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10 saving tips every pet parent could use

Key takeaways

  • The biggest pet expense outside of the vet is food. Make yours last longer by storing it safely and serving correct portions.
  • Comparison shop, especially with pet meds. Although buying through the vet is convenient, online sellers might be cheaper.

Love shouldn't cost a thing, but man's best friend can sometimes be a pain in the wallet. While a dog household spends over $900 on their pet or pets on average per year, 8% of dog owners spend more than $2,000 annually on their pup, according to Forbes.1 And don't (cat) nap on feline financials either. Forbes says cat households spend over $650 on their pets each year.2 Meow.

Even though your pet might be worth the world to you, these 10 tips could help you spend a lot less than that.

1. Store your pet food properly

Aside from vet costs, food is typically the most expensive part of pet ownership, with dog and cat households spending more than $300 a year on grub, according to Forbes.3 Because pet food can go bad just like human food, it pays to store it right. Always follow the freshness instructions on the packaging or the manufacturer's website, but here are some general FDA tips:

  • Store dry and canned pet food in a dark, dry place that stays under 80 degrees F.
  • If you put dry pet food in another container, place the entire bag in the container rather than pouring the food directly into it.
  • Make sure the container is clean and dry with a well-fitting lid, and wash it in between uses.4
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2. Feed your pet the right amount of food

More than half of dogs and cats in the US are considered overweight, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.5 Overfeeding could be to blame. And it can not only jack up your food costs but also create pet-health problems—and big vet bills down the road. Next time you're at your vet, ask them how much food you should be serving your furry friend. Then get in the habit of weighing out exactly that amount for each meal. That could keep your pet—and your budget—healthier.

3. Brush their teeth

Over 66% of dogs and 50% of cats over age 3 have periodontal disease, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.6 Depending on the severity, treatment can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars (for a cleaning) to a few thousand (for a pulled tooth or other procedure), according to Forbes.7 But you might be able to avoid these fees by brushing your pet's teeth every day, or at least 3 times a week, suggests VCA Animal Hospitals. Start a routine: Brush their teeth right after you brush your own.

4. Shop around for pet meds

Just like prescriptions for people, pet-med prices can vary depending on where you buy them. Even though it might be easiest to get their drugs directly from the vet, it could be worth shopping around to find the best price. An online search could help you find multiple reputable sellers, which might include pharmacies you're already using for your own meds.

5. Groom your pet yourself

Your dog's haircut could cost more than yours, with average grooming prices between $40 and $75, according to HomeGuide.8 If your dog gets groomed every 6 weeks, that could mean as much as $650 on haircuts a year. But not if you spend a couple hours with dog-grooming video tutorials and about $30 on a grooming kit with shears and clippers. If you don't want to deal with a furry mess in your home, look into self-service grooming facilities in your area. Those normally run between $11 and $23 a visit, according to HomeGuide.

6. Find a pet-sitting partner

Boarding pets can make getting away prohibitively expensive. With charges around $40 a night per pet, putting up 1 critter can add almost $300—or well over $500 for 2—to a weeklong vacation's costs, says HomeGuide.9 A money-saving alternative: Trade pet-sitting duties with a friend or relative. They look after your pets when you're gone, and you return the favor for their trips. You could also post on local message boards to find a partner. Consider setting up a pet playdate to see if your furry friends can be friends with each other.

7. Make your own pet treats

When you're training a puppy or kitten, you might give away pet treats like candy. And that can add up—unless you cook them up yourself. It can be as easy as baking and cubing a sweet potato for dogs or combining and baking some tinned fish with egg and whole wheat flour for cats. There are tons more cheap pet-treat recipes online, but always check that the ingredients are safe for your pet before putting on that chef's hat.

8. Be skeptical of subscriptions

Subscription-based services that send toys, food, and treats each month are convenient, but that comes at a cost. Not only are you unable to comparison shop when you sign up for a subscription, but you also might pay for items you won't use. Cut pet costs by buying only what you need.

9. Rethink where you get pet supplies

Pet specialty stores could build in upcharges for having everything for your pet in one place. But you might be able to find pet basics, such as food bowls and toys, for less at discount stores. Check local social media groups to see what other pet parents are giving away. Or consider repurposing items you already own for your pet. For instance, you could freeze a wet, knotted washcloth to make a low-cost puppy teether, or cut open the side of a cardboard box and stick a blanket inside for a dreamy cat bed.

10. Do lots of research around pet insurance

As with most insurance coverage, the idea with pet insurance is you pay a monthly premium, and then the insurance company pays or reimburses you a portion of eligible costs up to a certain amount above your plan's deductible.

Before signing on any dotted lines, figure out:

  • What pet insurance would cost you.
  • Exactly what it would (and wouldn't) cover, and if there are any caveats.
  • What it might save you, if anything. Ask other pet owners with and without insurance what their pet-health costs are like each year.
  • Also, make sure to check whether common procedures like neutering or spaying are covered.

The average cost of a health insurance plan with unlimited annual coverage, $500 deductible, and 90% reimbursement is $56 a month for a dog and $47 a month for a cat, according to Forbes.10 But not all insurance plans cover the same expenses. If anything about the plan is unclear, call the issuing company to get your questions answered before you take on coverage. It could be smart to get pet insurance when you first adopt your fur-baby. If your pet incurs any illness or injury or has any preexisting conditions, pet insurance companies can decline coverage or charge higher premiums.

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More to explore

1. Michelle Megna, "Pet ownership statistics 2023," Forbes Advisor, April 10, 2023. 2. Megna, "Pet ownership statistics 2023," Forbes Advisor. 4. "Proper storage of pet foods & treats," FDA, April 4, 2020. 5. "2022 Surveys & Data," Associate for Pet Obesity Prevention, 2022. 6. Lorraine Hiscox and Jan Bellows, "Brushing Your Dog's Teeth," VCA Animal Hospitals, 2023. 7. Meera Pal, "How Much Does Teeth Cleaning for Dogs Cost?" Forbes Advisor, April 18, 2023. 8. "How much does dog grooming cost?" HomeGuide, 2023. 9. "How much does it cost to board a dog?" HomeGuide, 2023. 10. Jason Metz, "How Much Is Pet Insurance," Forbes Advisor, May 7, 2023.

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