Financially preparing yourself to get a pet

As you may have seen in past posts or on social media, my husband and I are in the process of getting a puppy! Dan has desperately wanted a dog for as long as I’ve known him. I came to the desire more gradually. I grew up with cats and wasn’t around dogs very often, unless I was at one of my cousins’ houses. I also had a few negative experiences with big dogs when I was younger (and very small), so I’ve always been a big hesitant when it comes to dogs. Dan wore me down over the years with his exuberance about corgis and now I want one too!

A lot of the conversation around getting a dog has been related to money (can you believe it?). Since we were initially planning to buy a corgi from a breeder, we knew that it was going to be a decent financial investment. We also learned that dog owners typically spend around $1,600 on their dog in the first year of owning them. I wanted to overestimate how much we thought we would spend and save it up ahead of time. This was because I didn’t want to get a dog and then find ourselves in a tough financial spot as expenses built up.

We also had a few changes to make to our house before we felt comfortable getting a dog. The fence in our backyard was rotting and falling over in several places. There was no way we’d feel good putting a puppy back there without it escaping. So we decided to replace the fence before we got the dog. As you can imagine, this is quite the additional expense.

Your situation might be very different from ours, but there are still many questions you should answer for yourself before you go to a rescue and pick out a new pet. The answers to those questions will determine how you need to prepare.

Make sure you can afford one

Just like with having a child, adopting an animal might cost (much) more money than you were expecting. Do your research and find out how much it usually costs both up front and annually to care for a pet. You should specify based on the type of pet you want to get. From there, take a hard look at your budget and see if there is room for those costs. If the potential pet costs don’t fit into your current budget, you have a decision to make. Are you going to delay getting a pet until you can really afford it? Or are you going to cut something else out to make room for those costs?

Decide if you want to buy or adopt

This is a contentious topic with a lot of people. For many, it is 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 are operating a puppy mill. However, sometimes you know exactly what you want, and you won’t necessarily be able to find that animal at a rescue.

There is also a huge difference in terms of affordability. When you choose an animal from a rescue, the fees are going to be lower, and usually the pet is already spayed or neutered and given its necessary shots. When you buy from a breeder, the fees will likely be much higher, and won’t always include neutering and shots. That means that on top of the fee, you will also have to pay to have these things done at your local veterinarian.

Save up the first year of expenses

Like I said above, we’ve seen that the first year of caring for a dog can cost upwards of $1,600. This can include adoption fees, neutering, veterinary visits, food, toys, treats, a crate, etc. Those things can add up very quickly. So it’s important to plan ahead and save up that money before the time comes. 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. Take some time to save up the number you feel comfortable with before you adopt.

Fund an emergency savings account

You know I feel very strongly about you having an emergency savings account. Just like you need to have an emergency fund for your own expenses, you’ll want one for your pet’s expenses. If you were to lose your job, would you be able to pay for your pet’s food or insurance? If you had to pay the deductible for your pet’s insurance (more on that below), would you be able to pay for that out of pocket? These are the things you should save up for just in case you find yourself without an income. Include potential pet expenses in your calculations for your emergency fund.

Build the costs into your monthly budget

Calculate how much you think you’ll spend on food, treats, toys, and pet insurance (more on that below) each month. Set up those costs as a fixed expense in your monthly budget. You can either set up recurring food deliveries so that you know exactly how much you’ll be spending on food every month. (Try a website like Chewy.) If you build these things into your monthly budget, you won’t be surprised by them when they arise.

Decide if you need pet insurance

Pet insurance is exactly what it sounds like. It’s health insurance for your pet. One big difference between pet insurance and human health insurance is that it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. That means that you’ll want to get the coverage for your bet before they are even old enough to have pre-existing conditions. One friend of mine told me: “My dog had an upset tummy before insurance kicked in, and now every time he has an upset tummy vet visits aren’t covered.”

So 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 pet visits, but it does cover illness, injury, and other issues that can cost a whole lot of money. You will pay a monthly premium in order to protect yourself from huge vet bills later on. It’s just like any insurance: you’re paying monthly for something that you hope you won’t have to use. It can feel like a waste of money if you have a perfectly healthy animal, but your pet won’t necessarily stay that way forever.

Do your research. Compare the prices and offerings of several different insurance companies. See what they cover and what they don’t. See what the deductible is, see what the maximum coverage amount is. See what your out-of-pocket maximum is. There are all hugely important, so that you’re fully aware of what you’re signing up for and can make the decision that is right for you financially.

Don’t buy all the cute items that you see

A few weeks ago, I told my husband that I was worried he’d want to buy every artsy dog accessory he saw. Well, not too long after that, he texted me say that I was right, and that Instagram was targeting him hard with their ads. When I shared that anecdote with friends, one of them warned me not to buy too much stuff for a puppy. She said “they will either destroy it or outgrow it”. And this is an important thing to remember! It’s easy to get carried away when you have a cute animal at home and want to spoil it with all the shiny things out there. So make a list of the things your animal actually needs, and then you can buy other things as you can afford them.

This article was originally published on MaggieGermano.