There are plenty of good deals out there if you just take time to sniff them out.

When I adopted my big chow mix Toby from a shelter years ago, the staff steered me toward buying a crate from a pet store for his initial training. I paid $80 for the crate and spent around $100 more for a dog bed, food and toys. Fifteen years and a few dogs later, I’m a lot more discerning when it comes to pet expenses. For a time, I had four dogs, which is how I learned the hard way how expensive pets can be. Now that I’m down to two hairy housemates, I still hang on to my frugal ways, saving hundreds of dollars a year on pet expenses.

When it comes to pet expenses, you don’t have to keep coughing up money faster than a cat claws up a new sofa. Follow these tips, and you’ll have money left over to pay toward debt or deposit in emergency savings.

1. Search for free initial exams

I took both my dogs one year to get annual vaccinations and check-ups at a local veterinarian that advertised a free initial examination, which typically runs between $40 to $60. It’s generally good to stick with a vet you trust. However, I had four dogs at the time, two of which were elderly (and costly), that I took to my regular veterinarian. The $100 savings allowed me to stay on top of canine healthcare for all my pets.

2. Take advantage of mobile and low-cost clinics

I only like to do this when my dogs are young, such as under five years old, older dogs need a thorough annual exam. While you won’t receive an exam at many of these clinics, you can get vaccinations, microchips and heartworm and flea preventatives at low cost.

3. Don’t buy meds at the vet

Veterinarians who sell medications and supplements directly usually charge a big mark-up. Ask the vet to write a prescription that you can fill at a pharmacy for a lower price. To save even more, sign your cat or dog up on prescription savings programs like the ones offered by Walgreens, Kroger, Rite-Aid, and Walmart.

4. Participate in focus group studies

My friend Carmen received free dog food for six months by participating in a focus group wanting her opinions on a company’s dog food. Sign up with local marketing companies, and even if you don’t snag free dog food, there’s a good chance you’ll be selected for another focus group that pays cash for your opinion.

5. Exchange pet sitting with a friend or neighbor

In-home pet sitting or boarding runs anywhere from $20 to $60 per pet, per night, so this can turn into a big additional expense when you travel. Choose someone you trust who doesn’t vacation more than you do, so it’s an equal exchange.

6. Shop for crates on Craigslist

Don’t spend $40 to $150 on a dog crate or cat carrier when there are dozens listed on Craigslist on any given day for anywhere from $10 to $50. I’ll never buy a new crate again. Be sure to sanitize the crates and carriers, even if they look clean, with a ratio of vinegar or bleach and water.

7. Watch for coupons

Recently, I saw a coupon for a free nail trim at a local vet and saved $15. Keep an eye out for coupons in the mail, local pet magazines and grocery and pet stores.

8. Buy stuffed animals at yard sales

I got tired of watching $12 stuffed monkeys and hedgehogs I handed over to Toby get ripped limb-from-limb in ten minutes. Now, I buy most of my stuffed animal dog toys anywhere from 25 cents to a dollar apiece from yard sales where sellers are getting rid of stuffed animals their kids have outgrown.

9. Comparison shop online

Before you buy pet food, supplements or heartworm and flea preventative, check Amazon, 1-800-Petmeds and other online peddlers for the best deal. You’ll be surprised at how much prices vary. Don’t forget to figure in shipping costs.

10. Pet food coupons

You’ll often find coupons directly on the manufacturer’s website. For example, Purina offers coupons on dog and cat food. You can also sign up for coupons from Halo, Blue Buffalo, and others. Don’t be too much of a cheapskate when it comes to pet food, though. Poor nutrition is a recipe for costly health problems down the road. Check out food reviews at DogFoodAdvisor or PetFoodTalk to make an informed choice, then search for coupons.

The key to saving money on pet expenses is to always be on the prowl for a good deal. That way, you can still splurge on your furry friends when you can’t resist that catnip mouse or fancy dog sweater.

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Meet the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp


Hipp is a freelance writer based out of Missouri.

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Article last modified on October 4, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: 10 Ways to Cut Pet Expenses in Half - AMP.