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How To Create A Pet Budget

Updated on September 1, 2012

Create A Pet Budget

As you can probably tell, my "little" Griffin the malamute is not a happy camper. When I told him that due to the state of the economy and us trying to cut back and be more frugal with our money we were going to think about setting up a pet budget....well, all I can say is.... it wasn't pretty.

The puzzling thing about the economy and folks trying to save money these days is that we all are doing it in our own big ways and little ways....but there is one area where we just seem to be willing to spend, spend spend.....

And where is that? On our pets! For crying out loud, I see folks in the stores with better food for their pets in the carts than they have for themselves.

We somehow have elevated our pets to almost worship status and we forget that they in fact are "just" our pets.

Before you get upset.....I say this while believing that the sun and moon revolve around my two malamutes. However, that said, there is a happy medium and I think we can all learn to save money even where our pets are concerned.

(I just covered Griff's ears because he was becoming extremely agitated while reading that paragraph and I was concerned about a meltdown)....yikes - I never should have taught the little fellow to read.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
OMG - No one said that I was going to have to cut out treats!  You have to be KIDDING! I'm feeling very lightheaded!Treats?  Treats?Someone had a little too many treats and eggnog
OMG - No one said that I was going to have to cut out treats!  You have to be KIDDING! I'm feeling very lightheaded!
OMG - No one said that I was going to have to cut out treats! You have to be KIDDING! I'm feeling very lightheaded! | Source
Treats?  Treats?
Treats? Treats?
Someone had a little too many treats and eggnog
Someone had a little too many treats and eggnog

How To Create a Pet Budget

Diet is everything. First and foremost, I'm going to say the one thing that is vital when it comes to our pets is their diet. That might sound like a huge contradiction but in fact, it isn't. You buy cheap food for them and they'll probably end up with health problems or allergies. Or chronic conditions that need constant veterinary care.....oh wait - that's what we do to ourselves sometimes!

I think the best thing you can do for your pet is to give them the best food for them specifically....that doesn't mean it has to be the most expensive.

  • Compare ingredients
  • Find out what keeps your pet at its ideal weight - not too fat or too thin
  • Aim for no fillers and additives but after comparing ingredients, buy the less expensive brand
  • Make your own pet food if the cost doesn't outweigh you doing it AND if it's nutritionally sound

A good pet diet actually will save you vet bills in the long run. Just like humans, if they eat right, they live longer and have less things happen to them from a poor diet like diabetes, allergies, etc.

Cut the crap. I'm so sorry Griffin but you might want to step away from the computer and I mean right now, pal! Yep, you heard it.......the treat stops HERE. Think about how much we spend on treats for our pets!

.....Cover your ears and your eyes, and go away Griffin.....

The amount that we spend on pet treats is outrageous. The other thing I noticed not too long ago was that the treats were actually detrimental for Griffin.

.....Yeah, I'm talking to you my little tooting machine!

We couldn't figure out why on such a good dog food Mr. Griff was causing a nuclear cloud every night in our home. Well, with a little thinking about it and eliminating them for a week, we discovered it was the treats. Those things we keep enticing him with to do his training....those things we use to get him to do our bidding like "jump into the car now, Griff". All the while he's enjoying this little morsels, they're adding fat to his body mass index.

.....Yes, Griffin, dogs actually have to worry about body mass indexes just like humans - get over it.

They're also adding to the allergy factor. We take all this time to buy him good dog food and then give him treats with gosh knows what in them!

Griffin is what's the alternative?

  • Kibble (sorry pal - not exciting enough for ya but oh well)
  • Bits of real meat (in small quantities - not the entire turkey breast Griff)
  • Small pieces of meat (taking that loaf of bread was over the limit - and those 11 sauerkraut pumpkin muffins....I'm not even going there)

Don't toy with me! The amount of money that we spend on pet toys is kind of alarming. I'm extremely guilty of this myself but then I could make an excuse that he's a puppy and that's why he has a basket full of toys. But do we really think our pet needs that many toys? For what? Because they're comparing them to the dog next door's basket of toys?I don't think Griffin is that smart.

....Sorry...Griff, I forgot you were sitting here.

I think pets are like senior citizens....they forget what they just had 5 minutes ago and everything is new again if you just give it a little bit of time.

Another thing I'm not too keen on the more I'm thinking about it is where have these toys been? I search high and low and it takes me forever to find a toy for my dog that is even made in this country or touched by American hands. I kind of wonder if I'm giving my dog lead poisoning by buying toys made in China to be honest. I have nothing against China but I would like to be able to buy something that was American!

I'm sorry folks....Griffin is now having a temper tantrum. Some whining about first I take away his treats and now I'm doing away with his toys??

Here are some alternatives, Griffin!

  • Use the toys you have (not you, the pet) before you buy new
  • Refurbish the old before you buy a new rope or a new pull thing (I know that got very technical there for a minute)
  • Make your own (you, not the pet) - check on line for sites that tell you how to make rope toys out of old cloth - wow - made by American hands!

I have a bone to pick with you! I could quote some statistics here on how many millions of pounds of pig's ears, chew toys like rawhide and such that we buy every year for our pets but frankly, I'm too tired to look it up. As a matter of fact, after a very bad experience with a piece of rawhide being wedged in my lab's stomach years ago, I avoid these things like the plague. I also inadvertently caused my dogs to fight by giving them both a pig's ear at the same time.

Now Griffin's asking why he wasn't informed of these things...good lord will the guy give it a rest!

.....You need to seriously look in the mirror and think about the fact that I'm doing these things for your own good, lad!

Where was I? anyway, these "natural" things that we pay a fortune for are really not even good for our pets in the first place. So why do we load up our carts and race home to toss one to them?

