Pets – Companionship and Expenses

Lily Styrmoe, CFP®, CSRIC™

Aug 9, 2021

Recently I adopted a puppy. Her name is Georgie, named after Georgie White, the first commercial female river rafter in Grand Canyon. She is the cutest, most perfect pup that I’ve been daydreaming about getting since I was in college. She’s smart, she’s sweet, she bites more than I would like…and what did she just swallow? Should I take her back to the veterinarian?

No matter what stage of life you’re in, it can be hard to resist the companionship of a pet–they enrich our lives in immeasurable ways. It’s no surprise that since the COVID-19 pandemic began pet adoption has increased.

Being a financial advisor, I spend a lot of time talking through expenses with clients. Yet, despite all my research, I was surprised by how quickly my own expenses started adding up after adopting Georgie. Don’t forget that with the cuteness comes expenses…potentially lots of expenses. I thought I would share some of my own experiences as a new pet owner and dive into the financial impact of owning a pet.

Initial Expenses

The following expense list from moneyunder30.com provides a good range of costs for when you first adopt or buy your pet, as well as some annual expenses. I will say I spent way more on startup supplies and added in some one-on-one training to get Georgie’s biting under control. Training is expensive, but well worth the investment if you need some additional tools.

One-time Pet Expenses

  • Adoption cost: $0 – $660
  • Food: $30-$50
  • Startup supplies: $50 – $300
  • Vet and vaccinations: $50 – $300
  • Preventative medical: $50 – $100
  • Spay or neuter: $20 – $300
  • Licensing: $10 – $20
  • Microchip: $50

Annual Pet Expenses

  • Food: $250 – $750
  • Annual medical exams: $50 – $100
  • Vaccinations: $10 – $100
  • Preventative medical: $50 – $100
  • Toys and misc. supplies: $20 – $100
  • License: $0 – $20

Food

Pet food costs are hugely variable depending on the size of your dog and the quality of ingredients in the pet food. If your pet isn’t picky and will eat anything, more power to them. Some pets have food allergies requiring specialty food and ongoing allergy tests. Despite the increased cost, our veterinarian emphasized on the long-term health benefits of high quality food for Georgie.

Medical Care

If you’ve never had a pet before, be prepared for a new source of seemingly never-ending bills. Georgie and I have been to the veterinarian three times, excluding required vaccination visits, and I’ve had her for less than two months. Each time we’ve gone, I feel like the staff is rolling their eyes at me because I’m asking the most ridiculous questions: Are her ears supposed to have this much hair? What’s this on her belly? Will she die if she swallows a baby tooth? However many questions I throw their way, the staff has been patient and thoughtful with me. Then they send me a $125 bill per visit along with a $35 ear cleaner. Turns out Georgie does have too much hair in her ears.

Be sure to take your pet to the veterinarian once a year; some pets require twice a year. This will allow you to stay ahead of any health issues that are creeping up and gives you a chance to develop a relationship with your veterinarian.

Pet Insurance

Who doesn’t want another insurance policy? Pet insurance isn’t required but it could be vital if you feel like you won’t be able to cover large, unexpected veterinarian bills. There are a lot of different options out there (and it can be overwhelming) but take some time to do your research to find an insurance policy that covers at least accidents and illness. Hopefully, Georgie is never bittenby a rattlesnake or swallows something that requires surgery. But if she does…we have some backup. Side note: did you know there is acupuncture for dogs? In some cases, it’s covered by pet insurance!

Reasonability Test

Speaking of acupuncture for dogs… where do you draw the line for expenses with an animal? That is a great conversation to have with your financial advisor. Everyone is going to have a different threshold here. Having a realistic outlook regarding your budget and making sure you are proactive about savings can help if you do decide that your pet deserves the best treatments (or outfits).

Travel Costs

Picking up and leaving to go on vacation isn’t the same with a pet. Are you going to have someone housesit or are you going to have your pet boarded? Either option adds an additional cost. I brought Georgie on our summer vacation and had to pay an additional $75 for our Airbnb.

Despite all the expenses and scars on my hands from puppy nibbles, I couldn’t imagine my life without Georgie now. I wake up every morning excited to see her furiously wagging tail. I am grateful I took the time to incorporate her into my financial plan, so I don’t have to worry about every little expense. It’s empowering to know what you can achieve with a budget and some time to save. With the right planning and research, I gained a companion that will be by my side-whether I’m typing up an email or getting ready to go paddle boarding. I know she’s ready for our next adventure!

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