How to save a ton of money on pet costs
We adopted two dogs and weren’t prepared for how much they’d cost us. Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know about pet expenses to save on pet costs. Here’s everything you need to know to save money on your pets.
Our pet cost from adopting Luca & Loki
One of our dreams for the longest time, nearly 10 years, was to get French Bulldogs.
We didn’t want just one. We wanted three. One would be a girl named Luca, which was inspired by the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and a boy named Loki, which was inspired by the mischievous Nordic god. The third would be an older Frenchie, possibly one with special needs, that we’d adopt and name Lucky.
But then we became geoliberated, living and traveling all over the world (throughout the U.S., Spain and France), and buying and adopting dogs made zero sense. And then the pandemic happened, and we found ourselves living in Vegas (a whole other Oprah). About nine months or so after living in Vegas and dealing with the desert heat and COVID, meaning never really leaving our apartment, we decided it was time to get dogs and we decided to adopt Lucky first.
So, we applied to both the Nevada Frenchie Rescue and the Rocky Mountain French Bulldog Rescue. Our roots are in Denver and driving there to pick up a dog would give us an excuse to visit friends and family. For financial preparation and manifestation, we started to set aside money each month to cover adoption fees and other initial new pet costs.
A couple of months went by, and we came close to one adoption. But the original owner decided not to relinquish it. Another few months went by, and the Nevada Frenchie Rescue let us know we were next in line for another adoption. They had two dogs who needed to be rehomed, but there was a contingency.
The owner wanted them to be adopted together, as they were two-year-old siblings (from the same litter) who’ve been together their whole lives. They were perfectly healthy. There was no abuse or neglect; the owner was simply allergic to them and couldn’t find a solution to keep them around in the two or so years she owned them.
Suddenly, we were adopting Luca and Loki! Were we ready for this? Did we want to miss a great opportunity?
Yes and no.
After a couple of very long weeks on a Saturday, the rescue delivered our new, French Bulldogs. Luca and Loki were home.
And we’ve been happy ever since . . . well, except for the expenses.
As we shared, we were setting aside money every month in preparation for their arrival. By the time that they arrived, we had saved about $2,500. But that wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
What follows is what we’ve learned with Luca and Loki on how to save money on pet costs.
How much are adoption costs?
In our quest for buying or adopting dogs, we found a range of costs. Clearly, getting a new puppy or kitten will usually cost you, and the cost is dependent on the breed of dog or cat you purchase. Of course, getting some kittens or cats for free can be quite easy.
Places that take in and offer adoptions for lost or relinquished pets often ask for a simple, nominal donation. This covers the costs of running the facility and, unfortunately, more and more pets are being relinquished as people return to work after the pandemic. The suggested minimum donations range between $25 – $75.
Of course, you can always give more. If you do give, see if your employer offers a corporate match for your donations. In some cases, employers will match donations dollar-for-dollar up to a certain point.
To purchase a new puppy, your pet costs could go as high as $14,000 or more for Samoyeds, Lowchews and Chow Chows. The average cost for a new puppy in the U.S. is between $400 and $2,000. For new kittens, your pet costs could be as high as $125,000 for Asheras or $20,000 for Savannahs. The average cost for a new kitten in the U.S. is between $0 and $400.
Pet costs for adoptions, however, are a different story and are all over the board. There are a lot of variables that go into calculating the cost of adopting a rescue. Most rescues are non-profits but still have overhead costs. The rescue pet’s condition, unfortunately, can sometimes be dire if they’ve been abused or neglected. Most rescues centers can’t afford to absorb these costs and must transfer these expenses to the new adopting owner. All that said, adoption fees average between $50 to $350 but can go way higher.
We adopted two two-year-old, healthy French Bulldogs. As we shared, ours was more of an adoption and less of a rescue. Our total pet cost for both Luca and Loki was $1,500.
The best way to keep this pet cost down, though, is to adopt your pet from the pound or rescue. There are way more cats and dogs than there are loving homes for cats and dogs. Keep your pet costs down and give a needy pet a loving home (then make sure they’re spayed or neutered).
You’ll likely ask the question of yourself someday, “Who rescued who?
How much are initial pet costs?
