There’s a lot to consider if you’re thinking about adding a new pet to the family. And when you’re looking at all the cute photos of the animal or meeting it for the first time, financial logistics are often far from mind. But before you bring your new furry friend home, it’s important to really make sure that you can afford to take care of everything that comes along with the responsibilities of pet ownership.
In fact, it’s better to get the whole family involved in the financial decisions and responsibilities from the beginning, according to family finance expert Ellie Kay.
“If the family budget is already tight, have a family meeting and discuss what everyone is willing to pitch in and help with to get a pet, because, in addition to purchasing the pet and his necessities, your pet will affect your family budget weekly, monthly and yearly, for many years to come,” she said.
Here are five key questions to ask yourself and all the members of your family to determine whether or not it’s the right time to get a new pet.
Can I really afford a new pet?
1. Can We Afford the Start-up Costs of a New Pet?
Depending on how you buy a pet (adoption, breeder, etc.), the cost can vary quite a bit, with the most expensive prices usually coming from a breeder.
According to the Humane Society, shelter adoption fees are generally least expensive, as your costs are primarily going to pay towards the cost of care your adopted animal received while at the shelter. Depending on where you live, can range anywhere from less than $100 for cats to just more than $100 for dogs and up to a few hundred dollars for purebred or specialty breed dogs.
But that’s not all. You’ll also need to consider what else they’ll need once you’ve picked them up.
“The day you bring the pet home you may also need $100 to $200 more for bedding, a crate, a collar, and leash or harness, food bowls and toys, depending on the breed and size of your pet,” Kay said. You want your cat or dog to feel safe and comfortable, especially for their first few nights in a new place.
2. Can We Afford the One-Off Expenses?
Pets adopted through a shelter most often come spayed or neutered, but this typically isn’t the case with breeders. Spay and neuter procedures can cost additional hundreds of dollars on top of the initial price of the pet.
You may also opt to pay for training for your new pet. One-on-one dog training may cost hundreds of dollars, or your local pet store or a nearby trainer may offer group classes. For example, some pet retailers offer six-week group training classes for just over $100.
3. Can We Afford the Regular Monthly Costs of Owning a Pet?
After all of that, you still need to buy food and treats for your pet. According to the 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey from the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet owners spend an average of $269 annually on dog food and $246 annually on cat food. And this doesn’t include treats or vitamins!
And, depending on where you live and the time of year, you may need monthly heartworm medication and medicated flea and tick control products which can add to your monthly budget. Don’t forget grooming, which will vary based on what breed you have. You’ll also have nail trims, ear cleaning and dental care to factor into your budget.
4. Can We Afford the Yearly Costs of Owning a Pet?
The most common yearly fee that comes with owning a pet is the annual veterinary visit and vaccinations. Costs can vary depending on what type of animal you have and where you live.
You may also need to consider boarding your family pet when you go on vacation or paying a pet sitter to come to take care of your furry friend. Make sure you factor that into your yearly budget, as well as any travel budgets you make.
Finally, you may also need to pay whatever local registration and licensing fees your area requires, Kay said. If your town requires your dog is licensed, for example, this may seem like a small thing, but keep in mind the fine for getting caught with an unlicensed dog may be several hundred dollars.
5. Can We Afford a Pet Emergency?
“This is the most important question to ask,” Kay said, “because it forces you to make life or death decisions for your pets based on economics.”
If your pet gets injured or falls ill, for example, the cost for surgery could cost upwards of several thousands of dollars. Many people think they can just opt to pay for these things using credit cards, which may not be the best solution. In fact, Kay advised against using any type of credit to pay for pet costs you can’t afford, especially if you’re a young person trying to improve your credit score and stay out of debt.
“Without a pet budget, pet medical insurance, or a pet emergency fund, you may find yourself charging pet costs you can’t afford and going into debt for your pet’s health. Doing so can ruin your credit score and negatively impact your ability to pay other bills for years,” Kay said.
“You need to set boundaries for how much money you will spend on your pet for an illness or an emergency. This may drive your decision to get pet medical insurance and to save up this amount in a pet emergency savings fund should the need arise.”
Our animals depend upon us to provide and take care of them, and this requires a responsible budget and some smart foresight. Do the math before you bring Fluffy or Fido home to make sure they’re safe and healthy for years to come.
About the Author: Naomi Mannino is a freelance journalist for Credit.com who reports on personal finance and health news and how it will affect your life today. Her work has appeared on bankrate.com, getrichslowly.org, moneyrates.com, mainstreet.com, dealnews.com, and bottomlinepublications.com among many other websites. She never writes about it if she hasn’t seen it or tried it first-hand.