5 Ways to Spend Less on Fido and Fluffy

Fido and Fluffy have become common members of most households. Rarely do you find a home that doesn't have a cat or dog, and in many households, pet owners treat their pet as if it were their son or daughter. Maybe it's the companionship, or maybe it's the unconditional love a pet provides, but life is often much fuller when you have an animal living under your roof.

While having a pet may make your life fuller, sometimes it won't make you monetarily richer. Everyone knows that pets can be expensive. With veterinary bills to pay, grooming, toys, food, training, treats, and other expenses, having a pet can drain your bank account quickly. So how can you pamper your pets without breaking the bank? Can you save money on your pet without switching them to cheaper food or eliminating the purchase of toys they love so much? The answer is YES!

Here are five simple ways to save money on pet expenses.

Adopt from a Shelter

If you are thinking about adding a furry new member to your family, visit your local animal shelter (or go to PetFinder.com) instead of going to a pet store or a breeder. Most animal shelters require an adoption fee of no more than $150, and your new pet will come spayed or neutered, microchipped, and up-to-date on his or her vaccines. The same cannot be said for the $400-$3500 pet store or breeder animal who will not come spayed or neutered, won't be up-to-date on his or her vaccines, and definitely will not be microchipped.

The best part of adopting a pet from the shelter? You will save a life that is in jeopardy of being euthanized due to overcrowding AND open up a cage for another animal to have a shot at finding a home. Saving lives while saving money? Sounds like a win-win situation!

DIY Grooming

Instead of taking Fido or Fluffy to the groomer for baths and nail trimmings (which can cost anywhere from $120-$600 per year), buy a pair of nail clippers and some shampoo and groom your pet yourself! Nail clippers cost around $10, a bottle of shampoo that will last you 4 months (if you have a big dog) costs around $15, and a brush costs no more than $20.

So put Fido in the tub (or if you don't have a tub, go outside and use your hose) and give him a bath on your own! And instead of taking Fido or Fluffy to get his or her nails trimmed, just do it yourself! If you have never trimmed the nails of a dog or cat before, you can check out this video on how to trim your cat's nails or this video on how to trim your dog's nails.

Purchase Durable Toys

This tip may seem counter-intuitive, because durable toys tend to be more expensive than regular toys, but by purchasing toys that will hold up well to chewing, tugging, scratching, biting, and being thrown around, you will save money in the long run.

For example, you could get a $5 plastic Frisbee at Petco that your dog will destroy in two days or you could spend around $20 on a more durable Frisbee that will last for six months. Think about it: Would you rather spend $450 on Frisbees every six months — or only spend $20? A few of the best durable toys for Fido or Fluffy include the Classic Kong, the Turbo Scratcher, and the Dura Doggie Disc.

Train Fido Yourself

Training your dog is absolutely essential. Without proper training, your dog will bark, chew on things, and basically do whatever he or she wants whenever he or she wants. But don't feel the need to shell out hundreds of dollars to take puppy-training classes with your new dog. It is possible to train your dog yourself! All you need are treats and some sort of training guide to follow.

By simply running a search on Amazon.com for "How to Train Your Dog," you can find 410 results (mostly books and movies) that will help you train your dog. Most of these products cost less than $20! Or, if you want to train your dog and only spend money on treats, you can Google "how to train your dog" and check out one or more of the 10,400,000 video, article, and blog results. Either way, take the time to train your dog yourself and save a couple hundred dollars.

Toilet Train Fluffy

Most people don't think about this money-saving option due to the fact that toilet training a cat seems like it would be an impossible task. However, it is possible to toilet train your cat! If you don't want to spend $80 on a kitty toilet training system (aka the Litter Kwitter), all you need is time, patience, and a sturdy litter box that will fit on your toilet seat while supporting your cat's weight.

Start by putting your cat's litter box next to the toilet, then day by day elevate the litter box using newspapers until it is the same height as the toilet. Once it is at the same height, place the litter box on the toilet. After a few days, remove the litter box and replace it with a bowl filled with some litter. Allow your cat to get used to the new set-up and keep an eye on where your cat places his or her feet. If you see your cat while he or she is going to the bathroom and all four feet are not placed on the toilet seat, simply place your cat's feet on the seat to get him or her used to balancing on the seat. After your cat is consistently going number one and two in the bowl with all four feet on the toilet seat, slowly reduce the amount of litter in the bowl until you can remove the bowl and your cat uses the toilet!

Alternately, if you would prefer not to have your cat using your toilet and you allow your cat to be an indoor-outdoor cat, you can train him or her to go to the bathroom outside. Simply place his or her litter box outside in a planter for a few days, then remove the box and just have a little litter in the planter, and finally remove the litter altogether. Either way, no more smelly litter box and no more spending money on kitty litter!

By utilizing the tips listed above, you can save money on your pet's expenses without making any dietary or playtime compromises. Here's to full bank accounts and happy pets!

Do you have any tips on how to save money on pet expenses? Share them in the comment section!

This is a guest post by Ashley Jacobs. Ashley is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara and currently works as the Editor of Cash Flow Sherpas. Read more by Ashley:

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Guest's picture

This is a YMMV tip, but when I adopted my second cat from our local PAWS shelter, I found out that older animals have a reduced adoption fee in order to motivate people to adopt them. I hadn't planned this, but the kitty I fell for happened to be a 5-yr-old Katrina-rescued cat, and that made the adoption fee $35 instead of the usual $65. Worked for me!

