Saturday, May 31, 2014

Meet Abby, our new puppy!

Meet Abby, our new puppy!

Hi everyone, I wanted to take a moment to introduce the new addition to our home: Baby Abby!

We have been thinking about getting a dog for a while. I've always been leaning towards NOT getting a dog, due in part because we both work full time, Monday to Friday.  Would we have enough time to have a meaningful relationship with a dog?  Also, I have been weary of the financial implications of owning a pet.  How much would owning a dog slow us down in our relentless pursuit of financial improvement?

Only recently did we give serious consideration to bringing home a dog.  An opportunity came up for us to adopt a stray puppy.  One of our mutual friends recently was given this 6 month old terrier mix that needed a home.  It turned out that our friend could no longer take care of this puppy and asked us if we would like to. 

When we went to visit Abby, it was love at first sight!  Abby was extremely enthusiastic around us.  She could not stop jumping, play biting, cuddling, and licking.  This dog’s innocence and playfulness really tugged at our hearts.  We waited a week to consider making the adoption.
Is owning a dog a waste of money?

The first thing I did when I heard about this opportunity was google “owning a dog budget” which brought me to this old Kiplinger article called “9 Costs Every Dog Owner Should Budget for.”

This article was a real eye opener for me.  I knew that Abby would need initial shots, vaccinations, registration, a crate, toys, and healthy food.  But I didn’t realize that she could possibly need training classes, routine vet care, flea & tick control, regular grooming, and travel care.

I strongly believe that we should consciously choose to spend money on things that bring us happiness, and relentlessly cut costs on everything else. 

My wife reminded me of all the great things we were already doing to cut costs on everything else:

  • Our electricity bill has averaged $35 a month for the last year.
  • We bring our lunch to work almost every day and only eat out 2 or 3 times a week.
  • We spend less than $150 a month on gas (due to extremely short commute), and earn 5x points on gas gift cards purchased at office supply stores with our Ink cards.
  • I haven’t paid for a single haircut in over 1 year since my wife started cutting my hair.
  • We cancelled DirecTV and haven’t paid for satellite / cable television in over 2 years
  • Our cell phone bill is only $15 to $20 a month (due to work subsidies)
  • And much more!

We’ve been wanting a dog for a while and we can definitely afford one.  Sometimes I obsess over cutting costs, earning more money with side hustles, and investing that I forget to stop worrying about money.

Mr. Money Mustache recently wrote a great article titled “Give Yourself the Gift of Not Worrying About Money” and his thoughts really resonated with me.  He said that if he could go back 12 years in time and give himself advice, his message would be:

Dude. Chill out. You’re already rich, and thus it is time to start living that way.

His point was basically that once you have established the habit of “non-ridiculous living” and a strong set of “frugality muscles,” riches are inevitable. 

Then I decided to google phrases such as “health benefits of pet ownership.”

As it turns out, owning a pet can have wonderful effects. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have conducted heart-related studies on people who have pets.  These studies consistently find that pets have been shown to help lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol, decrease anxiety, and boost our immunity. 

Recent studies have found that infants with pets in the home were less likely to develop allergies and eczema, and more likely to have increased immunity. 

Playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that provide pleasurable and calming properties.  Walking, jogging, running, or hiking with a dog can be a great form of exercise.

Minimizing the costs associated with dog ownership
We want to provide a happy home for Abby where she can be healthy.  While certain costs of dog ownership are unavoidable, we will strive to keep costs reasonable.  The internet is loaded with tons of tips on how to minimize on pet related costs, we still have much to learn.   One of the benefits of saving a lot is that we can choose to spend our money consciously on the things that matter to us.

Our initial costs
Purchasing a purebred dog from a breeder can set you back anywhere from $500 to $2000.  We were lucky to adopt Abby for free.  Vaccinations and visits to the vet can really add up.  When my wife called around for quotes on vaccinations, spay procedure, microchip, blood work, and medication, she heard a wide variety of quotes up to over $700!   Be sure to call around to get quotes on pricing.  We found veterinarian services and animal care to be cheapest at our local humane society where her first visit was free and her shots cost $39 (instead of $80 at the local vet clinic).

Pet supplies
There are several small and large chain pet stores around us.  Instead of buying all of our initial dog supplies new, we first reached out to  family and friends.  We were able to acquire a dog crate, bed, toys, collar, leash, and food / treats for free from donations.  Many people have unused pet supplies sitting in their garages and causing clutter.  If you don’t have friends or family with unused pet supplies, you can also check craigslist.  A quick craigslist search helped me discover tons of high quality, gently used pet supplies - for cheap!  We were lucky to receive lots of dog toys for free.  One of my friends mentioned to me that he gets all his dog toys at the 99 cent store!

Pet food
I’ve read that pet food for small dogs can be fairly inexpensive at $100 to $250 a year.  Once are supply of free food runs out, we will have to do some research on appropriate dog food.  I just found that there are two specialty animal feed stores in our area.  We will try to only purchase organic and healthy food options for Abby.

Dog grooming
I’ve read that grooming your dog costs between $50 to $300 a year.  We had Abby’s nails clipped for the first time today for $15.  We need to do some research to find out whether we can handle Abby’s grooming needs ourselves.  Luckily, Abby does well with baths and we can wash her at home in the tub.  We just have to figure out how to properly and safely cut her nails.

Routine veterinary care
I’ve read that routine pet care can cost between $500 to $1000 a year, which includes the cost of wellness exams, blood work, and dental cleanings.  And this doesn’t include the cost of medications, supplements, and emergency care.

Pet travel care
One concern of ours is finding a pet sitter when we travel.  So far, several friends and family members have already volunteered to watch over Abby when we’re gone.

Owning a dog is not all fun and games 
Abby needs a lot of love and attention.  We make sure to walk her two times a day, which involves waking up a little earlier than normal.  We have to feed her regularly with healthy foods.  We have to train her behavior, which isn’t just about doing tricks.  We are training her to be respectful of us, as well as other animals.  We are potty training her and making sure she doesn’t pee and poop in her own crate.

Abby is here to stay
Abby is now a member of our family.  She always greets us with a loving smile and wagging tail.  She gets us off our butts to walk her and play with her.  I’m sure we have not anticipated all our possible dog expenses.  I can already see our monthly gas expenses going up due to all the extra driving we will do with Abby.  We have to get dog food along with our groceries.  Regardless of the financial implications of taking care of Abby, we have committed to be there for her.  I will be sure to post updates about Abby!

Do you have pets?  How has owning a pet affected your finances?

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