-$100. The cost of vaccines is additional. In many areas, community clinics offer drop-in vaccination days for little or no cost. Ask your vet for recommendations on which vaccinations your pet needs. Review local laws to understand what vaccinations and licensing pet owners must maintain in your area.

Spay and neuter your pet. Whether you live with a dog, cat, rabbit or other creature, these procedures can prevent some health problems, and of course, prevent unintended litters. Neutering and spaying also can minimize an animal’s instinct to roam. Talk with your veterinarian about the best time for your animal to have the procedure. Spaying or neutering can cost up to $200. To find a low-cost spay-neuter option in your area, visit the ASPCA’s Free and Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Database.

Raise a healthy pet. No one can foresee or prevent every health-related incident in the life of a pet. Still, you can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. When animals roam outside, they are more likely to be injured by other animals or by a car. At home, avoid household toxins – from houseplants to insecticides – that can sicken an animal. Help your pets stay active with regular playtime and walks, and a diet that keeps them at a healthy weight. These actions might help stave off veterinary visits – and the costly bills that come with them.

Consider insurance. Insuring your pet for its lifetime can cost $4,000 or more. But emergency care might cost up to $3,000 for a single injury. Before you sign on to a policy, read the fine print. Some insurers exclude treatments for hereditary conditions, including common ones like hip dysplasia. Some will not cover older pets – and that age cutoff might come sooner than you think. Even with the costs and limitations, insurance can be a wise purchase to avoid the risk of going into debt for a pet’s medical expenses. Weigh the odds, considering what you could afford to pay should your pet become ill.

Open a savings account instead. If you opt out of insurance coverage, consider opening an emergency fund just for your pet’s expenses. Rather than paying an insurance premium, have the same amount transferred automatically to a savings account. Then, when an emergency arises, you will be better prepared. If your pet never has an emergency, you can use the funds for another expense. Of course, you should also have an emergency fund for your own unexpected expenses. Everyone should set aside enough money to cover six to nine months of basic living expenses.

Seek help if you need it. Some communities have pet food pantries for people who cannot afford to feed their pet for a short period. If your pet needs a costly medical treatment, you might be able to negotiate a payment plan with your veterinarian. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a list of low-cost, school-sponsored clinics. Certain animal welfare organizations, including local animal shelters, also may offer help. For a more detailed list of organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need, visit the Humane Society of the United States. Many people use a credit card or personal loans to pay for unexpected medical costs for their pet. Before you choose this option, however, ensure that you will be able to pay the credit card debt promptly. No matter how beloved a pet, it is important to maintain your financial security.

Look at the big financial picture. If you face financial problems that go beyond your ability to cover short-term expenses, you might need more significant assistance. Being unable to pay for pet expenses may be a warning sign of a larger problem. Take a close look at your budget and see if you can adjust expenses or increase income to cover costs. If you are truly struggling, look into professional debt relief help. A good place to begin a search is at the website of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC). Accredited members of the AFCC follow a code of conduct that is even stricter than the Federal Trade Commission’s rules for the debt relief industry. 

 
Owning a pet can be a source of joy. This maxim is even truer when you are confident that you can afford your pet’s care. Put plans in place now to cover those expenses, and will enjoy your pet that much more throughout his or her lifetime.

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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