Purchase or adoption fees won’t be your only initial expense, especially if this is your first pet. You can expect to pay between $500 to $1,000 on total initial pet costs depending on whether you get a cat or a dog and depending on the condition of your new cat or dog.
Below is a list of initial pet costs.
1. Adoption and purchase costs
As we just covered, adoption fees for your new kitten or puppy, cat or dog can range from $0 to $125,000 with the average cost being between $50 to $350. The best way to keep these pet costs down is to adopt a pet from a pound, shelter or rescue.
2. Food and water bowls
Fido and Fluffy must eat. Average costs of food and water bowls for dogs and cats range between $10 to $50. You can, however, find bowls on Chewy.com for under $1. Another way to keep pet costs down and help reduce waste is to buy your pet bowls from a thrift shop.
We bought two, simple stainless steel food bowls (15 ounces each) for Loki, our boy dog, that cost $13 each. We got two larger (28 ounces) stainless steel water bowls for both Luca and Loki at $14 each.
Luca, however, eats as fast as we do on Thanksgiving Day after running a Turkey Trot. This upsets her stomach and makes her vomit. So, we bought her two slow-feeder bowls at $9 each.
To be honest, she steps up to the challenge twice a day and still east nearly as fast as her brother.
3. Initial medical exam
Whether you have a new puppy or kitty or adopted an older dog or cat, you’ll want to get them an initial medical exam, a simple checkup exclusive of additional care. The average pet costs for an initial exam range between $70 to $100 but can be as low as $50 and as high as $500. Our initial medical exam costs for Luca and Loki were $48.95 each.
There are services around the country that offer free and low-cost pet care for those struggling financially, senior citizens and homeless people. Visit humansociety.org if this includes you or someone you know.
That’s one way to keep this pet cost down. Another way is to purchase pet insurance, as we did with Lemonade here.
Buying pet insurance is a great way to ensure your pet gets all the medical care they need and control the costs. French Bulldogs are known to need regular medical attention that can average over $1,000 per dog a year. Our vet says that French Bulldogs were bred to drain your wallet, and so far Luca and Loki are living up to the cliché.
That’s one reason why we got pet insurance through Lemonade. Another reason is that we didn’t want to ever question if we could afford to give Luca and Loki the medical care they need.
4. Collar, leash or harness and tag
There are some collars for both dogs and cats that are less than $5 and some pushing $100. Leashes can be under $5, as well, or more than $80. The average cost for a collar or harness and leash combo ranges between $15 to $60.
We bought Luca and Loki each a harness and leash combo that each cost $11.50. However, six months later, we’re in the market for new harnesses.
About twice a day, Luca and Loki play like Nala and Simba in The Lion King and, even though it’s clearly a holding penalty, they both latch onto the other’s harnesses with their teeth to drag the other one down. Now their harnesses are shredded and compromised.
We’re now looking to buy nylon harnesses and leashes (we like them matching because fashion matters). These harnesses and leashes are $39 each.
Your best bet for keeping this pet cost down is to get your collar, leash or harness at a thrift shop. Be careful that whatever you buy isn’t compromised. Pets can act erratic, and you don’t want your pet breaking loose and running into danger.
Pet tags will run you between $7 and $20 depending on how fancy you want your pet tags to be. Because tags are engraved, it’s hard to find one at thrift shops unless you want to buy your tag first and then get your pet. The best way to keep this cost down is by not getting a tag for your pet. After researching dog tags for Luca and Loki, we opted out of getting tags ourselves.
There’s been a slew of French Bulldogs stolen from their owners lately, with the theft of Lady Gaga’s dogs making headlines. We read tags make it easier for would-be thieves to steal your pet because tags give these cruel strangers your pet’s name, which can make it appear as though your pet’s familiar with these ne’er do wells.
5. Bed and crate
When we were kids, our family dogs and cats didn’t have beds and crates. But when we were kids, we also didn’t wear seatbelts in cars and drivers smoked cigarettes with the windows up. This is the 21st century.
Dogs and cats require beds and crates today.
Dog and cat beds run as low as $10 and over $150. The average ranges between $30 and $40. If you get a bed, you’ll need one that’s conducive to the size of your pet. So, the $10 option won’t suit all pets, and a $150 bed is unnecessarily large for a Chihuahua.
