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How to Budget for Pet Costs

Pets bring so much joy. They’re loyal, they’re loveable, and they’re always up for a good time. They sleep in our beds, eat from our plates, and love us no matter what. Having a pet is a blast, but it can get expensive. And people just love to spend money on them. Get this—Americans spent more than $95.7 billion on pet costs in 2019. That’s billion with a B!1 And no matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of money to drop.

But guess what? It’s totally possible to care for your pet while sticking to your budget. Maybe you’re taking the plunge into pet ownership for the first time, or maybe you already have a pet and you’re trying to figure out how to budget for man’s best friend. Either way, here are the things to think about when it comes to budgeting for pet costs.

Pet Costs to Budget For 

1. Pet Food

Gone are the days when Fido ate table scraps. Now he needs high-dollar grub infused with probiotics, wheat germ and flaxseed (or so the commercials tell you). There’s even fancy, refrigerated dog food! Come on, folks. Let’s not overthink this. Just buy a bulk bag of dry dog food and pour it into a bowl. Your dog or cat doesn’t need a five-course feast. They just need food.

You can buy healthy pet food that helps their overall well-being while still realizing that at the end of the day, your animal is just an animal. And if something happened to you, your cat would probably eat you to survive, so . . . 

Savings Hack: Clip coupons and shop BOGOs for your pet’s food—just like you do for your own groceries (we hope). If you’re able, stock up when your pet’s favorite food goes on sale. You can even buy it in bulk at stores like Costco and Sam’s Club (dry pet food will last a while, you know). If you’d rather have it delivered right to your front door, check out an auto ship service like Chewy. You can save 30% on your first purchase and 5% for each auto ship after that. And one last tip—try not to overfeed your little Garfield, no matter how much he meows at you.

2. Medical Expenses

Just like your own health care, keeping up with your pet’s annual checkup can save you a lot of money and heartache later down the road. So don’t skip out on putting preventive care in the budget. Keep your furry friends up to date on their shots too. You don’t want to skip out on a necessary vaccination, only to have your pet get sick and have to shell out even more medical costs.

When it comes to routine things like heartworm pills and flea medication, see if you can save more by ordering from a legit online distributor instead of your local vet. Be sure to shop around. You may be able to find the exact brands your vet recommends at a lower cost if you just do some internet searching, buy generic, or sign up for a subscription.

And last but not least—don’t forget to spay and neuter your pets (said in Bob Barker voice). This operation can be a pricey expense, but it’s an important one to cover. If your furbaby comes from a shelter, it’ll probably be covered in your adoption fee (or they might have already had it done). And if your pet does require an expensive operation one day, ask for paid-in-cash discounts and save up for a few months first—but whatever you do, don’t go into debt for it.


Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!

Savings Hack: Do some research and track down the right vet. Don’t just pick the one closest to home or with the fanciest logo. Call multiple locations and ask friends with pets who they recommend. You want someone with great pet-side manner and great prices—you can get both.

3. Boarding

This may be the most annoying part of pet ownership—paying for a sitter. If you can’t get a neighborhood kid to come over on the cheap, you may have to bite the bullet and board your pet when you go out of town. So, before you plan your next trip, be sure to work this extra expense into your budget.

Savings Hack: Swap pet sitting with your neighbors! When they’re out of town, you can pop over to feed their cat and change the litter. And in return, they can swing by to walk your pup and refill their food bowl when you’re on vacation. It’s a budget-friendly win-win for everyone.

4. Grooming

When it comes to grooming, skip the overpriced Puppy Palace and shop around. While a summer trim may be in order, there’s no need for specialty do’s and over-the-top bath products all the time. Unless you’re prepping your dog for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, a regular grooming appointment is good enough.

It’s fine to spend a little extra and pamper your pooch with something like a fancy oatmeal bath if it’s in the budget, but if you’re still paying off debt, then stick to a basic groom and cut. And if you have a fish, well, congrats—no grooming bill for you!

Savings Hack: Invest in grooming tools, bring up a tutorial on YouTube, and then do the work yourself at home! But if that sounds like a DIY fail waiting to happen—then just get a good brush to help keep your pet well groomed in between their professional grooming appointments. That way you won’t have to go as often and can keep more cash in your pocket.

5. Supplies and Pet Toys

This covers all the must-have things like a dog or cat bed, a litter box, a brush for the horse, or a secured glass box for that slithering snake. And don’t forget about toys to keep your pet busy (and away from your shoes). Just make sure you’re budgeting for the pet toy subscription if you go that route.

And while it’s perfectly okay to buy the things your pet needs (and treats every now and then), it can also derail your budget if you’re not careful. Don’t get sucked into every piece of memory foam pet furniture, automatic feeder gadget and subscription pet toy box on the market.

Savings Hack: Need to pick up pet waste? (You know the kind.) Whether you’re scooping litter or picking up presents your dog left on the neighbor’s lawn—don’t pay for the fancy bags. Instead, just recycle all those plastic bags from your grocery store.

