Preparing for Pet Costs

This week, host Maggie Germano breaks down how you should financially prepare for getting a pet.


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The theme music is called Escaping Light by Aaron Sprinkle. The podcast artwork design is by Maggie’s dear husband, Dan Rader.


00:00 Hey there and welcome to the money circle podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in. My name is Maggie Germano and I am your host. Make sure to subscribe, rate and review this podcast as you listen so that you can make sure to always get the most recent episode in your feed. And it also really helps to, uh, get the algorithm in such a way so that more people will see the podcast and more people will be inclined to listen. So that would be really helpful. Um, so this week I’m taking a little bit of a break from the healthcare topic of conversation to talk about pet costs and you know, medical care of your pets is also a really big subject that I hear about a lot and it can be a very expensive things. So, um, I felt that it was related enough to the healthcare’s conversation to include this month, but basically I want to talk about how you can financially prepare for getting a pet if you are, you know, you don’t yet have one, but you’ve want to, uh, but also just getting your finances in order.

01:18 Once you have a pet and kind of the best steps to be taking with that. And this is something that’s been top of mind for me for quite a while now cause my husband and I, we actually got a puppy back in March of this year and uh, now he is just about 10 months old, so he’s still a handful, still expensive. Um, but you know, preparing ahead of time and saving up and kind of getting a general understanding of how much it costs to get it puppy was really helpful in preparing us not only financially but emotionally when it came to spending for him. So the first thing to do when it comes to thinking about getting a pet is to make sure that you can afford one. Just like with having a child adopting an animal might cost a lot more money than you were expecting.

02:06 So it’s important to do your research and find out how much it usually costs both upfront and annually to care for the type of pet you’re getting. So in my case, it was a dog. Uh, if in your case, maybe it’s a cat or some other kind of animals. So those, those expenses are going to vary depending on the type of animal as well as like the breed, the age, if you’re planning on adopting or going through a breeder. Um, but so doing some research to get background information on your specific situation is gonna be helpful in helping you prepare from there. You want to take a hard look at your budget and see if there’s room for these costs. So I’ve had many clients in the past who have really wanted to get a dog or a cat and they take a look at the actual numbers and they realize, you know, maybe right now is not the right time.

02:57 Maybe they need to pay off a little bit of debt first or build up a bit of a savings buffer before they can do that or otherwise figure out where to cut costs. And so, you know, being realistic with your own budget so that you don’t go get a pet and then realize you are unable to afford to take care of them or it puts you in a stressful financial position to do so. So you know, if you look at those numbers and you see that the potential pet costs don’t fit into your current budget and in your current life you have a decision to make. You can decide if you want to delay getting a pet until you can really afford it or it whether or not there’s something you can cut out or perhaps you know, getting somehow increasing your take home pay, whether it’s asking for a raise or getting a second job.

03:44 Although that’s another thing to consider if you’re going to be out of the house more once you have a pet. So that that’s the situation where you then you just have a decision to make and decide what is going to make the most sense. So next, and I kinda touched on this already, is to decide if you want to buy from a breeder or adopt from a shelter. So this is a contentious topic with a lot of people and for many it’s really an ethical question. Why buy from a breeder when there are countless animals out there who need to be rescued and adopted? Plus it can be hard to tell if a breeder is on the up and up or if they’re operating a puppy mill. However, sometimes you know exactly what you want and maybe you won’t necessarily be able to find that animal at a rescue.

04:26 So in my case, if you’re following me on Instagram at all, you’ve probably seen pictures of my puppy. His name is Bruno and he is a Corgi and corgis are not really easy to find when it comes to adoption centers and shelters and that sort of thing. And so we kind of knew that we were probably going to have to go with a breeder in order to get a puppy corgi. We did try to go through the Wolf trap animal rescue. They, we met one corgi mix that was so adorable and wonderful and we really, really wanted him and, and we would have felt really good because we would have been adopting from a nonprofit and um, it also would have been a lot less expensive. But ultimately the foster parent for that puppy went with a different family unfortunately. And so, um, you know, then there was another corgi that was a year old from the same rescue that, uh, was looking for a forever home and we tried to go after that dog as well.

05:26 But somebody else, uh, snatched him up before we could. So after striking out a few times, we decided to spread our search out a little bit further to include breeders in the area and a little bit further beyond. Um, so that was pretty much how we kind of settled upon that we had our own issues with that morally and financially. But that ended up being kind of the decision that was right for us. As I kind of mentioned, there’s a huge difference in terms of affordability when it comes to buying from a breeder or adopting from a shelter. When you choose an animal from a rescue, the fees are going to be much lower and usually the pet is already spayed or neutered and given its necessary shots. So they’re kind of ready for you in that kind of way, both in terms of their physical needs right away and financially.

