Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ok Guys, I'm Gonna Need Your Help On This One

Hi Gayle -

Still loving the heck out of your blog! One question, though: does your family have pets? If so, how do their needs fit into your weekly budget? Or do you consider pet supplies to be a separate category from groceries?

I'm single and have no children (yet!), but I have a Chihuahua and three cats (and I'm not even a cat person! I'm just a big ol' sucker), and I am here to tell you, they are BUDGET-RUINERS! Pet food and cat litter eat a HUGE hole in my weekly shopping budget. So I'm VERY interested to see how you or your readers handle this.

Keep up the awesome work, and God bless!
-- Kelly

If there was a "Stump Gayle" day then this would be it. We've never been big on pets in our house. When I was a kid they were great because my mom did all the work but now that I'm the mom, the romance has worn off. We've had lizards (died), fish (died) hamsters (yup, died) and a dog (gave it away before it joined all the other pets).

And I have to admit to being tempted lately by all the cute kittens and dogs I've been seeing as well as how my kids look so sad when they talk about wanting a pet of their own.

So sad.

But there is no way I could fit the food and vet bills into our budget right now. So maybe there is something that you know that I don't. Well, I'm sure there is a lot of that but I mean pertaining to frugal pet ownership.

So here's your chance to jump in and give Kelly and I both some tips on how it can be done.


Emily said...

I can't wait to hear the answers on this one! (vet questions loom large for me, as a new dog owner.) I'm not as concerned about the pet food issue, as we have the money for that in the budget, but the vet issue is a real issue.

I'm all ears Gayle's readers!

Nicol said...

I understand this one! I have a dog who must be groomed at least every 8 weeks. Tried to do it myself and it simply didn't work. I also have three cats and yes the cost of litter and food can ruin my budget. I found it was best to have a "pet" allowance in my budget. I set aside $50 a month for pets. Some months I use all of it and other months I don't. Left over goes towards grooming which is a horrible $45. Ouch!

Laura Meadows said...

I can't say much about the dog food but because grooming is so expensive (about $75 for our large Australian Shepherd), my husband bought a $50 Furminator brush and uses that and scissors to groom our dog. Our dog may not win a dog show but it is better than shells out tons for grooming!!!

Georgi said...

We bathe and groom both dogs and all three cats at home, we have even learned how to trim nails, and clean anal glands (not fun). The cat food and litter comes from a warehouse place and the price is not bad, but the vet bills are becoming overwhelming as one of our dogs has mitral valve prolapse (heart fialure)and the other has bladder issues, so both are on special diets. Anybody who has hints on ways to cut vet bills I would apprecite them.

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Sigh. Can't help you with this one.
I have three cats, a gold fish and we just got a big dog. I just switched our dog to a cheaper dog food (healthier too) and I buy the generic dog biscuits. The cats get Kirkland (from Costco) reduced calorie cat food and Costco litter. Buying in bulk definitely helps too. Plus, I wash and re-use those giant kitty litter tubs. My only advice would be to skip any treats and to carefully monitor how much you're feeding your pets. It's easy to overfeed and overweight dogs/cats are unhealthy (vet bills) and go through food faster.

Christy said...

Well, I very well be in the minority but growing up all we ever fed our dogs was scraps and they were happy and lived a long time, so I never thought much about it. That is what we do now with our dog. He's the only pet we have, and he stays outside. Feeding him scraps helps us save a lot of money.

Vet bills? Well, we only take him when it's absolutely neccessary. We don't have anual check-ups or dental visits or whatever like some do.

Just a couple weeks ago our dog was attacked by something and was in shock and bleeding terribly. Obviously I took him to the animal hospital and nearly $400 later, he's making a complete recovery. I love the little thing, but I have to be honest, had I known that putting him down would have only cost $50 I very well may have gone that route because he was injured very badly. I know that sounds awful, but feeding my husband and children come first and we are really struggling now and the next couple of weeks because of this large bill over a dog.

