But like having children, having pets also costs money.
From food and medical care to toys and grooming, plus unexpected emergencies, pets can cost a pretty penny. Although we love and care for our pets, it's still painful to make a trip to the vet for a surgery that costs over $1,000 or simply a checkup that runs $100 or so periodically.
And pets can get sick just like people, which adds both a burden of responsibility when you must care for that animal during an illness and a financial burden.
(True story: we know of a family dog who has type I diabetes which requires everything humans with diabetes requires. Insulin shots every 12 hours, special diet, and so on. It's not cheap or easy to provide this kind of care.)
Considering the variety of small and large costs that pets may bring, it's worth asking if it's a smart money move to include a pet in the home if you're working toward a number of other financial goals like building up savings or getting out of debt.
Is Pet Ownership Financially Responsible?
In some ways, having pets should be as serious as having children. If you are not ready to be a responsible pet "parent," both financially and emotionally, then perhaps you aren’t ready to be a pet owner.
In addition, there are some instances where it doesn’t make financial sense to have pets (though these can be debated):
- If you can’t afford enough food for yourself because of your pet expenses
- If you have a large amount of debt and your pets are hindering your progress
- If your living space requires a large “pet rent” or “pet deposit” or other additional financial accommodations needed to have a pet, which detract you from other financial goals
Let’s face it -- pets can be expensive. Some pets might need a special diet requiring pricier food, and there are pet accessories like a pet carrier, leash, collar, as well as regular shots and other medical care.
Depending on how invested you are in your pets, the costs could be much more.
The Argument for Animal Companions
While pets add another line item to the budget, they also bring a lot to people’s lives. Some people feel the value an animal adds far outweighs financial costs.
Some tangible and intangible bonuses of having pets include:
- Having a companion
- Pets have been known to increase relaxation and decrease depression (for example, service dogs that are used for certain medical conditions)
- Pets often become part of the family, bringing their own unique personality
- You have a constant cuddle buddy, that loves you unconditionally (hopefully)
Make It Financially Responsible: Plan Ahead
In the end, it all comes down to careful planning. If you are a pet owner, or are thinking of getting a pet, financially plan for it. Start budgeting for added (and unexpected) expenses now -- both the regular expenses and future expenses.
If you want to be a financially responsible pet owner (and avoid letting your furry friend drag you into a tight financial spot with a surprise cost), you can create a targeted “pet” savings account. Put in $10, $20, or whatever you can afford into the account to prepare for future expenditures like veterinary costs.
To save money on additional pet related costs, consider buying pet food in bulk (if quality food is available -- buying "grocery store brands" can cause illness or medical issues down the road!), getting pet insurance, limiting unnecessary toys (or making your own!), and making sure your pet has a healthy diet and gets enough exercise.
Prevention is so much more affordable than maintenance. Doing these things will cut down on the overall costs of having a pet, making it a financially responsible option.
Ultimately, It's About What You Prioritize in Your Budget
Having pets is a personal decision and one that affects your finances. The "to have a pet or not to have a pet" argument really boils down to issues of personal preference and lifestyle.
It's all about prioritizing your spending and aligning that with what you value. If that's having a pet, then it may mean cutting back in other budget areas to accommodate the costs.
If owning pets is something you want to do, or already do, make sure your budget reflects that. That way you can enjoy your pets, without some of the financial pitfalls that can occur from lack of planning.
What do you think? Is it financially responsible to own pets? When is it not?