06:16 So you know the difference when you buy from a breeder is the fees are going to be much higher because they are breeding animals for profit, right? So they, and they know that those animals that they’re breeding are in higher demand so they’re going to charge more and they often don’t necessarily include things like neutering and shots. And that means on top of the fee that you’re going to be paying to buy from breeder, you also have to pay to have those things done at your local vet. So that was something that we did. Um, Bruno had had his first set, I think his first set of shots when we got him from the breeder. But then of course he was only eight weeks old, so he goes way too young to be neutered at that point. So we waited until he was six months old to do that.

07:02 Um, and then we had to do a series of vaccinations when we got him to make sure that he would be safe and healthy. Um, and so the neutering cost, I think 300 and something dollars and all of the vaccinations probably costs several hundred dollars over the course of the 16 weeks or whatever it was that we had to take him in. So those things add up really fast and on top of the fee for getting him, it was a lot of money to spend up front, but luckily we had already set some of that aside. So another important step is to figure out if you are able to save up for the first year of expenses. Like I said, uh, we’ve seen that the first year of caring for a dog can cost a lot of money. Dogs in particular, cats as well, especially if you want to be spaying or neutering the cat and making sure they’re up on all their shots and going to their veterinary visits, buying food, toys, treats, any kind of crate or other carrying cages and those sorts of things.

08:05 So getting really clear on what all of those expenses are going to be. I found it helpful to make a list of all the things that we knew we were going to want to be purchasing for him when we brought him home so that we could have it ready for him when we got him. And also so we would understand how much that was going to cost and try as hard as we could to not overdo it and buy things that we didn’t necessarily need. So because there’s so much included with all of this, and because all of these things can add up really quickly, it’s important to plan ahead and save up that money before the time actually comes because you don’t want to get your pet and then realize that it’s going to break your budget to care for it each month. Right. So take some time to save up a number that you feel comfortable with before you actually adopt your animal.

08:48 Next, you want to fund an emergency savings account. So you know, if you listen or read me or follow me at all that I feel very about you having an emergency savings account. Just like you need to have an emergency fund for your own expenses, you’ll want to be including your pets expenses. If you were to lose your job, would you be able to pay for your pet’s food or pet insurance? If you had to pay the deductible for your pets insurance, would you be able to pay that out of pocket? These are the kinds of things you should say about for just in case you find yourself without an income. Next, it’s important to build the costs into your monthly budget. So calculate how much you think you’ll spend on food treats, toys, pet insurance, which I’ll talk about more in a minute, uh, every single month.

09:30 So setting up those costs as a fixed expense in your monthly budget can be really helpful in understanding how much you can typically afford to spend. So you can set up things like recurring food deliveries so that you know exactly how much you’ll be spending on food every month. There are websites like chewy, which are really great for that. You can get discounts on certain things and set it up so that you’re getting things delivered every, you know, eight weeks or 12 weeks, whatever it might be. And so if you’re building those things into your monthly budget, you won’t be surprised by them when they come up and it won’t kind of blow your budget. So making sure to be budgeting for those pet, those everyday pet costs as you’re going throughout your life. And then next, and this is another topic that’s a little contentious and disagreed upon, especially in the finance community, uh, but deciding if you need pet insurance.

10:23 So pet insurance is exactly what it sounds like. It’s health insurance, but for your pet. One big difference between pet insurance and human health insurance is that it doesn’t cover preexisting conditions. So there was no affordable care act for your animals. Unfortunately that means that you’ll want to get coverage for your pet before they are even old enough to have preexisting conditions. So we signed Bruno up for his pet insurance before we even brought him home with us because he was so little, he was such a baby. He just, he wasn’t even old enough to have had any problems yet and we wanted to make sure that we got him covered before something could arise, like even something as small as an ear infection can be then counted as a preexisting condition. So if they have one, again, your pet insurance would not cover that because they had it beforehand.

11:13 So you’re going to want to make sure to get them covered as soon as possible. You know, another story related to kind of the ear infection thing was that a friend of mine told me that their dog had an upset stomach before their insurance kicked in and now every time they have a stomach issue there. Those that visits are not covered in the insurance. So it can be something as simple as that and it can really add up and be frustrating. So obviously you’ll want to decide early if pet insurance is something you’d like to have for your pet. Usually pet insurance doesn’t cover normal preventative visit, uh, like your annual visits and those kinds of checkups. But it does cover illness, injury and other issues that can cost a whole lot of money. So the idea is that you’re paying a monthly premium in order to protect yourself from huge vet bills later on.

11:59 If your animal got at serious illness or they got injured in some way, those kinds of costs can be thousands and thousands of dollars. So you kind of want to decide if it’s worth it to you to pay that smaller monthly premium to prevent those big bills later on. It’s just like any insurance you’re paying monthly for something that you hope you won’t have to use. And so therefore it can kind of feel like a waste of money if you have a perfectly healthy animal. But it won’t necessarily stay that way forever. So it’s important to do your research and compare the prices and offerings of several different insurance companies. Um, see what they cover and what they don’t. Some, some places they don’t cover any dental issues, say, um, sometimes their deductible is really high or they only cover, you know, 50% of the costs to at once the expense actually comes up.