The cost of a crate, same as with a bed, is contingent on the size of your pet. Crates cost as little as $30 and more than $200. We bought two 24” collapsible, fold and carry crates for $33 each. One’s pink and one’s blue. They’re the perfect size for our 26- and 28-pound dogs.
We haven’t assigned them a colored crate based on their gender because that’s stupid. They go back and forth as they like. We just wanted something more interesting than the standard black wire crates.
Again, the best way to keep these costs down is to thrift shop, either at thrift stores, garage sales or flea markets, or taking an unused bed or crate from a friend or acquaintance with their permission, of course.
There are also instructions all over the interweb for DIYing pet beds for less than $25.
6. Travel carriers
You’ll undoubtedly want to travel with your pet, as we do. They’re our kids, right? With that, you’ll want a carrying crate.
There are a wide variety of travel carriers from which to choose. There are hard and soft, carry and roll, small and large. The smaller your pet, the more options you have and the cheaper your options are.
Pushing 30 pounds, our dogs are somewhat limited in options. If they were any bigger, taking them on a plane with us wouldn’t be an option at all. We’d have to put them in cargo (which would break our hearts).
There are cat carriers for less than $20 and dog carriers for up to $170. The average for carriers is $60. We’re looking to buy 4-in-1 travel carriers that include rollers, backpack, carry and car seat options and go for $139. They’ll cost us $278 total.
Leaving your dog or cat at home when you travel may seem like a cheaper option, but pet sitters and boarding are often expensive. Leaving cats at home is a little easier if they’re trained to use a litter box and you have an automatic feeder. Some automatic feeders can dispense food for up to three days.
The cheapest option we’ve used is a membership website, TrustedHousesitters.com. The current cheapest membership fee is $130/year. Trusted House Sitters connects people with pets with people who like pets and are willing to travel nearly anywhere to pet sit at no expense to the pet owner. This is easier for pet owners who live in travel destinations, such as Las Vegas, but services are available all over the world.
How much are one-time pet costs?
Your pet costs will vary depending on whether you buy a new puppy or kitten or adopt an older dog or cat. Younger pets often require more shots and veterinary care and are often prone to eating any and everything in sight, which may cause your pet to get sick and require care from a veterinarian.
Loki licks the walls and is prone to eating dead plant leaves. So far, we’ve been lucky. But maybe dogs have nine lives, too?
One-time costs that you can predict include spay or neuter costs for your dog or cat and obedience training for dogs.
1. Spay and neuter
Unless you plan on breeding your pet, it’s wise to get them spayed or neutered. Unexpected pregnancies for Fidos and Fluffys are expensive even if you live outside of Texas.
To spay or neuter a dog, you’re looking at about $200. To spay or neuter a cat, you’ll pay between $45 and $75.
Unless you’re breeding your pet, spaying or neutering costs are essential. Shopping around for the best price (and care) will contain costs. Getting pet insurance through Lemonade will help, too.
Lemonade offers a preventative care plan designed especially for puppies, which includes coverage for spaying or neutering.
2. Obedience training
If you’re buying or adopting a dog, obedience training is smart. The costs of professional obedience training vary greatly.
The cost per class ranges between $30 – $80. The average for obedience training is about $50. Many of these more cost-effective services are done in group settings with one class per week. There are weekly and boot camp options that range between $200 to $1,250 per week.
We paid $850 for eight private sessions for Luca and Loki. We chose private sessions because Luca wasn’t quite ready to be around other dogs in a group setting.
It’s helpful to have a professional help train your dog, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner. We haven’t owned a pet together since we’ve been together (18+ years now), and we felt hiring a professional would “train” us. Our trainer used the first two sessions to train Luca and Loki’s owners. We now have enough information that we can read or watch content and continue working with our dogs to improve their obedience skills.
That said, the best way to save money on this pet cost is to use books, websites and YouTube videos. At that very least, though, it may help to pay for a few $30 sessions before relying on yourself, as dog training is a skill.
How much are ongoing pet costs?
Like children, your pet will cost you money year after year after year after . . . .