We also had a pup that we had saved from certain death, but simply could not keep her once she got so big. She was eating a bag of dog food every other day and again, feeding my family comes before feeding an animal so we had to take her to the animal shelter. Hopefully a family who can better provide what she needs will adopt her.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that pets are a big responsibility and cost and we've got to make sure our budget allows enough room to be able to take care of them.

There are lots of pet food coupons out there. I just watched the sales and used coupons when we were feeding the rescue dog. And guess what else? She didn't care if it was dog or cat food she ate! LOL! So there's something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Walmart and Luvmypet vacination clinic are how we do it. Walmart has the cheapest food, litter,equipment, flea meds and you can use coupons there. Luvmypet has traveling vacination clinics that set up in you local Petsmart. You can get discounted spay/neutering during "spayday" that PAWS holds every year at the end of February.Look at your local PAWS website for details. About food don't go the cheapest store brand. I find you end up with hair loss and more digestive upset in your pets by using it. My fav is plain old Purina. Kitten Chow the first year, indoor or original up to year 7, and senior after that.Good food helps with overall health.

The Book Lady Online said...

Well, I know this will not be a huge help, but we have a cat and you can get some pretty decent deals on pet food with coupons. Register at all of the pet food websites to receive coupons in the mail. I also contacted many of them to complement their food (if our cat liked it) and most of them were so glad for a complement that they sent coupons (some were even for a free bag).

As for cat litter, we use the "crystal" litter. It works great - is very absorbent and does not smell, so you can just scoop to keep it clean and it lasts for at least a month. Our Walmart carries an inexpensive brand (don't remember the name and we don't have any unopened bags) of crystal litter that is about $4.00 and it lasts us the whole month.

Sorry - no advice about vet bills.


Halfmoon Girl said...

We have 2 bigger dogs. First of all- we treat them as animals, so they get good quality food, though not the latest craze, we go to the vet only when necessary, and weigh vet's advice on pet care with a grain of salt- meaning that if a huge bill was looming as the result of a suggested necessary surgery- the pet would be put down. Like I said, our dogs get a good quality of food, lots of water, and exercise- that keeps them fairly healthy and us out of the vet's office. We go to Costco and buy large bags of food. Grooming, what's that??? Just joking- we purposely get short haired, low care dogs. I can't keep my own offspring's hair out of their eyes!

Aliisa and Sundy said...

From Sundy:
We have one dog and several cats (three are less than 4 months old).

We've managed to do quite well with pet food from the dollar stores. As far as treats go, Aliisa has a great dog treat recipe that is very inexpensive.

All of their shots (except rabies) can be bought at a local feed store, and it is much cheaper for us to administer the shots ourselves. I have even purchased an allergy medication for one of my cats at the feed store. Our city offers rabies vaccinations for $7 each semiannually.

Stephanie said...

We've never had pets because of the cost to feed and dr. them. Thanks for this post. I've always wondered if there was a way to do it on a budget...

We've also done the fish thing... and it died...

Miriam said...

Our dear dog has not been to the vet since we got him. He is very healthy, full of energy, and doesn't have a care in the world except sniffing anything and everything, and protecting us from the squirrels (ha ha). He is a hairy dog (German/Australian Shepherd mix), and we wrestle him down and give him a brushing a couple times a year. His dog food: we buy it from Walmart or Costco (it's a few $$ cheaper at Costco), and we buy Purina Dog Chow (we've tried cheaper brands but he just poops more). The big bag lasts over a month, and we don't pay for that out of groceries. It comes out of "miscellanious". We have toenail clippers, but he HATES having his toenails clipped, so we just let him keep them worn down with all his running around in the back yard. It works fine. As far as meds, Sundy is right that you can buy them much cheaper on your own.

Heather said...

Treat animals like animals, not people! We take our dog to the vet only when necessary, and if she needed an expensive procedure, she would need to be put down (and just because the doc says "come back in a week" doesn't mean it's necessary). She eats cheap dry dog food from Costco as well as some scraps, and we monitor how much she eats. Adult dogs only need two feedings a day, and only as much as they eat in 15 minutes. We use (generic) Cheerios as training treats, and her favorite "toys" are plastic milk jugs. We had her spayed and vaccinated through the county - much cheaper then a vet. Try FreeCycle and Craigslist for pet equipment, and learn to do the grooming yourself. We don't have a cat, but I remember something about using shredded paper or strips of newspaper as kitty litter in Tightwad Gazette? I think they mixed it with the kitty litter at first and gradually reduced the amount of litter to train the cats.

