NEW YORK, Nov. 15 (Reuters) – When Pamela Keniston sits down to do her monthly budget, she has a new thing to consider these days.
Hint: Short blond fur, barks fiercely at rabbits and is called Zuzu.
The adorable “supermutt” – a mix of Yorkie, Maltese, Chihuahua and Dachshund – entered Keniston’s life in May 2020, at the start of the pandemic. But Keniston was not prepared for the cost.
From regular grooming and food, to spoiled styles of pajamas and special jackets and collars, the dollars were piling up fast. Add in a few medical needs – little Zuzu’s knees required expensive procedures – and the financial realities of pandemic animals can sometimes surprise new owners.
âHaving a pet is a big financial commitment,â says Keniston, digital marketing consultant in Chapin, South Carolina. “All of these things really add up.”
Indeed, the costs of the four-legged company are staggering: since the start of the COVID crisis, one in five American households, or 23 million, has brought a dog or a cat into the house, according to the ASPCA.
And a new survey shows they pay some $ 4,500 for annual care. That’s more than what pet parents expected 61% of the time, according to OnePoll’s findings, made in partnership with insurer MetLife.
In fact, two in five respondents said our furry friends are as dear, if not more, than dependents of the human variety. No wonder 60% of them report withdrawing $ 200 from every paycheck, especially for their pet’s needs.
So how can pet parents be smart about their spending without completely draining their financial accounts? Here are four tips.
For some reason, the thought of finding insurance stresses pet parents: 32% find it overwhelming, according to the MetLife survey.
But you should definitely look into the coverage, because if you don’t, you could be left with some really tough choices (and huge bills). You will find the best prices when your pet is still young and has not yet encountered any health problems.
Compare the prices as you would your own policy, comparing the monthly cost to issues such as deductibles and the percentage covered afterwards. In 2020, the average annual premium was $ 594.15 for dogs and $ 341.81 for cats.
While the upfront insurance costs are never fun, the return can be worth it. Little Zuzu’s knee problems – âluxating kneecapsâ to be precise – ended up costing around $ 3,000 to repair, Keniston says. Fortunately, the pet insurance just went into effect and covered 90% of that bill.
If you are looking to save money, it can be very tempting to postpone these annual reviews. But think long term.
âDon’t skip annual wellness visits because that’s when your vet can potentially spot issues that can be managed or reversed,â says Kristen Levine, Pet Living Blog Editor and Co-Author. from the book “Pampered Pets on a Budget.” “It will cost less than treating a condition, perhaps chronic, that was not avoided earlier.”
Pet food has definitely gone ‘premium’ in recent years, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay five-star prices.
A few ways to save up to 30% on that kibble bill, according to Levine: Buy in bulk, but store in airtight containers to preserve freshness. Compare prices on Chewy.com or Amazon, or at warehouses like Costco and Sam’s Club.
And be sure to maximize the use of savings and promotional coupons. Plus, take advantage of the âsubscribe and saveâ option for regular online purchases.
One cost you can’t really avoid is medication – either for specific conditions or for ongoing preventative care such as fleas or heartworm. But you have some flexibility as to where you get these drugs and how much you pay.
âThere are several websites that offer discounts on over-the-counter and prescription drugs, such as Chewy.com and 1800petmeds.com,â says Brandi Hunter Munden, vice president of communications for the American Kennel Club. “There are also companies that have coupons, like GoodRx.”
Of course, as any pet parent will tell you, love and companionship is worth a hundred times the price. Just be aware that it will probably cost you more than you expected.
âIt’s important to have the budget, the resources, and the bandwidth in your life. And if you do, you just can’t beat a dog’s love, âKeniston says.
Editing by Lauren Young and Lisa Shumaker Follow us @ReutersMoney or on http://www.reuters.com/finance/personal-finance.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.