4 ways to save on pet expenses

Have you ever lost yourself in the sea of plush squeaky toys, gluten-free crunchy treats, and colorful ceramic dishes at the local pet store? Well, we at Brilliant Energy certainly have! But we know we’re in great company because we’re not alone in overindulging our pets. In fact, consumers will spend $62.75 billion on their furry loved ones this year, projects American Pet Products Association (APPA), a major pet products trade group.

So what’s a pet parent to do with a spending figure that has nearly doubled in the last decade? To help give your wallet some breathing room without interfering with your pet's’ well-being here are a few ways to save on pet expenses.

Sign up for a subscription box
Over the years subscription services for pet toys has only grown in popularity. They’re a nice surprise for your pet and many boxes even offer full-sized treats and toys at a deep discount compared to purchasing the items a la cart at a pet store. Thus, it’s easy to see the appeal subscription pet food services have as they may further help take a chunk out of the $24.01 billion we’ll be spending on pet food this year. Sadie Cornelius, a spokeswoman for CanineJournal.com says that auto-ship services can greatly reduce these routine expenses. You’ll save money by setting up an auto-renew service (typically 5 percent and a larger discount for the first order), which means you’ll never forget to grab a bag of kibble at the store again. And since you don’t have to drive to the store anymore for last-minute trips you’ll also save on gas. Not sure where to begin? Cornelius recommends checking out Amazon.com and PetFoodDirect.com for their pet food subscription-and-delivery services. Petco.com and Chewy.com also offer this service.

Think about DIY treats
Any pet parent knows your furry loved one’s diet isn’t complete without a few treats now and again. It’s estimated we spent $61 on dog treats and $51 on cat treats last year, which averages to $4 or $5 per month on the goodies. While that’s not a huge expense, some pet parents may be able to stretch those dollars further by baking their own treats at home. With a little guidance from your veterinarian, you can find several low-cost treat alternatives that are sure to impress even the pickiest of pets. Two books Brilliant staffers refer to are “The Ultimate Cat Treat Cookbook” and “The Good Treats Cookbook for Dogs.” (Hint: In “Good Treats” our dogs can’t seem to get enough of the blueberry muffins!) And if you make a large batch, just freeze the leftovers so you’ll always be able to access your pet’s favorite new treat.

In addition to consulting your veterinarian, don’t forget to review our blog post on toxic human foods so you don’t accidentally mix in the wrong ingredients into your DIY treats. [WEBSITE DOWN, CAN’T ADD THE LINK.]

Consider pet insurance
Veterinary costs continue to be one of the highest expenses for pet parents. In 2016, APPA estimates we’ll spend $15.92 billion on vet care. In figures you care about, last year the average owner self-reported that they spent $804 on their dog and $594 on their cat, totaling $15.42 billion among all pet owners, according to APPA’s annual pet owner survey. And on just surgical vet visits alone, dog owners spent $551 and cat owners spent $398.

So how do we cut back on veterinary expenses? Well, to help alleviate the vet-related financial strain of accidents and chronic conditions some pet parents turn to pet insurance. Pet insurance acts similar to your own insurance plan, in which a wellness plan covers expenses for annual exams and heartworm medication, while accident-and-illness policies offer reimbursements for treatments, X-rays, surgeries, and hospitalizations. “Pet insurance is a unique way to save a ton of money on expensive veterinary care if your dog or cat gets sick or injured,” says Nick Braun, CEO of comparison tool PetInsuranceQuotes.com, which says it’s the No. 1 pet insurance agency in the state of Texas.

While pet insurance policies started out as a luxury a few years ago, they have quickly become the norm. Domestically, it has grown by 31 percent in revenue over the last decade, from $236.2 million to $767.5 million, according to data from global research firm IBISWorld. Why? Well because we love our pets and see the value in the service, experts say. Braun adds that the average pet insurance policy is affordable at just $32 per month for dogs and $22 per month for cats.

To begin your research, review the North American Pet Health Insurance Association’s database of its 20-plus members in the U.S., which account for 99 percent of all insurance companies in North America.

(Bonus tip: If pet insurance isn’t the best option for you right now, some experts like AndThenWeSaved.com suggest opening a savings account with a high interest rate. So if an accident or illness does occur, you’ll have a mini pet nest egg already in place.)

Groom at home
Pet grooming services may vary widely depending on where you live. So for many of our readers it may come as a surprise that dog and cat owners only spent $83 and $43, respectively, on groomers and grooming aids last year. If you consult outside figures, ratings site Angie’s List says its members reported paying an average of $53 per grooming session, according to a June 2016 article. No matter where your costs fall into the spectrum, you can cut it down by grooming Fido and Fifi yourself. Just read “Brilliant’s Very Own At-Home Grooming Advice” for some of our favorite tips. (And did we mention grooming at home may even reduce your pet’s stress levels?)


How do you save on pet expenses? Tell us in the comments, or online with #BrilliantPetSavingsTip.