The good news is that ongoing annual expenses are often considerably less than the first year, initial expenses. However, it’s wise to be aware of what you can expect and work the expense into your monthly and annual budget.
Pets sometimes need vitamins to maintain their health. Vitamins for pets can range between $54 to $58 a year. The best way to contain this cost is to not feed them vitamins. This is best achieved with a healthy diet.
Quality pet food isn’t necessarily cheap but can contain vitamin and other medical costs, as you’ll likely pay less now or pay more later – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – Benjamin Franklin.
Luca’s prone to ear infections. We’ve already taken her to the vet two different times to treat three different ear infections. On the advice of our vet, we’re now giving here ½ a 25 mg tablet of Benadryl twice a day – or 25 mg of Benadryl a day. We got a bottle of 600 tablets for $9.99. This should last us almost two years.
We all need a spa day, including pets.
Grooming for cats, short hair and no-shed dogs is usually quite affordable and limited to pedicures. If you’re brave enough and good with trimming your pet’s nails, you won’t pay more than $3 to $12 for the appropriate nail clippers for the type and size of your pet.
We tried to trim Loki’s nails once and failed miserably. Never again.
Longer hair dogs require more grooming and, as with pet training, pet grooming is a skill. As Fido likely won’t sit still enough for you to use your COVID-purchased Flowbee, you’ll want to factor this cost into your pet budget.
Average pet grooming costs between $40 to $75 and can go as high as $300+.
The more services you require, the more expensive the service. Services, many of which are non-essentials, include (ranges below are estimations):
- Nail trim, buff and polish – $22 – $30
- Teeth cleaning – $200 – $300
- Ear cleaning – $50 – $300
- Gland expression – $50
- Face, feet and fanny trim – $10
- Flea and tick treatment – $40 – $100/year
- Facials – $10 – $15
- Paw balm – $7 – $24
With that, the best way to contain grooming costs is to buy or adopt a pet with grooming needs that fit your budget.
Your cost for pet toys can range from $0 to infinity and beyond. Some would argue that pets don’t need toys, but those people would also argue that pizza isn’t a vegetable.
You can get a simple ball for your dog to play with for as little as $2. You can steal yarn from grandma’s house for your cat to play with and cost you nothing – except grandma’s love.
You can buy all the pet toys and Amazon.com and Chewy.com and deplete your entire life savings and leave your heirs with debt to pay so they inherit nothing. The best way to control this pet cost is to control yourself. Your pet will find a way to entertain themselves with or without a full toybox.
If you have a cat, though, you’ll want to entertain yourself by getting a single dot laser. These are available for as little as $3 and yield hours of fun for you (and it may be a kind of torture for your cat).
4. Leashes, collars and tags
As we said, a leash and collar or harness combo range between $15 – $60. Pet tags can range between $7 – $20 – or nothing at all if you forego this expense.
5. Dog walking/walker
It’s not fair to keep your dog cooped up all day when no one’s home. This is why dog walking as a side hustle through apps like Rover is so popular. Lots of dogs need their daily exercise while mom and dad are away.
A half-hour of dog walking costs about $25 while an hour costs about $40.
The best way to keep this cost down is to have a neighbor, friend or family member walk your dog or dogs. This may, at most, cost you a birthday or holiday gift once or twice a year, because you don’t want to be rude.
6. Pet sitting and pet boarding
Pets can’t always travel with us. As sad as it is, sometimes Fido and Fluffy must stay home.
Pet boarding per day typically ranges between $20 – $25 and per night $40 – $50. Some pet facilities can go as high as $150 a night. This pet cost is contingent on how fancy you want your pet to feel (or you want to feel).
We’ve used TrustedHouseSitters.com to manage this cost, and it’s been great. John’s sister unloads her dog on their mom and dad a dozen times a year. After 14 years of dog sitting for Murphy, his sister owes their parents thousands of dollars that she’ll never pay them.
It will be deducted from her inheritance.
All that’s to say is if TrustedHouseSitters.com doesn’t work for you another way to manage this pet cost is, again, to rely on neighbors, friends and family. Just bring them back a gift from whatever exciting place you travel to.
7. Pet food and treats
Food expenses will be your most recurring pet cost. This cost is contingent on the size of your pet and the quality of the food you buy them (i.e. how much you really love them).
