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How To Own Cheap Low Maintenance Pets

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.

A study on the cost of owning a dog found that you can expect to spend about $15,000 on the dog over the course of its lifetime. And that doesn’t even include the purchase of the dog itself! So let’s take a look at cheap, low maintenance pets.

So if you’re watching every dollar can you even consider having a pet?

Despite the expense, the answer is yes. For a lot of people, the joy of owning a pet far outweighs the cost, even when that cost is steep. Jonathan and Brad have talked in a ChooseFI podcast about prioritizing your priorities. We need to make room for the thing that brings us joy, even if that thing ends up delaying our achievement of FI for a few years.

If you find that a pet is a must-have when you list your priorities, there are ways to own cheap, low maintenance pets that might put less of a dent in your budget. Here are some ways you can save money on pet care.

The two key ways you can save money while having pets include giving serious consideration to the type and size pet you decide to own before you purchase one and learning how to significantly cut costs for the pets you already have.

Table of Contents

Get A Smaller Pet

Pound for pound, larger pets typically cost more to feed. So for example, if you get a small dog instead of a large one, you’ll be cutting down on food costs. You could also get a hamster instead of a cat or dog.

Think about what you want out of your pet before you go shopping. If it’s simply about the cuddle factor, you may find that smaller pets typically have more cuddle potential than larger ones because they can sit on your lap more easily.

Adopt Instead Of Heading To The Breeder

The words “cheap, low maintenance pets” aren’t usually used to describe purebred pets, for good reason.

Save money when buying your pet by adopting from your local shelter or from a family or individual that can no longer care for their animal. It’s typically not free to adopt a shelter pet, but it can be much more affordable than purchasing from a breeder or pet store.

In addition to saving money on purchase costs, buying a “mutt” from shelters may save you money in the long run. This is because purebred animals often come with health problems that can happen when the pets aren’t tested for breed-specific health problems.

If you’re set on purchasing a purebred animal, do your research to find a reputable breeder. Here are tips on finding a reputable dog breeder and ideas for finding a reputable cat breeder. Just be sure you’re comfortable spending the money it costs to buy a purebred from a reputable breeder. Purebred puppies can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Purebred cats come with a similar price tag.

Note for cat lovers: Know that free kittens aren’t usually free–you’ll need to get them tested for worms and fleas. These types of maladies are common in the “free kittens” world.

Get Pets Checked Out By The Vet Before You Buy

This is common practice with puppies and with larger animals such as horses. However, it’s a good rule of thumb for all animals. Getting the pet examined by your veterinarian before you buy can potentially save you thousands of dollars.

Many issues, especially when it comes to horses, can be hard to spot until you’ve owned the animal for a while. For this reason, it’s smart to have your vet do an assessment before you buy. That way you’ll have a better chance of knowing about any pre-existing conditions that may cost you money in the years to come. In other words, it may help you know if your cheap pet may stay low maintenance over the course of its life.

Save Money On Food

One of the more popular suggestions from the ChooseFI Facebook group was to save money on pet food by feeding your pets a raw diet made with human food. When you buy food at the pet store, part of what you’re paying for is the work that goes into making the food.

This may be cheaper, but it’s not exactly low maintenance to have to regularly spend time prepping and cooking your animal’s food. However, the time investment is worth the financial rewards. By feeding your cat or dog a raw food or human food diet such as rice with ground turkey, but you’ll likely end up with a lot more cash.

Bonus: When done right, homemade pet foods are often healthier than a lot of store-bought bagged foods. This means you may increase your chances of avoiding health problems with your pet when feeding a raw food diet.

Check out Facebook’s Raw Feeding Community page for pets to find more information on how to feed your pet a healthy, balanced human food diet.

Another way we save money on pet food at our home is via my daughter’s job at a national pet store chain. We buy the company’s brand-name food, which she gets at 50% off thanks to her employee status.

A big pillar of Financial Independence is getting a side hustle to bring in extra money. There are lots of ideas for side hustles that you can start right now. If you’re a pet lover, working at a pet store could be a great side hustle to help you reach your financial goals by both bringing in money and keeping less from going out.

