As the new year kicks into gear, rethinking what you spend (and save) is at the top of many people’s minds—particularly when it comes to their pets. While the costs of caring for a pet will vary, the average pet parent can expect to spend upwards of $2,000 for a dog and over $1,000 for a cat in the first year of ownership, according to the ASPCA.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered nine practical tips to create a budget for your pet’s care and finally stick to it:
Start with Recurring Expenses
When creating a pet care budget for the year, start with recurring expenses, as these are the easiest to budget for. Recurring expenses include food, preventatives (against heartworm and fleas and ticks), grooming appointments, hiring a dog walker, doggy day care, and any pet fees you may have to pay for having a pet in your apartment or condo, says Tara Falcone, a certified financial planner and founder of the financial planning firm ReisUP LLC. You’ll also want to factor in regular annual expenses, such as yearly health exams, vaccinations and licensing your pet in your city.
Include One-Time Expenses
Besides recurring expenses, budget for anticipated one-time costs, says Falcone. This may include anything from a new crate or cat scratching post to a pet party for a special occasion or boarding or pet sitting costs while you’re away on vacation. Whatever you and your family’s plans are for the year, gauge how it’ll change the budget for your pet.
“These expenses can easily range from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the animal,” says Falcone. “If you’re considering pet ownership, start socking money away ahead of time in a separate pet savings account to cover these expenses. That way you don’t bust your budget when you first bring your fur child home.”
Factor in the Age and Size of Your Pet
When creating a budget for pet care, keep in mind there are varying costs at different stages of your pet’s life. For instance, when they’re younger, you’ll be paying more to get them spayed or neutered and for vaccinations and training. Younger pets also tend to have upper respiratory problems such as kennel cough, while older pets can have joint problems, says Dr. Jeffrey Levy. As your pet ages and develops chronic conditions, expect to see an increase in health care costs.
Spend Time Looking for Savings
To save on expenses that occur regularly, order essentials such as pet food, kitty litter and doggy poop bags in bulk or online, says Falcone. See if you can get discounted package deals on services such as grooming and doggy day care.
Other ways to save include buying bedding and toys at discount retailers, scouring garage sales and Craigslist ads and becoming a frequent-buyer member of your favorite retailers to save on food and supplies, says Diane Orenchuk of Beyond the Walk Doggie Daycare and Boarding.
Create a Nest Egg for the Unpredictable
You’ve heard of emergency funds for your family members, but what about for your pet? No one can predict the future, so squirrel a bit away for an emergency fund for your pet. This may include enough funds to cover an emergency trip to the vet, meeting your deductible if you have pet insurance and other unexpected expenses. Falcone suggests contributing an extra $50 to $100 per month to that account to also cover any additional expenses above your deductible.
Look into Pet Insurance
Over the course of your pet’s lifetime, you’re bound to encounter at least one incident that could require hundreds to thousands of dollars in veterinary care, says Falcone. You may want to consider pet insurance to cover such incidents.
When signing up for pet insurance, to compare per-incident and lifetime coverages, deductibles, and coinsurance rates among companies. Whatever your deductible, Falcone suggests setting that amount aside in your separate pet account so that you have it on hand in the event of an accident or illness.
If you’re looking to save on your pet insurance, see if an insurance carrier offers a discount if you pay six months or a year in advance, if your pet is spayed and neutered or if it’s microchipped. Live in a multi-pet household? Your vet may offer a multi-pet discount if you bring all your pets in at once for their check-up or shots, says Falcone.
Look for Quality, Not Quantity
When looking to cut costs, don’t skimp on quality. No only will this lower your pet’s quality of life, saving in the wrong ways may end up costing you most in the long run. For instance, spend a little more on high-quality treats and food, says Dr. Michael Sanwald of Fetch My Vet. In turn, your dog will be healthier, which means spending less on trips to the vet and medication. Plus, a healthy diet with high-quality ingredients also means your pet will live longer.
Taking preventative measures will also save you money on the long run, says Levy. Daily exercise and routine care, such as scheduled teeth cleanings and yearly check-ups, go a long way.
Figure out How Much to Save Each Month
To ensure you have enough to cover the costs of your pets for the year, create a plan to save a little bit each month.If you’re a new pet owner and aren’t sure how much these expenses might cost, try calling a few veterinarians for quotes before or as soon as you bring home your pet, says Falcone.
“If you’ve owned your pet for a while, look at how much you spent on these items in the past twelve months, divide that number by twelve, and save that amount each month to make sure you have the funds when you need them,” she adds.
Make Tweaks Along the Way
Besides creating a pet budget, make sure it’s working for your finances by reviewing it and making necessary adjustments. For instance, you may find that the cost of pet food was higher than expected or if your spending spikes in another area, aim to save a little more to stay within budget.
If you’re new to budgeting, first analyze your monthly cash flow, making note of areas of strength and weakness, Falcone says. This involves writing down every income source and every expense item. Using an app to track and categorize your spending for the first few months can be really helpful.
You also need to think about how much you spend each year on non-recurring expenses (like boarding for your pet while you’re on vacation) and what those expenses translate to on a monthly basis.
“Once you’ve faced your current cash flow situation, you can create a budget and plan that aligns with your values and will help you accomplish your financial goals,” says Falcone.