Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Save on pet costs

Studies have shown that over 60% of all families in the United States own a pet, and pets aren't cheap. The cost of basic food, supplies, medical care, and training for a dog or cat often runs $700 to $875 annually. Add to that surgeries, grooming, kennel boarding, and miscellaneous costs, and you may end up spending $10,000 or more to keep your pet healthy and happy throughout its life. Fortunately, many of the costs associated with responsible pet ownership can be controlled or at least reduced. Here are a few ideas.

Buy a mutt. Besides being cheaper, mongrel pets often have fewer health problems than purebreds. One study found that caring for a mixed-breed dog was about a third as expensive as caring for a pet with a sterling pedigree.

Get it spayed or neutered. Animal shelters often provide this procedure at relatively low cost. Unless you want to open a pet store, this step should be first on your to-do list. Getting your dog or cat "fixed" may also mean fewer health problems down the road.

Buy food in bulk. For most pet owners, food is their largest ongoing expense. So reducing that cost often generates the greatest savings. Although big-box retailers offer substantial cost reductions for large quantities of pet food, it always makes sense to shop around. (Specialty stores have sales, too.) Generally speaking, the more you buy, the cheaper the food. But be careful. Though there's no legal definition of "premium" in terms of pet food nutritional quality, think twice before grabbing the cheapest bag off the shelf. Long-term health problems may result from routinely feeding non-nutritional meals — food that's mostly filler — to your dog or cat.

An ounce of prevention... Regular exercise and routine veterinary visits often reduce long-term health care costs. And don't forget their teeth. Severe gingivitis may lead to serious health problems in your pet, including kidney and lung disease. If you don't want to brush your dog's ivories, consider dental chews that release teeth-cleaning enzymes.

Go cheap on toys. Shopping at your local dollar store can save lots on balls, chew bones and all those other baubles your pet adores.

Go slow on pet insurance. Budgeting and contributing to your own "pet emergency fund" may be cheaper than paying insurance premiums. Do the math before buying.

Financial Tip for the month provided by
Anita T. Conner and Associates

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