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4 ways to save on pet ownership

By Shannyn Allan ·
Friday, December 14, 2012
Posted: 11 am ET

If you yearn to add a pet to your family, you may be astonished at how expensive it is to own and care for a little Fido or Fluffy.

While there are some expenses you can't avoid -- such as medical emergencies or chewed-up shoes -- there are ways to cut costs if you're ready for pet ownership.

Following are four ways to tap free or discounted resources to help you find and care for a furry friend without breaking the bank.

Adopt a shelter pet instead of buying a purebred

This can cut initial costs in half. In my own experience adopting a pug, I found that it costs anywhere from $300 to $1,000 just to bring home a pet from a breeder, whereas I could adopt a shelter pet for a package fee of $300 or less. If you're dead set on a purebred, do a search for breed-specific rescues to cut costs and save a life.

Adopt an older pet

This saves even more money. If you're open to having a pet that's past the puppy or kitten stage, you also get the benefit of a mellower pet that is potty-trained. Also, fees may be lower when adopting older pets.

Look for deals on vaccinations and veterinary care

Many local feed and pet stores offer vaccination clinics. Local rescues offer veterinary discounts for volunteers, or provide assistance for special-needs pets. Check your local newspaper or Google happenings in your area.

Swap pet care with friends or other pet owners

Boarding can be expensive if you need to travel. If you don't have a friend who can "pet sit" for you, try finding other pet owners using online animal enthusiast groups or meet-ups.

Shannyn Allan is a blogger at and loves to talk about finance, fitness and fashion. She currently has several pugs of her own that she tries to spoil without going over budget. You can follow her on Twitter @FrugalBeautiful.

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December 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

The vet is correct that many of the cheapest spay/neuter clinics are cutting corners. Most of those ops come out OK, but some don't. Ask any vet about the ones he's had to fix afterward, running the REAL cost quite high.

Most of the clinics have minimal vet & techs present, and not nearly the equipment (and extra people in case of "sutptises"). If the dice roll badly that day, your dog or cat will, unfortunately, pay the price. I have an all-breed rescue (after breeding & training for 30 years), and even though it's a real shoestring operation, we have all spay/neuter done in a real animal hospital, with Xray & other equipment available, plus extra vets & techs if things get really rough.

Doing the actual spay/neuter is hardly brain surgery and IF THINGS GO WELL, could be done by anyone with a bit of practice. One HS biology class did them until the vet community (rightly so) had it stopped. One vet tech in our area was doing them (successfully) for years in one clinic until they got caught & the vet lost his license over it.

If I were running a massive campaign doing spay/neuter to feral cats & releasing them, I might consider the "en masse" cheapie solution as having more overall benefit to the feral population, but not for an animal I rescued & already have money & significant emotional attachment invested.

If someone can't ante up for a real spay/neuter, I question whether they are at all prepared for the potential cost of caring for a pet.

I'm not at all discouraging anyone from giving a home to a needy dog or cat -- the opposite, actually -- but just encouraging them to do the right thing and skimp on something less likely to have tragic consequences, like going out to dinner or buying the latest electronic toy we just can't do without.

Huelan Sanders
December 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I disagree with having the dogs cleaned for hundreds of dollars. do cats have their teeth cleaned also ? I this cleaning all that necessary? I really can imagine holding a cat??

December 14, 2012 at 7:56 pm

you really help me i just wunt to shay thank you

December 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm


December 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm

That's where you're wrong, Amber. It is financially impossible to do a spay (major abdominal surgery!) for $50 and not be cutting corners, unless there is substantial endowment money supplementing the procedures. They are either cutting out pre-op bloodwork (which can save lives and heartbreak), not autoclaving all instruments, not using optimal monitoring equipment/techs, or not paying their vets and staff enough money to prevent burnout in a high-stress environment.

I'm a vet. I know all the intricate costs associated with running a business. It doesn't matter what the reputation is, the general public has no real way to gauge quality from the outside. When the public equates "quality" with "inexpensive", I *know* we have a problem.

I totally agree with your idea of an emergency fund. It's a wonderful idea and has saved plenty of pets' lives over the years. Pet insurance has also come a long way.

Shannyn, I also applaud the article. I think you did what you could in the short space allowed. I just wanted to point out that if someone is thinking of getting a pet but isn't sure they will be able to afford it, it's best to really consider all the possibilities.

Arthur: Totally agree re: kids!

December 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Great article! As a college-student, I was able to afford two horses by cutting corners where possible. Years later I own two dogs and have learned to expect that something may pop up such as a medical emergency so I have a pet-fund set aside. Also, a spay and neuter that is $50 and is done by a reputable rescue is not a bad thing and their doctors are fully competent. The difference is that it is for the betterment of the community and not for profit. So to all those who think that if you are "cheap" you shouldn't own a pet, I disagree. If you are trying to save a few bucks here and there, great! But just be prepared for the "what-ifs."

December 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I totally agree everyone- I authored this post and know how much pets truly cost. My point though, perhaps not well articulated, was that adopting a pet doesn't have to cost as much if you choose to adopt instead of buying from a breeder.

Obviously, pets are not cheap and you should not adopt if you cannot truly afford it. even with the best of planning, veterinary expenses can crop up out of nowhere, and you should always be prepared to give your pet the care it needs, budget or not!

My goal would be to help more families feel that with preparation, savings and some frugal planning, they too can make room in their budget for a Fluffy or Fido and give adoptable pets a loving home while still giving them optimal care and healthy food.

Again, to articulate- the point isn't to encourage people to adopt pets they can't afford, but to help someone decide and prepare as thoughtfully as possible if they feel having a pet is right for them. Saving money shouldn't be the only priority- but if you're a pet owner, or wish to be, there are ways to make it work after the necessary medical and nutritional expenses are met.

December 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm

If you have to be frugal (cheap) don't get a pet. Pets are not toys they are family. When you take a pet you make a commitment. If you are not willing to make the commitment don't get a pet--get a rock.

December 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm


"If saving money is the priority, then you probably shouldn't own a pet in the first place. Frugality is one thing, but being cheap is another."

I wish people would follow the same advice when having children (human children).


December 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm

If saving money is the priority, then you probably shouldn't own a pet in the first place. Frugality is one thing, but being cheap is another.

In veterinary medicine, as in most other business models, you get what you pay for. If you're paying $50 for a spay, you can bet that doctor is cutting corners. Will everything be fine? Maybe. If it isn't, know that your choice to go cheap was the primary reason.

I see people all the time who have expensive cell phones (and plans), more cars and children than anyone needs, yet gripe about paying $250 a year for a thorough check-up, vaccines, and wellness bloodwork for their supposedly beloved pet. Priorities, folks. It's all about priorities.