If you're considering the idea of adding a four-legged member to your family, you're likely picturing a lot of rainy-day snuggling and Instagrams that solicit "awwws" from your friends.
But there is one more practical thing to consider: the costs.
And, by costs, we're not just referring to how much you'll pay to get the animal—there are plenty of other key expenses, from food and vet bills to petsitting.
Granted, every pet is different—and so is every budget. To get an idea of how much an owner should expect to shell out, we spoke to three animal lovers with different types of critters to see how one year of costs break down. Then we asked Elizabeth Sklaver, a CFP® with LearnVest Planning Services, to weigh in on their pet budgets.
Angel the Pug, Silver Spring, Md.
Karen Shakira Kali—along with her wife, Jenn, and their daughter, Doris—have a nine-year-old pug named Angel.
Although Angel eats premium kibble and fresh raw food, their total food expenses are fairly moderate. "It helps that having a small dog means she eats less because I do want to give her good food," says Kali, a 33-year-old urban planner. The cost for treats is even less—Angel is happy to snack on carrots, cucumbers and especially green beans (a treat she's enjoying in the picture at right).
Vet costs, however, aren't necessarily cheaper just because you're little. Angel takes several medications for arthritis, and like many pugs, she's on a regular eye medication—all of which amounts to about $550 a year.
"At least once a year, maybe twice, Angel eats something that she shouldn't," says Kali. Fortunately, emergency assistance calls to the Animal Poison Control hotline (normally $65 per call) are included in the $18 yearly fee that the family pays for the pup's tracking microchip.
The Kalis also spend $600 a year to have pet insurance, which covers 80% of their vet costs once they meet a $200 deductible. "I'm more of a 'we need to take the dog to the vet' person, and my wife is more of a 'let's wait and see' owner. Having pet insurance is a bit of a relief because it means that I can take the dog in without worrying too much about cost," says Kali.
The family gets a break on expenses in other ways, as well: They use recycled bags for cleanup, and Angel isn't really interested in toys. And, when they travel, Kali says that they're fortunate to have pug-loving friends who are willing to dog-sit, which is a big savings. "Although we do bring back presents, give gift cards and send special treats to our friends to show our thanks," says Kali.
RELATED: Want to Set Up a Budget? Start Here
What Elizabeth Says: "The Kalis are very lucky to have friends that help with dog-sitting. I know from experience with my own two dogs that walking and sitting can be an expensive proposition, so make sure that you know the costs in your area, and budget appropriately. And remember: Even though you may not need help now, a move or a job change could make these services a necessity at some point during the life of your pet.
The ASPCA estimates that the annual costs for a small dog are about $580—and Angel's are nearly quadruple that. However, it's not surprising given that she's aging and has health issues. But I am surprised to see that their pet insurance covers so many of their vet expenses, because most affordable insurance policies ($30 to $50 a month) only cover catastrophes. For that reason, I wouldn't say having pet insurance is a necessity—rather, it depends on your personal preference."