Mrs. Frugalwoods shares how her family budgets for their beloved pet, Frugalhound.

I’m an inveterate dog person. Can’t help myself, I love furry creatures! But, it’s very true that pets add a line item to a budget. In light of this, my husband and I waited almost five years before adopting our greyhound. We desperately wanted a dog when we were first married, but there was just no way we could afford to care for one. Hence, we saved up and planned for the time when we’d be able to assume the costs of hound ownership comfortably.

A Home For a Hound

One of the main reasons we didn’t rush out to adopt a dog is that we were renting, and finding an apartment that allows pets is tough—especially in the Boston area. The rentals that do allow pets typically charge more for the privilege.

Not constraining ourselves with a pet enabled us to find a relatively inexpensive place, which allowed us to save up for the down payment on our first home (although that’s another story for another time).

Plus, if we brought a pet into a rental and incurred damage to the property, we’d be on the hook for repair costs. All in all, we decided it would be wisest to wait until we had our own place before welcoming a dog into our family. (Good thing, too, as our hardwood floors are now lovingly marred by hound claws!)

Biding Our Time

My husband and I used to be the people at the dog park who didn’t have a dog. Sounds odd, but it was our way of getting our dog fix before we could have a pup of our own. Plus, it gave us the opportunity to interact with dogs and their owners and thus get a better sense of everything that dog ownership entails.

Although we figured it would be years before we brought a pup home, we passed the time by doing our research on dog care and breeds of dogs best suited to our lifestyle. Matching a pet to your way of life and family structure is an easy way to avoid expensive surprises. Since my husband and I both worked outside of the home from 9-to-5 (and often more) every Monday through Friday, we knew we should get a dog that’d be well suited to this routine.

We realized that a puppy, or a high-energy or working breed, wouldn’t be happy in this environment. Adopting a dog that wouldn’t be comfortable being home alone would place a significant burden on our finances, since we’d need to hire a dog walker or enroll the dog in doggie daycare.

Fortunately, we discovered that the greyhound breed is perfectly adapted to hanging around the house alone during the day. Greyhounds are, by their very nature, quite lazy and snooze-y dogs, content to recline on their dog bed for most of the day. Additionally, since greyhounds are available for adoption after their racing careers, they’re adult dogs—much more laid-back than puppies! Our greyhound has proven these anecdotes correct. When we first adopted her, we put a webcam on her during the day so we could check on her remotely. Turns out she sleeps peacefully all day long.

The Slate of Pet-Related Expenses

Vet bills are a predictable cost of pet ownership, and we felt like we should get ourselves on more secure financial footing before assuming the responsibility of another living creature. In addition to the cost of an annual well-dog exam, there are also standard shots and vaccines to keep up. Medication—such as for heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention—are other smart purchases that hopefully stave off future, costlier health problems.

In addition to these preventative and maintenance efforts, emergencies can arise with pets, just as they do with humans. This month, for example, our dog needs to have a dental cleaning, which will cost us in the neighborhood of $800—not an insignificant chunk of change! (This despite the fact that we regularly brush her teeth at home.) This amount would’ve been a major hardship for us had we owned our dog when we first got married eight years ago.

Pets, like the rest of us, have to eat. Although there are bargains to be had in the arena of pet food, sometimes a furry friend requires a special diet or specific ingredients in their kibble. Our dog, for example, is healthiest with a grain-free diet, and we’ve been fortunate to locate a generic brand at Costco that meets her dietary needs.

Grooming, especially for dogs, is a must. Another reason we were drawn to the greyhound breed is that their coats are exceptionally short and require little in the way of maintenance. To save money, we bathe our hound at home, brush her coat, and clip her claws ourselves.

Another aspect of our pre-dog life that wasn’t conducive to pet ownership was our travel schedule. My husband and I both used to travel extensively for work—sometimes at the same time—which wouldn’t be terribly convenient with a dog at home. In addition to the cost of boarding a pet frequently, it seemed unfair to subject a dog to being away from home so often.

Once our lives settled down, we purchased a home, and were traveling much less, my husband and I decided we could add a dog to our family. And we’re so glad we did!

Tail End Thoughts

We consider our hound to be a wonderful and joyful luxury in our lives. While having pets can indeed be considered an emotional expense, it’s well worth it. The important thing to remember, however, is that pets are a long-term financial commitment. And it’s not possible to know exactly how much a dog (or cat, or iguana) will cost its owner over the course of its lifetime. Hence, it’s crucial to have the financial flexibility to cover expenses that can arise before adopting a pet.

Grownups, how did you decide the time was right to adopt a pet?

MrsFrugalwoods_headshot 
Mrs. Frugalwoods writes at www.frugalwoods.com about her journey to financial independence by age 33 and a homestead in the woods with her husband, daughter, and their greyhound, Frugal Hound.

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