How to Financially Prepare for Owning a Pet
Pets have a way of shaping the lives of their owners. From feeding schedules to walks in the park, they reconfigure your daily routines, and their needs become something you consider before making even basic decisions (like going out to dinner).
It’s a big shift, and that shift will also have an impact on your wallet.
You’ll need to understand the various costs that come along with ownership before picking up your new pet — that way, you’ll know what to expect when you bring them home. And, even more importantly, you won’t be caught off-guard when the unexpected comes your way.
In honor of National Pet Week from May 7 to 13, here are three key financial steps that you should consider before adopting a pet.
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No. 1: Create a pet budget
If you’ve never had a pet before, it can be challenging to estimate these costs — you may not know where to begin. That’s where talking to pet-owning friends and relatives and researching the costs of everyday items comes in handy. Your local animal shelter and other organizations that work to help struggling pet owners are other great resources here.
For reference, some of the costs you may want to consider including in your pet budget:
- Adoption fees
- Pet beds and crates
- Habitats and related maintenance costs
- Spay and neuter surgeries
- Waste disposal (such as a litter box or poop bags)
- Boarding (if you travel)
- Grooming services
Of course, these costs will also depend on the type of pet you get, as well as their age and health.
No. 2: Consider pet insurance or a wellness plan
Pet insurance can help owners pay for unexpected and expensive medical costs that can pop up over the course of their pet’s life. Typically, you’d submit a covered claim; once approved, you’d be reimbursed by the insurer. However, note that in general, preexisting conditions wouldn’t be covered by these policies.
Some of the factors you’ll want to consider here include:
- Monthly premiums
- Coverages versus exclusions
- Reimbursement rates
- Claims limits
- Waiting periods for claims
Again, pet insurance doesn’t cover everything. For example, if you’re adopting a senior pet, you may not qualify for pet insurance —or, even if you can, it may be too expensive. In that case, something like a wellness plan may help.
“Wellness plans can cover regular checkups like teeth cleanings, heartworm treatments and annual exams, while pet insurance is more about accidents and emergencies,” Schulz explains. “It is important to shop around before signing up for either of these, since these plans can vary.”
No. 3: Have a pet emergency fund
Even if you have pet insurance, there can still be times when you might get a large pet-related bill. It pays to have an emergency fund to lean on, rather than having to take on debt. This can be separate from your personal emergency fund, but, according to Schulz, it’s a matter of preference. Either way, he says, you’ll want to go with a high-yield savings account for that cash.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how much to have in that fund. It’ll depend on everything from your own financial situation to your pet type, and their age, health and lifestyle.
“The truth is that even if it is only a few hundred dollars, that’s awesome. It all helps,” Schulz says.
But if you’re able, he advises going further with your pet care savings: “Aiming to have $2,000 in that fund would be a good place to start.”