My dogs are my babies and they take up a significant percentage of our monthly budget. I’m always looking for ideas on how to save money on dog food and other expenses.
Americans spend a ton of money on household pets. In fact, each year we spend over $50 billion on pet expenses. That’s a huge amount of money spent on our pets!
As a pet owner, budgeting for your pet is just part of life. I include my dogs each month in our budget and they have their own sinking fund. It is similar to budgeting for expenses for kids or any other dependent.
We spend money, we make tough choices, we sacrifice at times to get them what they need.
Everyone has to decide what matters most for them when spending money on pets. However, it’s always a great idea to try to find ways to save so let’s look at some cost cutting ideas for dog expenses.
(I personally have dogs which is why I default to talking about dog related spending but this applies for all pets!)
How To Plan For Pet Expenses
The best way to take care of your pets is to plan ahead for the expenses they will encounter.
1. Make a budget line item for dog expenses.
Pets deserve their own line in your budget. You know you will spend at least some money each month on your pet and your budget should reflect that reality.
I have a line for monthly dog food and other pet expenses. I also break down the yearly cost of things like heartworm medicine and flea medicine to either save up monthly or purchase when needed.
2. Have an emergency fund for pet emergencies.
Everyone should have an emergency fund for things like a job loss. However it can also be helpful to have a dog related emergency fund specifically for any dog related emergencies.
Going into debt for pets should not happen. It often makes hard situations much harder when you have to pay off debt for vet bills. If at all possible you should try to avoid vet debt and instead always have a pet emergency fund of some kind.
Pick a reserve amount you are willing to spend in an emergency and save up that amount. Maybe that’s $1,000 or maybe it’s $5,000 or more. Whatever you can save and feel comfortable spending should be set aside in case of an emergency where your pet needs care.
We’ve had to use our emergency fund on vet bills in the past. Having money set aside for this purpose can make the experience so much easier.
How to Save Money on Dog Food & Expenses
Let’s look at some of the ways you can actually save money on dog food and other expenses.
1. Save money on pet medicine
Medicine can be one of the most expensive things you have to buy for your pet. Unfortunately when it is something your dog needs it is impossible to say no regardless of the cost.
My dog definitely has had to have some pricey medicine and I always find a way to make it work.
For routine medicine you can save a lot of money by ordering online instead of at the local vet’s office. You can also use GoodRX for pets online to find deals on medications.
You can also get many pet medicines at cheaper co-ops as well if you have one nearby. Since I grew up in a semi-rural town we had one and this helped save a ton on medicines. This is super useful for medicines given over and over like heart worm medicine or allergy pills.
2. Save money on pet toys and supplies.
Specialty pet products can suck you in and cost you a lot of money. It can be tempting to constantly buy new dog toys and outfits for holidays and suddenly you’re spending way too much money.
The most important way to save here is to mentally prepare yourself. You can do this by realizing your precious pet doesn’t really need a memory foam bed or custom clothes for each season. They are perfectly equipped to be happy with less of these modern items.
If you want to buy dog toys, then it is best to shop the sales. Pet stores offer coupons, have sales and also have clearance sections for toys. You can buy toys and special items for the entire year during a sale like Black Friday.
Your dog won’t enjoy it more because you spent more money, so save on toys and stock up for when it’s time to replace toys with new ones.
3. Save money on pet food.
Feeding your pet will be a regular expense each month and should be in your monthly budget.
There are lots of high quality high dollar pet foods out there all claiming to be the best thing ever created. I used to buy my dog a top dollar dog food when she was a puppy. I spent thousands on food during her first year of life buying those $100 bags of dog food! I changed my plan after her vet told me it was not necessary and many cheaper brands were just as good.
You can save money on pet food by not overthinking this area. Most bulk bags of dry dog food or cat food are perfectly fine for your pet. In fact, our vet recommended one of these lower price brands over any other and that is what we now buy. It’s the same one my husband fed his dog for 15 years.
Just because a dog food costs more doesn’t make it automatically better, so save money on pet food this way!
Other ways to save money on dog food:
- look for coupons for your preferred brand online and in store ads
- sign up for email newsletters for dog food discounts and samples
- buy during sales and stock up when it is cheapest
- ask your vet if there is another brand that costs less but provides what your dog needs
Those dog food savings tips will get you started!
4. Save money on vet care.
Vets can be incredibly expensive for both routine care and emergencies. This will likely be a large amount of your yearly pet budget. When you have a big emergency it can cost even more than you expect.
To save money on standard vet care you can investigate the discount plans some vets offer. There are variations of this with many different vets and animal hospitals. Some vets offer discount payment plans where you pay a smaller monthly fee that covers vet appointments, any emergency visits, and medicines. I personally have used one of these plans. It saved me money each year and it saved me over $200 when my dog had to go in for an emergency.
What about when your pet needs an expensive operation? You can sometimes arrange for discounts with vets for various circumstances like paying in cash. Ask you vet and see what options are available – sometimes you can save money just by asking.
This is also a time when pet insurance might come in handy. The best time to get pet insurance is when you first get a puppy because otherwise it does not cover as much.
Paying For Pet Expenses
Pets are incredibly important and a huge part of your life, but they can be an expensive part of life. Paying for all of these expenses can be difficult but worth it.
Here are a few ways to make sure you can pay for all your pet expenses:
- include your pet’s in your monthly budget
- start a sinking fund for your yearly pet expenses
- save up a pet specific emergency fund
Make sure you take care of your furry friends by including them in your financial plans.
From one dog mom to another: They are worth it!
Mary is the founder of Pennies Not Perfection where she shares her journey to build wealth through online income. She quit her day job in 2021 after she paid off her debt and doubled her 9-5 salary.
Mary's favorite free financial tool is Personal Capital. She uses their free tools to track net worth and work toward to financial freedom.