There is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet. The moment your fluffy cat meows for your attention or your overly anxious dog uses a slobbery kiss to wake you for his walk makes being a pet parent worth the effort and expense.
It’s normal and very common for pet parents to take owning pets very seriously. For ten years I was the pet parent to Sofi, a stunning white cat I adored. She had green eyes and a grey birthmark. I’ve even chosen a name for the Golden Retriever I don’t yet own. It’s Winston, in case you were wondering.
Of course, you want the best for your pet, so it’s no surprise that some pet owners spend thousands of dollars caring for them in the early years, plus much more over the pet’s lifetime. We’re projected to spend more than $72.13 billion on our pets in 2018.
We’ve put together a financial checklist of items new pet owners should think about. These tips can help you ease into pet ownership without breaking your bank account.
Pet savings fund
You probably understand the importance of saving money in an emergency fund for all those unexpected events that come up in life. You should also set up a pet savings fund. Depending on the type of pet you have, first-year costs alone could run $200 to $2,000 and up. After the first year, some expenses don’t subside. You may have grooming costs, veterinary costs, boarding costs when you travel, and of course the most amazing and mentally stimulating toys you can find (because Fluffy deserves the best).
Some of the most common expenses you’ll incur as a new pet owner include:
Miniature horses are all the rage as support animals. But know that food is one of the most significant pet expenses, especially for large animals like dogs and horses. Whatever your taste in pets is, they are going to need to eat. Annual food costs can range from as little as $12 for fish to $500 and more for larger animals.
We want our pets to be well behaved. While your pooch might not compete for “Best in Show,” training is essential. You don’t want Fido eating your expensive shoes or ruining your couch. Training costs can range from $100 to a couple thousand dollars depending on the type and frequency of training.
If you’re lucky, you work for a company that offers fur-ternity leave. The rest of us need to find a special trusted someone to watch our furry children. You wouldn’t leave your pet with just anyone, and good care can be pricey. Dogs tend to be the most expensive pets to board when you go out of town. You’ve got many different boarding options, from in-home (yours or theirs) professional pet sitting to kennels to fancy dog hotels with plush beds and out of this world treats. Boarding costs generally start at about $25 a night and the sky’s the limit, with the actual numbers depending on where you live and the level of luxury you require for your pet.
If a reptile is your thing, grooming costs won’t matter to you. However, if you’re a pet parent to a dog, grooming costs can add up over the life of your pet. Anticipate spending between $200 and $500 a year for salon visits.
You might be in the pet store for food, but it’s hard to walk past the aisle full of engaging toys and gadgets for your pet. Will they make your pets life easier? Who knows, but as a new pet owner, you’re focused on creating a perfect play environment. While toys and treats can be less expensive than other pet needs, anticipate spending between $25 and $100 per year.
That’s unfortunately not the end of the list. Pets come with loads of other expenses that can leave your bank account feeling unhappy. They’re a permanent line item in your regular monthly budget just like anyone else you have to shelter and feed. Try to stash away $500 to $1,000 in a pet savings account to help you pay for all the ordinary expenses, as well as the unexpected ones that we should always expect.
Pet insurance is a trend on the rise as the costs of care keep going up. Veterinary care visits can range from $50 to $400 depending on the reason for the visit. Should your pet need surgery, costs can skyrocket. Without a financial safety net, some pet parents are forced to choose between funding their retirement or paying for the pet’s medical needs — or worse yet, between life or death for the pet.
Pet insurance is relatively easy to obtain and less expensive than human medical insurance. It’s traditionally available for dog and cat owners. Choose a reputable insurance carrier when you’re looking at pet insurance, so you know the funds will be available to you when you need them most.
Pet insurance can cover accidents, illness, hereditary conditions, lab tests, surgery, medications, behavioral issues, and so much more. Each policy comes with a deductible and benefit amount that depend on a variety of factors, including the animal you wish to insure.
Name a guardian in your will
Did you know you can name a guardian for your beloved pet in your will? Why not? Pets are a part of your family. What would happen to your pet if something happened to you?
When you set up or revise your will, think about adding a line or two regarding your pets. Remember, your will includes your wishes for all your stuff once you pass away and names who gets what and how much.
While there isn’t any set language that you have to use in your will, most people who include their pet like to address a few key points:
- Think about naming a guardian for your pet, someone your pet already knows and loves, to take over the pet parent duties if something happens to you. Make this person is aware of your wishes ahead of time so they aren’t caught off guard. You can name a relative, a friend, a veterinarian, or even a pet shelter.
- Include care details such as what kind of food your pet eats, grooming needs and even preferred treats
Owning a pet is one of the most rewarding forms of unconditional love. Pets become a part of the family, pose for annual family pictures, and head out on adventures across the world with their pet parents. I wasn’t even a dog person until the day a cuddly brown golden retriever gave me a face lick, and I’ve been in love ever since. There are so many aspects of pet parenting life to love, especially if you’ve prepared for the costs of pet ownership both now and in the future.
Shannah Compton Game is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional with an MBA and is the host of the award-winning podcast, Millennial Money, where she shares totally relatable and easy to understand financial advice that will actually make you want to talk about money.
Haven Life doesn’t provide tax, legal or investment advice. This discussion is intended as general education only. We encourage you to work with your own personal tax or legal professionals and your financial advisor. Opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Haven Life.