Guest's picture

Great information! I didn't know about reduced adoption fees for older animals. Thank you for sharing!

Guest's picture

Like the part about training. Wish we had done a little better job with our dog as she doesn't always follow the rules!

Guest's picture

Hi MJ! Training can be difficult but with a little patience, the right treats, some good training tips, and determination, it is possible! :-)

Greg McFarlane's picture

"Rarely do you find a home that doesn't have a cat or dog"
Actually, I'm pretty sure there are millions of them.

"pet owners treat their pet as if it were their son or daughter."
Yes, it's been my understanding that pet owners have occasionally been known to care about their pets.

Seriously, get a pet wellness plan, the best deal in all of commerce. Banfield Pet Hospital (the one inside Petsmart) has a great one. Enroll your puppy or kitten, and for $23 a month you get testing, vaccinations, medicine and x-rays for a way discounted price.

The part about cats using an actual toilet was just to see if we were paying attention, right?

Guest's picture

Thanks for the tip on the pet wellness plan Greg! And I was serious about teaching cats to use the toilet. A friend of mine actually has been successful in teaching 2 of her cats to use the toilet, so it is possible! :)

Guest's picture

For $30/month my dog is fully insured at any vet with a 200 dollar deductible and 100% coverage up to 8,000 per calendar year. Includes hereditary and chronic conditions.

Guest's picture

Great article! Another tip to add: In addition to adopting your dog or cat from a shelter, see if that shelter offers low-cost vaccines. I bring my dog to the shelter every year for her rabies shot, and it costs less than $20.

Guest's picture

Hi Liz! Thanks for sharing! I didn't know that some shelters offered cheaper vaccines. Very useful information! :)

Guest's picture
Lucky Kitty

What about doing routine vaccinations yourself? You can get vaccines and syringes at any feed supply store and save tons of money (especially for new kittens/puppies who need numerous shots). Also, our humane society offers coupons for $25 spays/neuters for low income pet owners. These two tips allowed us to bring an amazing stray kitten (found under the hood of our car after a six mile high speed drive!!) into our lives at a time that we really could not afford another cat.

Guest's picture

Hi "Lucky Kitty." I think I'd be really nervous about giving my dog or cat vaccines on my own, but I guess if you have a steady hand and know how to give your pet a shot, what vaccine they need, and when they need it, that would be a good way to save some money. And thank you for sharing the info about low cost spay/neuter coupons! It is really important for pet owners to know that they can get their pet spayed or neutered without breaking the bank. It is definitely essential to help control the pet population because there are so many animals out there who need homes!

Guest's picture

Just thought I'd add that I do this, too -- it's very simple, as vaccines are sub-Q shots and a cinch to give to a quiet animal. You can also order them online from places like Drs. Foster and Smith; much cheaper than a vet visit that way too, but better to buy from a farm supply store if you can as the shipping costs (vaccines have to be overnighted and kept cold) add to the price.

If you do this, I'd recommend making sure your vet is OK with it. Mine is willing to take my word that my animals are vaccinated (for everything but rabies; a vet or rabies clinic has to do those in our state), but not all are, and if you need your pet to be seen due to an injury or illness you don't want to be turned away due to questions about the vaccine history.

I also use liquid cow wormer (Ivermectin, same active ingredient as HeartGuard), which can be bought without a prescription at a farm supply store, to manage heartworm control -- same thing, with my vet's OK. I just give them the same dosage as they'd get from Heartguard but squirted from a syringe into a fish oil capsule (from which I've drained the fish oil) rather than in pill form. It's a bit more hassle, but so much cheaper -- $30/year for 2 70# dogs rather than ~$300 for HeartGuard. This is not recommended for collies or collie crosses as apparently they sometimes have reactions (ask your vet).

I'm told PetShed is a good place to buy pet meds online but have never used it.

Guest's picture

When you are trimming your pet's nails. Just take a little bit each time, especially if it has been a while. By doing it a bit at a time, the quick will retreat up the nail and give you a slightly larger area to work with. You might also consider a nail file or dremel (if you are very brave) to take the rough edges off so they don't snag on clothing or skin. If you go the dremel route, take the time to get your dog used to it and use it regularly (weekly), you can avoid having to cut the nails at all. Also, if you will trim them, get some stiptic from a ranch supply store. Tap a bit into the lid and put the bleeding nail into that. Most dogs are drama queens when it comes to a nail trim so ignore it. Cats are a LOT easier to trim the nails on and I have used toenail clippers on our cat.

Guest's picture

Hi Susan! I didn't know that the quick retreats up the nail if you trim just a little bit of the nail at a time. That's really useful info and I'm sure it cuts back on how frequently you have to trim your pet's nails! Thank you for sharing! :)

Guest's picture

I made my own scratching "box" for my cats. Very similiar to the cardboard center of the at toy recommended, just square. Very easy to make.
1. Find Corrogated cardboard box.
2. Cut box into strips about 3 inches wide.
3. Glue strips together.
Optional 4. Put glued together strips in a shallow box.

I got the boxes from Sams club and used white school glue. Total cost was less than $1. Total time was less than 1 hour, not including time for the glue to dry. I made mine when I first got my cats, about six years ago. They still use it every day.

Guest's picture

Awesome tip! Thank you for sharing! :)

Guest's picture

Susan mentioned buying styptic powder, but honestly even that isn't a requirement. If you accidentally quick your pets nails, simply knock some flour into a container and use that! It's just as effective, and barely costs you anything!