Have you thought about getting a pet, but hesitate when you think about the costs? Or maybe you already own one and aren't happy with the amount of money you pay each month in pet-related expenses.
Owning a pet is a special experience and the connection you share can truly enrich your life. You want to pay back your pet's unconditional love with the best care possible, but the costs can be intimidating. Here's some good news: Fido can stay happy and healthy with these money-saving tips that won't sacrifice his quality of life:
Create a pet budget.
The first step you can take to avoid overpaying is to look at your budget and set a monthly spending limit for your pets. Don't forget to add in yearly costs (vet visits, shots and vaccinations) into your annual budget, as well. If you're already a pet owner, compare what you can afford to what you have been spending -- and keep reading to find out where you can trim costs.
Buy the right food at the right place.
The cost of pet food can add up quickly. Even if you're looking to buy a premium brand with high quality ingredients, there are still ways to save.
Consider buying your pet food in bulk. Bigger bags or cases are usually cheaper than smaller bags that only last a week or two. Compare the unit prices of various sizes before you decide.
Don't hesitate to ask your vet for pet food recommendations, but when it comes to making a purchase, don't buy from the vet. There is typically a mark-up on the price.
Also, don't over feed your pet. Read the guidelines on your pet's food, and make sure to update the serving size as recommendations change when pets get older. It's important to make sure your pet is not overweight, which can lead to health problems.
Make sure you take advantage of sales, coupons and deals when you buy pet food, which leads into the next tip.
Head online to take advantage of exclusive sales when you need to buy supplies, toys or food for your pet. Consider signing up for email newsletters and rewards programs at a few different stores so that you can see where and when your preferred brands are on sale.
Before making any purchases online, check for coupon codes first to save even more money on top of sales. You can also click through a shopping site to earn cash back on your purchases at a retailer's website.
Don't forget about free shipping, too. Wait for a special offer, place a large order less frequently so that your amount qualifies for free shipping or get your online order delivered to a nearby store for free.
Prepare for emergencies.
Hopefully your pet has a long, healthy life with little to no medical issues. However, accidents happen and illnesses can, too. Before you know it, one visit to the vet can put you over your entire budget for the year.
You probably put a certain amount of money into an emergency fund for yourself -- why not practice this same habit for your pets? Put a small amount aside just in case and you won't find yourself in debt when you should be focused on getting your pet healthy again.
Another option to consider is pet insurance. For a small amount each month, you can protect yourself against vet bills you were not anticipating. This is an especially good idea for breeds that are more likely to inherit certain conditions. Make sure you shop around to get the best rate.
Save on services.
When you need to go on vacation or cannot be home, the cost of boarding your pet can be intimidating. Use Yelp or an app like Pet Care Services Finder to compare service providers in your area and find out cost, ratings and reviews. If you'd rather someone visit your home to take care of your pet but are nervous about finding someone trustworthy, ask your vet for a recommendation in your price range. Sites like DogVacay.com verify that pet sitters are trusted and insured before listing them.
Having fun can always be free.
Don't forget -- the one thing your pet wants to do most is spend time with you, and not only is that time priceless, it's free.
Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash back website BeFrugal.com, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 4,000 stores.
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