7 Personal Finance Tips for Animal Lovers

By Christa Avampato on 16 December 2014 1 comment

The pet industry is big business — $56 billion in 2013 to be exact. And while you want your pet to be happy and healthy, you don't need to contribute any more to that $56 billion than is necessary. (See also: 10 DIY Dog Toys You Can Make for Pennies)

So check out this set of personal finance tips that will help you care for your furry best friends without breaking the bank.

1. Perfect Your Grooming Skills

I've never taken any of my pets to a professional groomer for their coats. You can easily buy salon-quality products and gadgets that make taking care of your pet's fur an inexpensive and even fun task. I make sure my pup gets a bath every week (with conditioner) and a brushing every day to keep his coat and skin healthy. Once a month I have his nails clipped and every six months I have his teeth cleaned by professionals. This regular maintenance and preventative care, the majority of which I do at home in my bathtub, keeps him looking and feeling his best.

2. Maintain Proper Diet and Exercise

Being overweight is one of the main causes of premature death and illness among pets. To keep your pet healthy and to keep your vet bills low, make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and eats just the right amount of food. Also, avoid table scraps. While your pet may love them, their systems are not attuned to the human diet and can cause severe digestive issues.

3. Get Training

Training will save you from the expense of having your house and/or yard torn apart, and it will keep your pet safe from harm as well. There are a variety of options when it comes to training. When I first adopted my dog, I read every Cesar Millan book and followed his advice to the letter. Because my pup had terrible separation anxiety, I found tremendous value in Nicole Wilde's book Don't Leave Me! You can also enroll your pet in group classes or get private sessions with a trainer.

4. Get Pet Insurance

When I adopted my dog, I immediately got pet insurance. Though he's only five, that insurance has more than paid for itself and given me tremendous peace of mind. Veterinary care is expensive. It will undoubtedly get more expensive as my little guy gets older because he will develop health issues through the natural process of aging.

I have an excellent plan through Healthy Paws. I pay a low monthly fee, a $50 annual deductible, and then they pick up 90% of the tab beyond the basic doctor visit cost. It's important to note that you must get insurance while your pet is still young because pre-existing conditions are often not covered and most plans won't start coverage if your pet is beyond a certain age.

5. Shop Around for Care

Speaking of veterinary care, make sure to shop around to get a feel for average pricing. When I first adopted my dog, I just went to the closest vet because I assumed they were all pretty much the same. Not so. There are huge variations in the level of care as well as the cost. There is also a wide spread on quality and cost of care when it comes to dog grooming, walking, daycare, and boarding. Do your homework online and in-person to get the best value and quality for your dollar.

6. Visit Clinics for Simple Stuff

Even once you find a high-quality, good value vet, there are other options for certain types of pet care. I used to happily take my dog to my vet for his vaccines. Then I discovered LuvMyPet, a mobile unit that makes stops at my local Petco every weekend. LuvMyPet's vaccines are exactly the same as the ones from my vet, but they're literally half the price.

7. Shop Around Online for Supplies

Do not buy medicine, food, or supplies from your vet or a brick-and-mortar retailer unless it's an emergency. These establishments generally have a huge markup. You can get a much better deal online from Amazon, 1800PetMeds, and Wag.com.

What cost-effective ways have you found to take care of your pets?

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Guest's picture

I'm surprised to see pet insurance on the list, because I'm used to seeing people get flamed for that decision. But I purchased it for my dog, too.

I have a schnoodle (schnauzer/poodle mix) and his coat is more high maintenance than I expected. We didn't know exactly what we were getting when we rescued him--they had his breed all wrong. It is much easier to pay a groomer, and I love supporting small business, but at $46 a pop (every 8 weeks or so), it just gets expensive. I bought some clippers, nail clippers and everything else I needed for about the cost of one grooming appointment, and I've learned to do it myself. It's a ton of work, but I'm able to get the look I want (all the groomers I've used make my dog look like a dork). I will say that it is good training for the dog to have a professional do it once or twice first--mine is much more relaxed with me now because he knows what to expect.