Are You Financially Ready for a Puppy?

So you’re thinking of getting a puppy? You’ve probably checked out different breeds online, and maybe you’ve even looked into books on training. You may be emotionally and physically prepared for a puppy, but are you ready financially?

Tragically, many otherwise responsible pet owners end up having to give up their pets for financial reasons. Sometimes, these owners fall on difficult financial times because of job loss or other circumstances, but other times, according to an article on CreditDonkey, they’ve simply failed to properly plan financially for a pet.

Yes, there are lots of resources out there to help low-income families afford pets – particularly after they’ve properly planned for a pet but have fallen on a challenging financial situation. A recent article from MSN Money outlines the benefits offered by programs like Pet Food Stamps, a non-government-related organization that helps pet owners in the SNAP program get free pet food.

But even though these resources are out there, you don’t want to rely on them when you don’t have to! Instead, take steps now to make sure you’re prepared financially for a puppy – before you bring one home.

Calculate the Costs

First, you need to know approximately what a puppy will cost. Puppy and dog costs can vary pretty dramatically depending on the size of the breed, as well as any potential health problems that are common with certain breeds.

The ASPCA offers a chart of common costs to expect for various pets, including dogs of different sizes. For example, you can expect to pay around $55 a year for food for a small dog, but around $235 to feed a large dog. One-off expenses, such as a training class, could cost around $110, regardless of the breed. And pet health insurance runs around $225 a year.

Check out the chart to determine what the first year expenses might be for your breed of choice. And then remember that your pet will likely have some expenses in the first year – like getting a crate, training class, and spay/neuter surgery – that don’t repeat later on. However, older pets need more medicine, better food, and more medical care, so those expenses may increase near the end of your pet’s lifespan.

Think About One-Off Expenses

Before you buy a puppy, do think about your financial situation today to ensure that you can pay for one-off expenses, like a crate, spay or neuter, first shots, and training class. Clearly, it’s essential that you spay or neuter your pet and get the proper shots, and crates and training classes can both make pet ownership more rewarding.

The costs for these items vary depending on where you live and what services are available in your area. In many counties, the local animal shelter or an independent organization run a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. This can save you a fortune on spay/neuter costs, though you’ll want to do your due diligence to ensure that the clinic is run by well-trained, reputable vets.

Other one-time expenses, like toys, a collar and leash, and even a crate can be bought secondhand, if you need to save some cash. Do some research on Craigslist to see how much these items are going for there, and add them to your budget.

Finally, shop around for training classes. Though the ASPCA chart lists $110 as an average cost, keep in mind that it’s just that – the average. Some local Humane Societies, in an effort to encourage long-term pet ownership, offer even more affordable basic puppy training classes that will help with obedience and house-training.

The key is to look at these expenses in your particular area, and to budget for them before you bring your puppy home. Expenses like these can take a toll on your budget, since they come about all at once, so it’s essential to prepare.

Budget for Monthly and Annual Costs

After this, check out the typical monthly and annual costs for the breed you’re looking at. For instance, you’ll have recurring medical expenses like shots, as well as food, treats, and, depending on where you live, a license to own the dog.

You may also want to look into pet health insurance. Some insurance plans include the cost of basic shots and boosters, which can make pet ownership more affordable. These insurance programs can also keep a dog’s medical emergency from adding thousands to your personal debt load!

The key here is to budget for these expenses monthly, even if they only need to be paid once per year. As long as you have enough in your monthly budget to cover the extra dog-related expenses, you should be okay to bring home a puppy.

Consider Your Emergency Fund

Finally, though, you do need to think about your emergency fund. If you bring home a pet and have no money in savings, you risk shelling out a fortune – that you can’t afford – for emergency medical treatment. Even if you have a pet insurance policy, you may still have a high deductible or co-pay for your pet.

Now, if you’re prepared in every way to get a puppy except when it comes to your emergency fund, keeping an emergency credit card may be a viable option until you have money in savings. There are several good options with no annual fees, so you can choose a card that you’d use only in an emergency.

Once you’ve thought through all the financial implications of having a puppy – as well as the personal implications of your time and energy! – you should be financially prepared to bring home a puppy.