Related: Why A Side Hustle Is FI’s Secret Weapon

Save Money On Toys And Maintenance Items

There are a lot of times that cheap, low maintenance pets become expensive, high maintenance pets through no fault of their own. Instead, their owners get caught up in the toys and accessories and stylized grooming that really hikes up costs. The challenge is to resist those temptations and stick to necessities only.

Here are some ideas to save money on essentials and non-essentials for indoor pets:

Shop the clearance section: Keep an eye on your local pet store and big box store clearance shelves.

Make your own toys: For example, put some crinkle wrap in the toe end of an old sock and tie a pie of yarn around it. (Just make sure you’re taking safety factors into consideration and avoid potential choking hazards.)

Switch up your cat litter: Use pine pellets you get at farm stores instead of traditional cat litter (some types of chick feed might work too). Consider using Costco cat pads and the Breeze litter box system because it’s designed to work with pine pellets.

Learn how to groom your pet at home: When it comes to nail trims, be sure to educate yourself to avoid injuring your dog or cat. There are special trimming tools that can help you trim your pet’s nails safely. Also, check out the Scaredy Cut Silent Grooming Kit For Pets if your dog or cat really hates the traditional trimmers. As a natural (and free!) alternative, you can help your dog’s nails wear naturally by regularly walking them outside on asphalt/cement.

Sign up for your local pet store’s rewards programs to earn points toward free or discounted purchases.

How To Save On Vet Bills

Vet bills for both indoor and outdoor pets can add up quickly. Like anything else, different vets have different fees. Shop around before committing to a particular vet.

Some easy things to do at home are to brush your pet’s teeth regularly and keep your pet at a healthy weight. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight means saving money on food and obesity-related healthcare.

But don’t skimp on quality food. We learned this the hard way. After feeding our barn cats cheap cat food for a few years, we had three of them develop urinary tract infections, which can be deadly in cats. Emergency vet bills: over $1,000 each. We’ve now switched to a higher quality cat food, and have had no UTI instances for several years. The higher cost of the food was totally worth it compared to the cost of the vet.

Also, have basic pet care/first aid supplies on hand, such as Vetericyn for minor scrapes and cuts so you can void going to the vet. Check out this list of naturopathic health remedies for pets before you just rush to the vet with every little issue. Just be sure to call your veterinarian and/or do thorough research from trusted sources before implementing natural pet care remedies.

Practice safe lifestyle choices with your pet. Don’t let them run the neighborhood. Keep them in a fenced yard or on a leash when walking them. Also, avoid over-vaccination. For instance, cats that stay entirely indoors probably don’t need flea and tick medicine because they’re not exposed to outdoor animals.

Lastly, consider pet insurance. The cost will depend on the type of pet you have and what kind of coverage you want. You can use this search tool to get quotes from different companies so that you can compare them and find what’s best for you.

How To Save Money On Pet Daycare And Boarding

Pet daycare and boarding is another way we spend money on our pets. A few nights at a kennel can turn a cheap, low maintenance pet into a very expensive pet. Instead of boarding look into hiring a family member or side hustler. It will be less expensive and you’ll be helping out someone you know.

To avoid paying for boarding altogether, see if there is a friend that is willing to trade pet care duties. Or volunteer at your local shelter in exchange for free or discounted boarding.

Save Money On Outdoor Pets

Outdoor pets such as horses have a reputation for being very expensive, but they don’t have to be. We’ve owned horses for years and manage to keep the cost relatively low. Just like with house pets, you can shop around for cheaper supplies or learn how to do some basic care at home.

For example, learning basic farrier skills will allow you to keep your horse’s hooves trimmed. Or if you practice regular deworming, use a high-quality dewormer and do it yourself.

You can also do some regular yard maintenance to keep things safe and healthy for pets. Monitoring your grounds for any plants that might be harmful and keeping your fences in good repair will keep your pets from wandering off and getting into who knows what.

Check out this thread from the ChooseFI Facebook community for more tips.

Listen: Do You Need A Budget? | YNAB


Yes, pets can be expensive. But there are ways to have a cheap, low maintenance pet and still take good care of it. Do your research so you know upfront what a pet will likely cost you and how that will fit with your FI journey. Then stick to that budget.

Do you have other money-saving pet care tips? Share them in the comments section!

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How To Own Cheap Low Maintenance Pets

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Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.
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