How & Why We Fit Our Pet Into Our Budget
Sarah and I have a family of 3; it is her, myself and our cat (see picture). We adopted our little kitten, in December of 2014. She instantly became a valued member of this household. While she isn’t an earner (she’s cute but not “Cats of Instagram” cute), she provides us with companionship and love which we can never really have enough of. Having a pet is amazing, but it comes with responsibilities that need to be made a priority. Our pet’s budget is variable in that we can have some control over how and when we spend money. It is also fixed in that we have to prioritize having money for her food, litter and vet appointments over any “wants” we might have.
How We Budget for our Pet
We both love cats and we know that cat is a lot cheaper than a dog. Cats aren’t without costs, but in comparison to dogs their food is relatively cheap and they are pretty good with self-grooming. Making a budget line item for our kitten was a pretty easy task, but many of the same steps can be taken with any pet.
If you are living off a budget (and you should be), you likely have a grocery budget. Grocery shopping on a budget can be difficult, unless you possess the skill to ignore all impulses and decades of retail marketing theory (those items near the cash are not there by mistake, trust me).
Food shopping for your pet is much easier. Before making the leap to bringing a pet into your household you should consider a few things. Make sure you know how much they eat. Find out if they are prone to allergies for ingredients in certain food. Research if that information tends to change as they age. It is important to do this research ahead of time. Doing it afterwards isn’t necessarily the best route. You need to make sure you can handle the extra expenses within your budget. It isn’t fair to bring an animal into your home and then neglect their dietary needs because you haven’t planned properly.
One thing that Sarah and I have found is that the cost of food varies hugely between franchises. Athena eats Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Dry food. We typically purchase the 7lb bag for her which lasts about 2 months. She gets a quarter cup of food twice a day. Without accounting for sales, the difference in cost from one store to another varies by about 15% ranging from $30-$35. I get paying a bit more for the convenience of shopping in one store. Her food is not available in the stores we get our groceries at it is a special trip regardless.
Your pet might have drastically different dietary needs but the same idea applies. Go to the local pet stores before bringing your pet home. Price out what food will cost you on an ongoing basis.
When the kitten turned 2 this year, and would you like to know what we got her? Nothing. She had no idea that it was her birthday or what we assume her birthday is as per the shelter. She gets plenty of affection every day so she definitely didn’t feel deprived. That said toys can be a big part of keeping your pet healthy. It would be great to play with them for hours and hours a day but most of us don’t have type of free time. So even though you can set aside a bit of time every day to play, go for a walk or a run – toys can be a great way to keep your little critter healthy and happy.
The big pitfall – overbuying toys! As much as animals love toys, most have a habit of picking one toy and sticking to it like glue.
For the kitchen – the toy she latched on to was this stick with a little feathery ball attached to a string. She brings it everywhere, and has even figure out how to throw it on her back so she can easily bring it up or down the stairs. Seeing how much happiness it brings her makes me want to go and spend all the money on toys – but that wouldn’t actually bring any value to her life – she is quite happy with the one.
We have tried to buy her other toys like little balls but she ends up rolling them under couches and we never see them again. This stick is pretty easy to find and she gets such a kick out of it so that is what we have.
As your furry little pet gets older, there is a good chance their medical costs will go up. It breaks my heart when I hear stories about people putting their pets to sleep because they can’t afford to give them a procedure they need. When you are first getting a pet – contact the local vet and let them know the age, breed and what procedures/shots have already been done. Find out what needs to be done immediately, and how often they should get checked out afterwards. This will be part of the raw data you use to figure out your pet budget – but remember those costs will escalate as your pet gets older so make sure you plan for future spending by putting a bit extra aside now.
If you can manage it, you can even have an emergency fund for your pet (Half/Banked did a great post about this, check it out).
Why We Budget for our Pet
This one is easier – we budget for our pet because we budget for everything we need in life. Having a pet is a responsibility, and one that should not be taken lightly. When you adopt a pet, you are taking on a responsibility to provide them with a better life than they could have on their own. To provide our pet with a better life, we need to make sure we have the resources to make those provisions. Sarah and I joke about how our cat has a bigger allowance than we do. This is a half-truth. She gets more money in her budget line item than either of us do for allowance. Her “allowance” pays for her food, litter, vet appointments and toys. Our toys come from a completely different fund!
How Does The Money Look?
As I said, cats are not that expensive in the world of pets and cost of food, litter, grooming and vet bills can vary widely by animal, breed and region. Below is a snapshot of Athena’s average expenses:
Food = $17.00
Litter = $7.00
Vet Appointment = $6.25
We put aside $35.00 a month which covers these essentials and saves money for future medical needs. It’s not a lot of money but it’s what it takes to make sure her needs are taken care of. She gets tons of love from us and that says a lot.
Does your pet have a line item on your budget? Why or why not?
Any tips you can offer that apply to your pet are very much appreciated as well!
“Cats know how to obtain food without labour, shelter without confinement, and love without penalties” W.L. George
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