The vet bills can be astronomical if some of these great "bones" go missing in your pet's intestine. After my experience, I decided it wasn't worth the torture. That probably would explain the teething marks in our deck railing that my husband keeps having to sand down and repair....hmmm...

.....Okay Griff....the alternatives

  • Ask the vet about bones - what kinds are safe to give. I give Griff a roast bone that can't splinter or get too small and keep him where I can see him while he gnaws on it.................I bet you forgot about that didn't you, my little glutton?
  • Invest in things that can't be chewed apart and will last "forever" like Kong toys (though they are sadly not made in the USA)
  • Unless you have pups, young dogs or dogs who just never got over chewing, there are other things that they can do besides inhaling rawhide or pig's ears

.....Yeah, Griff, I was talking to you!

You made your bed, now go lie in it! Another area where we spend a lot of money. I can't tell you how many people I see in Costco with several dog beds....all the time! I see them in other stores, too buying very expensive beds for their pets.

.....Okay, Griffin, I didn't buy you a new bed because you're frankly too big for them! Now is that making you feel any better?

The reasoning here is that they have to have a comfy surface to sleep on. I've actually purchased 2 beds but it was quite some time ago. I don't like to keep buying these things and throwing them away because it seems like a waste of money.

.....If you're listening Griff, you eat it, you lose it and you sleep on the tile!

I paid next to nothing for them and they have a zipper cover so they can be washed if necessary but I cover them with dog blankets that I made myself. It took about 20 minutes to hem both of the blankets I made and they are easily washed and dried.

Of course, my dogs have the ultimate dog bed which is OUR bed.

.....I'm not hearing anything from the canine quarter on that one!


  • Make your own dog beds - buy patterns at the fabric store and buy foam for inside
  • Create your own dog blankets with fabric - hem if you want
  • Use old blankets or sheets along with old pillows

My home is my castle. Although I have malamutes and they are a breed known for liking to be in a "den"....and no, Griffin I did not mean in the recliner.....they rarely if ever go into the cute little igloo dog houses we bought for them.

Luckily I bought them on sale and they do look cute as a background at Christmas in the decorations. It was actually a nice waste of money!

Seriously though, why do we spend money on these if they don't even use them?

Griffin just muttered something about he doesn't get his favorite Yellowstone programs in there so he doesn't like to go in.......there is no pleasing some dogs!

If you feel that your pet needs a real dog house, here are the alternatives.....but I'm still not springing for cable, Griffin, Mr. Moonlight!

  • Build one out of wood - there are multiple websites that give you complete instructions
  • Make one from other materials and use your imagination like carpeted ones for cats (Griffin did not hear me mention cats)

If all else fails, ask the experts. We pay a lot of money in vet bills every year and that's fine. I prefer my dogs to be healthy as well as happy. Don't go cheap on regular maintenance for your pets because over time, you do save money.

But don't be afraid to ask for their advice on how to save money on your pets! (In my case, I'm leaving Griff in the car when we have this little talk)

Consider vaccination clinics as if you have multiple pets, you can really save a lot of money on shots.

.....Excuse me while I calm him down....he doesn't like shots and he hates thinking about needles.

Also don't worry about looking "cheap". I prefer to call it being frugal in all things. Ask if they have senior discounts (they do) or ask if they have plans available for visits. We bought a puppy plan for Griffin because it ended up being lots cheaper than paying for each visit and it included him being neutered.

.....Well, that was not the word that he wanted to hear and now he's chewing on his paws and wringing them. Sorry pal, it had to be done!

While we are on the subject of "gender transformation" for your pets, let's not forget that you save big bucks when you license them if they're neutered.

.....Hmm....he obviously didn't know what "gender transformation" meant and I skated by with that one!

How to Save Money and Creating a Pet Budget

The one thing we did not cover and which I'm going to be taping for Griffin to listen to tonight with his headphones on is this...

There's no cost for love and affection. Let's make sure we understand that. Our pets give us unconditional love and affection. We should do the same.

But does that mean that we have to spend a bloody fortune to do it? No...I think we need to concentrate on what's important or what's MOST important and forget the rest.

Chew toys won't make up for a walk in the park or a run in the snow....

.....Okay Griffin, I got it!

Most pets are meant to do something...especially dogs. Without their "work", they can get goofy and do things they shouldn't do.

.....Although I'm still dwelling on the muffins, Griff....what was your motivation there since you'd had a nice run that day? or were you just hell bent on destroying your diet....and my kitchen? We won't even touch on the nuclear explosion and yeah, you know what I'm talking about! (I think he actually looked embarrassed for a moment!)

I think when it comes to our pets, we need to do just what we do with anything on our budget. Itemize it, analyze it a bit, and see where we can cut costs. But I don't mean to say that we cut the costs because we're being cheap or we don't care.

I'm saying maybe by cutting the costs, we're actually doing our pets a favor.

.....I'm glad you read that last part, Griff...and I'm very proud of you that you waited a few seconds before you started to howl.

Give your pets what they truly desire and need - you! They want our love and affection more than toys, bones, beds, and even cable.

.....Seriously Griff, get over it. You have Yellowstone on tape already and can watch it in from our bed! give the dog an inch and he takes a mile.

I'd love to hear more on what your ideas are for saving money on your pets and creating a pet budget so please share them with me. If you have any that you'd like to direct to Griffin in particular, write big as he needs glasses and we haven't gotten them yet!

If you have more specifically on how to trim the budget for dogs....please send them along.

Sigh...I have to go now....Griffin has thrown himself onto the floor and is openly weeping. It's pitiful to see a malamute act up like this! I think he's overcome with the budget cuts but he'll come around. He's a good boy after all!


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