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Pets & Personal Finance Thumbnail

Pets & Personal Finance

If you’re a pet lover, you know that their care can be quite pricey. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates, Americans spend over $90 billion on their pets every year. A furry friend’s companionship is priceless, but there are ways to make financially smart moves as a pet owner.

Prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Feed the highest-quality food you can. When your pet gets the nutrition it needs, you’ll most likely end up spending less in veterinary care.

Doggy daycare and boarding is expensive! 

Most dogs enjoy a day with their friends at daycare or boarding, but the cost can add up. Consider talking to some of your neighbors with dogs to see if they would be willing to exchange pet sitting with you when either one of you goes out of town.

Buy in bulk and auto-ship. 

You may get a discount if you buy your pet’s food and other supplies online and have it delivered to you regularly. That is much more appealing than lugging around 40-pound bags of kibble!

Consider whether pet insurance makes sense for you.

Like auto insurance, pet insurance is something you pay for but hope you will never use. Even “wellness plans” do not necessarily offer a discount on regular veterinary care; they just spread the cost out over a year.

Just like other types of insurance, a higher-deductible plan will have lower payments. Alternatively, you can simply set aside a pet emergency savings account with a decent yield. This is certainly the most cost-effective method because it doesn’t involve buying additional insurance, but the downside is if your pet’s care exceeds the amount you have saved. Be sure to think about what you would do in this situation before it occurs because it is hard to think objectively when your furry friend is sick.

Some people find pet insurance worthwhile just for peace of mind that money would not be a barrier to expensive emergency care or treating a pet’s long-term illness.

If you do decide to go the insurance route, it’s best to do so right when you first get your new pet. Pre-existing conditions are rarely covered. The exception is with some “veterinary cost-sharing” programs. These are different than insurance in that the members of the program share the actual cost of vet care, and they often cover pre-existing conditions. The cost varies per month, though it is capped at a certain level.

What would happen to your pet if you were no longer able to care for it? 

Thinking ahead and having an emergency plan for your pet will remove one layer of stress from what could already be a very stressful time in your life. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about whether he or she would be willing to take care of, or eventually take ownership of, your pet if you were incapacitated. If this is of interest, you can formalize and fund this plan with your estate attorney.

If your pet is a purebred, look at the contract from your breeder. It may stipulate that the animal must return to the breeder if you become unable to care for it or pass away. If your pet is a rescue, the shelter contract may have similar language so that they can find the animal a new home.