Kelly said...

You guys have some great tips here! I am definitely going to give the crystal cat litter a shot. And thanks, Gayle, for posting my question!

The Lewis Family said...

Watch out on cheap food. We buy Nutro lamb & rice...$40/month. It's more expensive than, say, Alpo, but it's a good quality food. Be careful what you put in your bodies; it reflects what your bodies look like. Iams made my dog's hair fall out. So did Science Diet. We tried Nutro and I can proudly say I have a furry pup! Out of all the things I skimp on, I won't do it for pet food. I have 2 large dogs (Athena, 2.5y/o Rottie; Aramil, 2.5y/o Rottie/GSD) and a cat. If I put the dogs on cheap(er) food, they'll go through 2-3 bags a month, which comes out to just a little less. So, I just buy the more expensive food. The dogs are healthier and I'm spending just a tad bit more.

I don't do grooming. I have short-haired animals for a reason. I do have their nails clipped once a month, which is $10 every 2 months for both. I'm not sure what grooming needs to be done. Clipping nails, trimming fur...all of that can be done at home. I choose to have my dog's done because I just don't have the time right now.

I bake dog biscuits and give them as a treat once a week or so. You can also get pet insurance if your animal has issues. I do use a good litter. I scoop twice a week and change it once a month. If your pets are eating A LOT, have them tested for worms. The $10 test can save you $30-$40 in food or more.

I wouldn't have my pet put down because the bills were expensive. They always have been and still are a member of my family, and I wouldn't do that to my child. Many vet offices offer discounted rates, free office visits and payment plans to help you out. I don't understand why you would have a pet, Heather, and not treat the "animal" like a member of your family. Sorry, but my pets bring me joy. They deserve good food, good care and good times, IMO. :)

If you can't afford to properly take care of an animal, don't have one. To me, this includes vet care when needed and for checkups, good food and vaccinations. Oh, and lots of love! (Sorry for the rambling!)

Aliisa and Sundy said...

From Aliisa:
We have 2 dogs. They are outside dogs most of the time except during the winter. We do buy a good dog food, but I either buy it on sale or buy it at walmart. We usually get 40 lbs for around $18 and that will last us about 14 weeks. I do measure out their food so they eat what they are supposed to and not any more than that. As Sundy said, I do make my own dog treats. I can make a gallon size ziploc almost full of dog treats for around $3 at the most. It doesnt take long and lasts us several months. We also dont take them to the vet unless we have to and for those things we have an emergency fund. We do our pet grooming ourselves to save money.

EEEEMommy said...

Great comments!
We have taken advantage of discount vet clinics (Saturday mornings at Tractor Suply Co.) and low cost spay/neuter programs, and my husband trims their nails.

OneHotDish said...

We don't have pets and I didn't grow up with them but my mother grew up on a farm and they fed their pets scraps. She also freezes oil (like from browning ground beef) and table scraps in a plastic container and when it's full gives it to friends with cats - they love the stuff! And it must not be too bad for them as they're healthy as ever. Not sure what they did about vet bills although I would guess 40 years ago people didn't put as much money into animals as many people do today and put their pets down instead of spending money on surgeries or monthly medicines. I know I've heard of lots of natural ways to ward off bugs/fleas instead of the medication. One of them (that we're going to use because we have bugs even without animals in the house) is called Wondercide - check it out at wondercide.com

Anonymous said...

I am a fairly recent pet owner, but we get our dog food at Southern Agriculture. I buy Diamond dog food. It is very good and very reasonable. It is comparable to Eagle Holistic food which costs a fortune. They told me at the pet store it is cheaper because they do not mass advertise. Anyway, you might check it out as a healthier animal means less trips to the vet.