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Don’t let your pet drain your emergency savings account
Emergency Savings

Don’t let your pet drain your emergency savings account

In this series, we explain the ins and outs of setting emergency savings from soup to nuts. The week, Megan discusses the financial challenges of having a pet,

A furry friend is often treated as a member of the family, and owners can't imagine life without them. However, if you are thinking about adopting your first pet or maybe even your fifth pet, know that it can be a big emotional and financial investment.

Upfront the costs of pet ownership may seem doable but once you get into the nitty-gritty it can be a little daunting. Fortunately, with some budgeting, there is likely no reason why you can’t be a proud pet owner!

Minor Expenses that Could Derail Your Savings

Other than the initial cost of adopting your pet there will be weekly and monthly fees associated with keeping your animal happy and healthy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the typical American household spent on average about $528 annually on their pets. This includes items like pet food, pet supplies, services, and pet purchases (toys and luxury items).

Realistically though, this number is a bit on the low end.

Upfront the costs of pet ownership may seem doable but once you get into the nitty-gritty it can be a little daunting.

Most of the cost of pet ownership is associated with food while veterinary expenses are a close runner up. The small ticket items you purchase such as toys, clothing, treats, and bedding can quickly add up. Especially when you consider how frequently individuals purchase these luxury items for their furry family members.

It is important to keep a close eye on your pet shopping expenditures just as you would your own retail purchases. You shouldn’t skimp on regularly setting money aside for your emergency savings account due to pet expenditures, especially for non-necessities.

There are a few ways you can cut back on the day-to-day costs of pet ownership.

  • Include monthly costs (treats, food, etc) in your budget
  • Join a pet-supply club or retailer for coupons and discounts
  • Purchase food and treats in bulk
  • Don’t forgo the medications, they could spare you future expensive vet bills
  • Treat pet clothing and toys as luxury items like you would treat clothes, toys, and accessories for yourself
  • Wash and groom your dog at home
  • Check with your family and friends for hand-me-down carriers, leashes, collars, and other pet items

Big Ticket Items That Wipeout Your Account

The reported $528 annual expense of pet ownership does not include costly emergency medical bills. This number reflects one year in the life of a healthy pet who requires only routine veterinary care and medications. Emergency visits, surgeries, and costly prescriptions can rack up steep bills.

The first major medical expense will likely be getting your pet spayed or neutered. This is where having a pet other than a cat or dog can be beneficial as they don’t require spaying or neutering. Overall, dogs tend to cost the most, then cats and fish, followed by small mammals, reptiles, and birds.

Emergency surgeries and medical procedures due to health conditions are more apt to be performed on dogs and cats than other standard pet types. Surprise health bills can be quite large, they typically exceed three hundred dollars but can range into the thousands. An overnight stay or short-term monitoring only increases the price.

In addition to unforeseen medical expenses, pets can also bust your budget in a few other surprising ways. Training, kenneling or boarding, and furniture replacement can all be costly.

Pet training and obedience lessons often don’t come cheap. In some instances, you may be able to train your pet at home, or if your pet lives in a tank or aquarium training probably won’t be a concern, but in other cases, obedience lessons are necessary for your safety and sanity. Lesson costs typically amount to hundreds of dollars by the time the training is complete.

Kenneling and boarding rates are also pretty hefty. As much as you intend to travel with your pet or simply stay close to home to avoid having to find a babysitter, sometimes this is not possible so prepare to pay a boarding fee. A similar, yet less costly, expense may be a pet-walker when you have to put in those long hours at the office.

Finally, a misbehaving pet can leave you with a hefty bill. If your four-pawed friend decides to chew or claw the furniture, expensive shoes, or even walls you will be saddled with replacement fees. Depending on how bad the damage is this could mean a large withdrawal from your emergency savings account, and you don’t really want pet expenses to hamper your other financial goals.

Here is how you can prepare for the unforeseen big-ticket items.

  • Set up a separate emergency account for your pet. This amount doesn’t have to be as big as your emergency account but enough to cover medical bills, typically $2000-$4000.
  • Consider getting pet insurance; though you will have a monthly bill it may significantly reduce the cost of unexpected veterinary procedures. However, it is usually much more efficient and easier to build an emergency account.

Things to consider when setting up a pet emergency fund:

  • Take into account the breed and species of your pet. Large animals and rare breeds may cost more.
  • It can help to add up the annual costs of your pet's food, toys/treats, training or boarding expenses, and medical costs in order to get a clearer picture of the costs you would be expected to meet if you fell on hard times.
  • Keep the pet emergency account separate from your emergency account and use it only for pet-related funds.
  • Consider getting pet insurance to help offset the costs of a major medical procedure.

If you are thinking about bringing a furry friend into your home, you should first consider all of the costs associated with being a pet owner. Though certainly very rewarding, make sure you are financially prepared to be a mom or dad to your special animal companion!

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