12:52 So you want to make sure that you’re looking at the details and understanding what the deductible is, what the maximum coverage amount is, if they have a max, like if they will not contribute more than $5,000 a year or something like that, you’re also gonna want to see what your out of pocket maximum is. These are all really important so that you’re fully aware of what you’re signing up for and so that you can make the decision that’s right for you financially. So for me and for my husband and our dog, it was rewarding to me to get pet insurance because he was already a big investment for us just in bringing him into our home that if he was to hurt himself or um, get sick or whatever might happen, I was worried about having to pay thousands of dollars to keep him healthy and to be able to bring him home again.

13:40 And so instead of worrying about having to empty out our own emergency fund for any issues that came up with him, it gives me the peace of mind to spend $35 a month and know that if something happens to him, we’ll have $250 deductible and most of the rest of it will be covered by his insurance. And so we had that on auto pay. It’s current whenever we are leaving town and putting him with a friend of ours or someone to watch him, we give them the information about his insurance, we give them the information about his veterinarian. So for us personally, it was really important to have that peace of mind and have that backup plan. I’ve definitely known other people who would rather just save the cash in order to be able to pay those potential bills. Um, in my opinion, if a vet bill is thousands of dollars, then you know, saving the amount that you would have paid towards the premium, that’s gonna take a really long time to have that much money.

14:42 So in terms of how the actual numbers end up, um, kind of falling into place, I, I personally think it makes more sense to get pet insurance. It’s just that peace of mind and the bill really was not enormous for us. But again, it’s the kind of decision that’s up to you and what you feel most comfortable with and what you can afford. So another thing to keep in mind, and this is less in terms of like the preparation and the worst case scenario and all of that, it is a matter of controlling yourself and not buying all of the cute items that you see once you have your animal. Um, so before we got Bruno, my husband, uh, you know, was finding all of these really adorable, artsy, hipster dog accessories everywhere because as we were doing more and more research about getting a pet, the algorithm was figuring that out and giving us lots of ads.

15:34 And so there was a lot of temptation around, you know, buying everything we saw, but I, you know, insisted we needed to be a little bit less impulsive and more reasonable with that. And so, you know, those kinds of things are going to be tempting cause there’s so much cute stuff out there that, you know, your animal looks really cute in like these little, we get Bruno, these little bandanas, they’re, they’re cheap, but you know, we could get these really fancy ones too. And so just being mindful about what your animal actually needs versus what is an impulse purchase. Um, just the other day as we were preparing to go out of town, I wanted to get him a new toy to have while we are going to be gone. And you know, it was $6, so it wasn’t a big deal. But that kind of thing can get out of hand if you’re buying everything that you see.

16:26 So try not to get carried away and spoil your animal in a way that you know, puts you out financially. So get clear on what your animal actually needs and then buy other things as you can afford them. Then again, it’s the kind of thing that you could build into your budget. If you know that one of your favorite things is going to be to spoil your pet, then that’s great. Do it. But make sure that you can actually afford it. So we actually, after several months, signed Bruno up for BarkBox because there’s just some really cute stuff in there and he’s chewing through his toys a lot faster than he was when he was smaller. Um, so it’s like $22 a month and we get a box in the mail with two different toys, uh, two bags of treats and then some kind of chew.

17:11 And so it’s five items for like $22, which adds up to be, you know, a little over $4 each, which is not too bad. And then, you know, those treats lasts a lot longer than a month because we don’t hand them out to judiciously. But you know, the, the toys actually get destroyed a lot faster now. But that way we don’t have to like go to the pet store and buy more toys and get carried away with everything else that’s in front of us. It’s just being delivered to the house. So it’s the kind of thing that is now a budgeted line item and that’s how we’re making sure that Bruno is being the spoiled little baby that he is. So these are all the kinds things you want to make sure that you’re doing in order to prepare to get a pet at least financially. And then, you know, revisiting those numbers and seeing how everything is fitting into your budget as you go along. So I hopefully this was helpful for all of those out there who are thinking of getting a pet or maybe even those who already have one in, you know, getting those finances organized so that you can love your pet once you get them and not worry about the finances as much. So good luck and snuggle that pet.

18:22 Thanks for tuning into the money circle podcast this week. if you’d like to get more connected with money circle or with me, there are lots of ways you can do that. To join the free Facebook group, visit to stay informed of any upcoming events. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at If you’d like to join the virtual money circle membership group, visit To learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings, or just to read my blog, visit you can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter at Maggie Germano. Thanks so much for listening and please enroll on your health insurance. Bye.