With all those considerations, you’re looking at averaging between $200 – $500 a year in pet food costs. We’re currently paying between $90 – $94 a month to feed both Luca and Loki high-quality food (because we really love them). So, we’ll average about $552 a year to feed each of them or $1,104 total.
The annual cost of treats for your pet will range between $30 – $100 and will depend on how often you give treats to your pets – or how much you love them. Some pet owners are softies, which makes them expensive.
We bought two 12 oz bags of healthy and natural dog treats for Luca and Loki for $10 each about three months ago. We’re only about halfway through both bags, so we’re projecting about $40 in treats per year for us.
We give them more treats, though. We give them peanut butter, blueberries, bananas, cucumbers and salmon skins, which they love. We couldn’t estimate how much this costs in part because we usually give them treats as we’re cooking for ourselves.
8. Pet medications
Medication costs will be based on how healthy your dog is, which can be affected by its breed, age, weight and environmental factors. French Bulldogs are prone to allergies, which is why Luca’s had three ear infections since July 2021 that cost $143.73 in medications. Loki, on the other hand, hasn’t had a single issue (knock on wood).
Medications for your pet can range between $0 to $200 a year. Google 1800-Pet-Meds or Walmart Pet RX for affordable pet medication services.
9. Dental care
It may seem weird to worry about the dental care of your dog – what do wolves do, huh? But the truth is that pets have all the same issues that humans do, and they can get gum disease as young as two-years-old. And, again, preventative care is cheaper than repair.
Dental care will cost your cat or dog $300 – $500 a year. Depending on the health of your pet’s teeth, the quality of their food and your willingness to get their teeth treated, this pet cost can be as little as $50 a year.
A good friend of ours got Luca and Loki a bag of Greenies Dental Treats as a ‘welcome home’ present when they were adopted. On Amazon, these cost $14.98. The bag says they’re daily treats, but we’ve only given them a few dental treats since we got them in September. When Luca was last at the vet, her teeth were fine.
10. Pet daycare
Pet daycare will cost between $15 – $40 per day or $10 – $25 per half day. Many pet daycare centers offer packages and the more days you purchase the cheaper your net cost.
Again, pet daycare is a 21st-century thing. Our childhood pets all stayed home alone when everyone was at work and school and all our dogs, cats, fish, gerbils and iguanas didn’t go all Macaulay Culkin. Thus, the best way to keep this pet cost down is to not send your pet to daycare or rely on the goodwill of a neighbor, friend or family member just as John’s sister’s exploiting the good nature of his parents.
We work from home, so we don’t have to worry about pet daycare. If we both worked elsewhere, we may take them to day are once or twice a week.
Unlike clothing for humans who can’t go completely naked all the time, pets can be naked all the time. All. The. Time.
That said, pet costs for clothing can range between $0 to millions of dollars. Many dog owners today get a coat for their dog, as they do seem to get cold in the winter when they must go outside to potty or walk. Some dog owners in Las Vegas here get their dogs’ booties to protect their feet from the hot sidewalks and streets in the summertime when it gets well over 100 degrees.
A great way to keep this cost down is to DIY your cat and dog clothes. Again, there’s a wealth of information online to help you. Plus, if you find you’re good at it and enjoy it, you may find yourself a side hustle to make more money.
So far, we’ve only purchased a coat each for Luca and Loki that each cost $23.99. We’ve put these coats on them since the temperatures have dropped below 40 degrees and French Bulldogs don’t have undercoats to help keep them warm.
We did buy them each a Christmas costume to make history’s cutest Christmas card. Luca was Mrs. Claus and Loki was Santa Claus. Each costume cost $17.99, and they’ll probably never wear them again.
How much are annual pet costs?
Finally, you’ll have your annual expenses. Of course, you’ll buy food and treats all year that some would consider annual expenses, too. To us, these are ongoing expenses. We consider annual expenses as those items that we’ll pay once a year.
1. Regular check-ups
Your pet will require at least an annual checkup. A basic checkup, inclusive of no other medical care, will cost between $35 – $55 a year depending on whether you have a cat or dog.
