We LOVE our pets. But between the costs of food, vet care, grooming, boarding and more, pet expenses can add up...especially if your furbaby has some special needs. Here are some ideas to help you save money. (NOTE: Saving money does NOT mean caring less!)
1. Buy in Bulk or Online
Pet supplies you use a lot - such as food, tick and flea prevention meds, etc. - are often cheaper when purchased in large quantities or even online. A quick Google Shopping search for Heartgard, for instance, reveals huge discrepancies in prices, with some stores charging 20% more for a 12-month supply than others. Shopping at wholesale or discount chains such as Costco and BJ's can also make a dent in the cost of meds and foods.
If your pet requires special food for conditions like sensitive stomach, chronic hairball vomiting, dry skin or other, you might be able to find specialty food online with a price cut, too. Visit your food brand website to check for special offers and coupons. You can also check coupon websites for added discounts: RetailMeNot, CouponCabin, The Krazy Coupon Lady and others. Often, you can stack manufacturer coupons and rebates with retail promotions for added savings.
Lesson learned: A little research can go a long way to saving hundreds, even thousands, of dollars over the life of your pet. But don't forget to factor in the cost of membership and shipping fees if you go these routes to affording your pet.
2. Vet Shop
This is the Information Age: We can learn almost anything online...even whether or not veterinarians are affordable/kind/knowledgeable/personable. Fido Friendly has compiled a list of the top vet review websites. Even Yelp has a database of customer vet reviews that you can search geographically. Customers weigh in on everything from bedside manner to cost.
But this is just a start! Go the extra mile before and during your experiences at the vet. Interview a vet before you commit to regular well visits to make sure that his or her philosophy and approach to pet care matches your own. When the vet proposes a costly procedure, ask for an estimate up front. You can also ask for a second opinion or ideas for alternative options. Sometimes a costly medical procedure can also mean undo stress and discomfort for your pet, whereas ongoing medication or diet restrictions would improve quality of life without the expense of money, time and comfort.
While the Internet can be a great tool for collecting valuable information about a vet, it's usually a good idea to complete your search for vet affordability by speaking with the vet or his/her customers in person to form the most accurate picture possible.
Hint: Create a pet emergency fund and save a little money every month to help prepare for pet emergencies.
3. Do It Yourself (DIY)
It's probably tempting to outsource pet services to the experts, especially if you work full time and are taxed with extracurricular commitments like running your kids to soccer practice. But a little DIY can help with saving money. Instead of hiring a dog walker or groomer, learn to do these activities yourself. You might even find them relaxing, as you enjoy some one-on-one time with your pet.
Other DIY options when it comes to your dog or cat include making your own pet toys and treats. You might find yourself saving $10 to $20 off every grocery bill if you switch to making treats. A quick Google or Pinterest search will reveal countless pet treat recipes featuring easy steps and natural ingredients. DIY network even has a webpage entirely devoted to DIY pet treats. But be careful: Make sure you know your pets allergies and likes before you offer up homemade concoctions!
And why spend big bucks on pet toys from the pet store when you can use household objects like old towels, tennis balls, water bottles, PVC pipe and more? BarkPost has a list of 33 DIY dog toys online. And unlike most of the time (smirk!), cats are pretty easy to entertain with minimal effort: They'll bat at a crunched up ball of paper, chase a stray string, or pounce on reflected rays of light - no crafting required!
As with all ways you try to save money on pet supplies and care, you'll want to make sure you first consider the health and safety of your pet above the cost of achieving it.
Need help? Animal welfare groups like NJ STRAYS sometimes offer assistance with pet costs when you're in bind. If you're in North Jersey and you need assistance, contact OSPP@njstrays.org.