6. Everything Else (aka Miscellaneous)

You walk through the front door and there’s your new little puppy (who you thought could do no wrong) chewing your sofa to shreds. Uh-oh! Having a pet means you should expect the unexpected to go down. Something will happen that you’ll need to cover—it’s like a weird law of pet science. Whatever “it” is, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the oddball miscellaneous stuff, because it will happen.

How to Budget for Pet Ownership 

Start a sinking fund. 

There are expenses that happen only once a year. But not planning for them ahead of time will ruin your budget like an untrained dog ruins your favorite slippers. Making a sinking fund is a cinch. Just take the total expense of that big annual vet visit, divide that by twelve months, put that much in the fund each month, and you’ll be ready to pay that bill in cash when it comes up.

You can even stash some money in the sinking fund just in case an emergency happens and you’re stuck with a hefty vet bill. With a sinking fund for your pet, you won’t feel the pressure to take out a crazy pet insurance policy (steer clear of those).

Add a pet budget line. 

For all the monthly expenses that happen on the regular, set up a budget line for your pet. It’s easy in our EveryDollar app—just add it as a monthly expense and you’re set. Don’t forget to track all those critter costs so you don’t overspend throughout the month though.

How Much Does a Pet Cost? 

While the exact amount is different for every budget (and every pet!), one thing’s the same: You should never, ever go into debt for a pet. Instead, work pet expenses into the budget and you’ll be good to go! Here are some numbers to give you an idea of how much pet costs can run you—for both a dog and a cat.

dog graphic

Initial Dog Expenses

Adoption Fee


Pet Store or Breeder


Spay or Neuter


Initial Medical Exam and Vaccinations






Puppy Training Pads


Bed and Crate


Food Bowls


Travel Crate


Training  $250+

Pet Deposit for Renters


Total Initial Dog Costs


Monthly Dog Expenses



Waste Pickup Bags


Pet Fee Added to Rent


Total Monthly Expenses


Annual Dog Expenses

Monthly Expenses From Above


Flea/Tick/Heartworm Prevention


Vaccination, License and Routine Care


Treats and Chew Toys


Total Annual Expenses


Possible Extra Dog Expenses

Boarding or Sitting

$15–50 a day


$0–1,200 annually

Major Medical


Stats pulled from Petfinder, Forbes and conversations with lovely pet owners.2,3,4

Cat graphic

Initial Cat Expenses

Adoption Fee


Pet Store or Breeder


Spay or Neuter


Initial Medical Exam and Vaccinations


Toys and Scratching Posts


Litter Box




Food Bowls




Pet Deposit for Renters


Total Initial Cat Costs:


Monthly Cat Expenses





Pet Fee Added to Rent


Total Monthly Expenses


Annual Cat Expenses

Monthly Expenses From Above


Flea/Tick Prevention


Vaccination, License and Routine Care


Treats and Toys


Total Annual Expenses


Possible Extra Cat Expenses

Boarding or Sitting

$15–50 a day


$0–300 annually

Major Medical


Stats pulled from Petfinder, Business Insider and conversations with lovely pet owners.5,6,7

Where Can You Adopt a Pet? 

Most of the time, you aren’t going to find an exotic pet (like a snake or rat) any place other than a pet store. But for cats and dogs, the debate can run hot on whether you should adopt from shelters or purchase from a pet store or breeder.

Pet Stores and Breeders

These guys boast of knowing the animal’s background, bloodline, personality and temperament. Some even say they’re able to match the potential owner with the best breed to suit their lifestyle. Plus, they’re usually picky about the animals they select: Those with medical or behavior issues don’t make the cut. Still, there are some shady pet stores and breeders out there. Be sure to do your research on the place before you give them your business.

If you need a show dog for competitions or a hypoallergenic pet so your kid doesn’t have a constant state of the sneezes, a breeder can help make that happen. But the price difference of going the store or breeder route is something budget-minded animal lovers should give some thought to.

Animal Shelters

Nothing feels quite as good as knowing you rescued an animal. That’s why adopting from an animal rescue is a great option. Shelters typically give a wellness exam, spay or neuter, administer a full set of vaccines, test for major medical issues, and deworm if needed (gag). Some even microchip and provide a collar and license. These could add up to between $425–880 if you had to cover them on your own but are usually covered in one big adoption fee from the shelter.8 If budget friendly is your main priority, then finding your next pet pal at the shelter might be your best bet.

It’s Time to Put Man’s Best Friend in the Budget 

Dog person, cat person, lizard person—if you’re an animal lover, it can feel wrong to think of your animal friend as a bill or budget line. But being prepared for the costs of pet ownership doesn’t make you a bad pet parent. Actually, it makes you a great one. You’re saying your pets’ needs are important enough to make it in your budget, and that’s a huge win.

Budgeting for your furry (or furless) companion is easy with our free appEveryDollar. Yep, that’s right—it’s free. And it’s crazy simple to use too (you don’t need to be a math nerd to figure it out). Get started setting up your first budget in as little as 10 minutes and let Fido know he’s loved enough to budget for.  


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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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