Tips For Financially Challenged (Or Just Frugal) Pet Owners

I’m young. I’m a recent graduate. And I’m unemployed. I do my best to live as frugally as I can. That includes how I take care of Lana. I aim to be, if I’m being honest, “cheap” while not sacrificing her health or happiness. I certainly don’t have a perfect system, but I’ve noticed some tricks that help me save money on pet care.

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1. I buy food in bulk. Lana gets a pretty good brand of food, but I buy 40 pounds at a time, bringing the price down to about a dollar a pound. Then I store the leftovers in airtight containers in a closet. I use a charcoal container, but I’ve seen people use tins and garbage cans.

2. I splurge on an all in one flea/tick/worm preventative. This, I also buy in bulk. Trifexis is the biggest chunk of Lana’s vet bills (normally), but I just feel like it does a better job than if I bought separate preventative medications. It’s worth a little extra up front. And don’t forget the rebate!

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Lana takes Trifexis, Desi takes Sentinel. Talk to your vet about which prescriptions are best for your dog!

3. Don’t assume 1800petmeds is the cheapest place to get prescriptions. I’ve used them before, but by the time you added in shipping and handling it was about the same price as going through my vet. Plus, it takes longer. Instead, do your research. Check their site, your vet, and even your local pharmacy. Some, like Target, even carry generic versions of many pet medications.

4. Whether or not you need something right now, always keep an eye on sales. (Petsmart has a sale going on right now!) After holiday sales are especially convenient – your dog will never realize they got a brand new Jack-o-Lantern toy in April. If you stockpile items on sale, you never have to pay full price because you need something immediately.

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I stock up on Nylabones, Dentastix, a racket balls any chance I get.

5. Groupon sometimes has pet stuff too! I mentioned this on the Facebook Fanpage earlier last week, but I’ll just remind y’all.

6. You could make dog treats yourself or treat your dog to bites of dog-safe human food. Is this actually cheaper than traditional dog treats? Probably not. Is it cheaper than the super healthful, really aromatic dog treats you can buy? Probably. (Unless you bought a bunch on sale like I suggested!) Either way, it’s easy enough to do. You can check out my doggie ice cream recipe here! (And of course I’ll post more recipes soon.)

7. Remember, continuous upkeep is cheaper than quick fixes later. This can be your dog’s weight, their dental health, their grooming, etc. Better to brush their teeth a few times a week than pay the vet to put them under to do a deep clean. Better to brush your dog’s gorgeous coat than wait until it’s matted and you have to turn to a professional groomer. And it is way better to watch your dog’s weight than wait until it has a negative effect on their joints and overall health.

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Another option for cheap toys is empty pill bottles or coke bottles. (Under supervision only!)

8. There is no shame in buying used when possible. I bought Lana’s nail clippers from a friend who decided she’d rather just have her vet trim her dog’s nails. (I might do the same if Lana had black nails, so no judgment here, even from a frugal mom!) More realistically, big purchases like outgrown crates and even FURminators can easily be sanitized and reused. It might not be easy to find someone selling one of these things right when you need it, so you might have another item to add to the stockpile when you find it.

9. If your dog is as crazy destructive as some of mine are, you could make your own toys. My father made Lana a rope that has help up pretty well – I definitely need to pin him down on how he did it. Another option is one I shared on the Facebook page recently. Take a muffin tin and put a treat in one of the cups. Then cover all the cups with tennis balls. The cup with the treat could have a different colored tennis ball, but it’s probably not necessary. Dogs will have to use their heads (or at least their noses) to find the treat. It’s a good way to keep them busy and quell that boredom-based, destructive urge.

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We always buy the girls’ costumes in November, when they’re on sale.

10. Rather than buying cheap toys all the time, if you don’t want to make them all yourself, invest in a more expensive but more durable toy. It saves money because you don’t have to buy 80 plushies, and because your dog can’t rip them to shreds and eat the pieces and require surgery. Like some dogs we know.

11. Do as much grooming as you can yourself. I’m lucky to have a fairly clean, not overly fluffy dog with a good deal of white nails. I don’t usually have to go to the groomer. Anything you can do yourself to eliminate trips to the groomer, or at least make them fewer and farther between, could really save you money.

12. Training saves you money! Training can eliminate destructive behaviors, keep your dog safe (yay fewer vet bills), and might even save you money on insurance. Ask your home insurance provider if Canine Good Citizen could lower your premium. At the very least, some companies have lifted their ban on certain breeds if the dogs pass the Canine Good Citizen evaluation.

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Training can save you the cost of a good pair of work heels, among other things.

13. Speaking of insurance, think about pet health insurance. I can in no way promise this saves you money. It could save you crazy amounts of money. Think boatloads. Or, it could cost you. It’s a complete gamble. But for some of us with accident-prone pooches, it’s probably best to bite the bullet and buy insurance.

14. Consider mobile vets for shots. I shouldn’t even have to remind you that it is definitely better than going without. Also, consider picking up a free or discounted spay or neuter voucher. Want more? Follow your local shelter on Facebook. That’s how I found out about their discount microchipping days. Lana and I waited in line to get some very reasonably priced peace of mind. Worth every penny, and way cheaper than going through a vet.

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This blue mess was once a rope.

Dogs are expensive, and not a spur of the moment investment anyone should make. But, like anything else in life, a little bit of planning can make your pet care budget go further. What do you do to save money on pet care?

14 thoughts on “Tips For Financially Challenged (Or Just Frugal) Pet Owners

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  3. Feeding pet dry food only is not frugal. In the long run this highly – processed, high carbohydrate cookie – like food will cost you a lot on vet bill!

    • Grace, while I do appreciate that you are dedicated to helping dogs live healthful lives, I would like to point out that not all dry foods are created equal. There are many that contain food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and basically are like feeding cookies for dinner. But there are many other brands that create quality, healthful food. In this sense, all dry food is inherently no worse or better than all wet food. And for those who are well educated on the nutritional needs of animals and proper handling techniques of raw food, making dogs’ diets at home is possibly the best option. But most people I know really wouldn’t know what they were doing – myself included.
      I do always recommend people research their food brand, read the label, and check out websites like the dog food adviser to make sure they are feeding the best food for their budget and their animals.
      Thank you for reading and sharing your input! Your dogs must be very lucky. 🙂

  4. There are a lot of natural, effective and cheaper tick and flea preventive spray or powder. Why feed your pet drug so strong they kill bugs? Just imagine what it is doing to your pet’s internal organs!

    • In Florida especially, heart worm medication should not be optional. It is almost guaranteed that dogs in my area that don’t receive heart worm preventative WILL become heart worm positive. And having worms infest their heart (not to mention the dangerous and expensive treatment to kill them) is far worse than the preventative.
      I have spoken to several veterinarians to ensure they believe Trifexus is the right path for my animals, and they agreed unanimously.
      In general, I prefer natural as well. But for something as common, preventable, and deadly as heart worms, I say better safe than sorry. If it happens to also take care of fleas, that’s just two birds with one stone to me.
      I hope that if you live somewhere mosquitoes are very common you use some sort of heart worm preventative. But I definitely respect your preference for natural methods. Thank you for reading and sharing your opinion!

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