2. Parasites, heartworm, flea and tick prevention and other vaccines
As much as our pets may feel like children (we have friends who love their pet more than their kids), they’re animals (not unlike our friends’ kids) that walk in and sometimes eat their feces, roll around in the grass and do their best to eat other animals (not unlike – never mind). These kinds of behaviors are sure to cause problems such as parasites, heartworm, flea and tick prevention.
Annual costs are about $60 – 250 for parasite prevention, $180 for heartworm prevention, $200 for flea and tick prevention. Other vaccinations to fight kennel cough, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, canine parainfluenza, coronavirus, leptospirosis, Lyme disease and parvovirus cost between $60 – $70 a year on average. Rabies vaccine costs $15 – $20.
Many cities and townships require dog owners to obtain a license for their dog, cat and ferret. The average annual cost for each license is $15 per dog, cat and ferret.
In the City of Las Vegas, the cost is $25 for dogs and cats that aren’t spayed or neutered. It’s $10 if they are spayed and neutered. If the owner is over 65-years old, the cost is $15 and $5 respectively.
Because we waited for more than the maximum 30-days to get Luca & Loki their licenses, we paid an extra $5 penalty for each dog for a total of $30. If we don’t move within the next 12 months, hopefully, we’re more timely and save ourselves $10 next year.
As we said, this is an unnecessary $7 – $20 charge.
How much are unexpected pet costs?
We’ve covered most of the costs you probably expected and didn’t expect with owning a pet. The truth is, many of us fall in love with the idea of having a dog or cat in the house, know they’ll cost money but neglect to calculate exactly how much they’ll cost.
That said, we may have missed something, and you’ll likely pay 10% to 20% more than you estimate yourself. So, tack on an extra 10% to 20% to the maximum estimate of whatever you’ve calculated. Then, as soon as reasonably possible, save between $1,000 – $2,000 in a pet emergency savings account for any unexpected pet costs – because they’re bound to happen.
And, again, prevention and proactivity will save you money. Therefore, investigate getting Lemonade pet insurance as we did and help prepare for the unexpected.
Why get Lemonade Pet Insurance?
We’re big fans of Lemonade and not just because we’ve partnered with them. We’re truly happy with the service and support we’ve gotten from our purchase of Lemonade’s Pet Insurance since we adopted Luca & Loki.
Other than our recommendation, here are more reasons for you to get Lemonade Pet Insurance for your pet.
Lemonade Pet Insurance is easy to sign up for and you can do so in minutes from your phone. It’s a very easy-to-use and intuitive app. You can also use the Lemonade.com website to sign up.
Submitting reimbursement is easier than purchasing your insurance and setting up your account. We were blown away by how easy it is.
After answering a few questions about your pet’s medical charges and uploading a picture of your pet’s medical bill, the review process for reimbursement starts. Most of our reimbursements, so far, have taken place immediately with fast approval and an automated clearing house or ACH payment direct to our bank account.
All this reaffirms Lemonade’s statement about offering a hassle-free digital experience and lightning-fast claims payment.
Like we did for Luca and Loki, you can get Lemonade’s base accident and illness coverage that includes diagnostics (blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, MRIs, lab work, CT scans and ultrasounds), procedures (outpatient, specialty and emergency care, hospitalization and surgery) and medications (injections and prescription medications).
You can also get the Preventative or Preventative+ package, which include coverage for an annual wellness exam, up to three vaccines (Rabies, DHLPP, and Bordetella), heartworm testing, bloodwork, routine dental cleaning and more. As French Bulldogs are traditionally expensive to keep healthy, we figured this robust insurance coverage would help contain our net costs.
If you bundle your pet insurance with other insurance coverage by Lemonade, such as renter’s insurance, Lemonade will give you a 10% discount. It also offers a 5% multi-pet discount, which we’re using with Luca & Loki.
Finally, as we’ve shared about Lemonade’s Compassionate Capitalism before, Lemonade takes a flat fee upfront before it pays claims. Any unused money is donated to the meaningful cause of your choice, including the Paws, Friends of Animals and The Humane Society of the United States.
With the ability to do good for your budget, do good for your pet and do good for others, what other reason do you need to choose Lemonade for your pet insurance?