Money at 30: Considering a Dog — And Adding Up the Potential Costs
A couple of weeks ago, I turned to my wife around 1 a.m. and asked a harmless, random question: “Do you like Boston Terriers or French Bulldogs better?” I have to imagine that the question drew inspiration from the flannel, Martha Stewart Living puppy sheets we had on our bed, but I didn’t realize that this would lead to many more conversations on the topic. By the way, we decided the correct answer was actually the Frenchton, which is half Boston and half Frenchie. Upon learning that, we then started looking at Frenchtons and have now pretty much decided we want to get our first dog together.
When I say “our first dog together” I emphasize the “together” part as I had a few dogs growing up while her family had a beagle for a time. Yet, during our eight years of marriage, we’d never had a pet of any kind and never even really considered it much until now. And lest you think that we just saw a cute puppy photo and are making a rash decision, I assure you we’ve been doing a fair amount of research ever since. In fact, being a personal finance writer, I’ve also started to tally up the potential costs we’ll incur from having a pet and how this will impact our lives.
Costs You Should Consider When Getting a Dog
With that, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and insights so far — including some of the expenses we’re anticipating by adding a dog to our family.
The adoption fee
Among the first expenses we’ll incur as pet owners is the adoption fee, paid to whichever rescue organization we end up obtaining our dog from. So far, based on some of the listings we’ve seen, this could be around $500 or so. If that sounds high, it’s because we’re looking at smaller, breed-specific rescues — although we’ve come across more generic ones as well. Of course, since our searches have been limited to the Internet, we’ve also seen some doggies without stated adoption prices. In any case, I’d say we’re prepared to pay up to $1,000 on the adoption fee, but I feel it will likely be much lower than that.
Apartment pet fee
As far as our apartment goes, there’s good and bad news. Starting with the latter, we will need to pay a $500 fee before welcoming a pet to our home. On the bright side, our apartment doesn’t charge pet rent, so this is just a one-time fee. That’s definitely preferable in my eyes, but is still something we’ll need to put into our pet acquisition budget.
Pet insurance and vet bills
One of the great things about adopting is that the rescue organization does a lot to ensure that the dog is as healthy as possible. This also means having the pet spayed/neutered and microchipped, taking a few other tasks off of our list. Still, knowing that the future is uncertain and that we’ll need to take our pup for checkups, we’ve decided that we’d invest in pet insurance.
While I haven’t shopped around much, I did get a basic, speculative quote from Lemonade to get an idea of how much this would be. Depending on what additional coverages we’d like, what co-pay we prefer, and what annual deductible we’d be willing to pay, we could get coverage for between $17 and $33 a month. Meanwhile, if we end up with a puppy (that, for some reason, wasn’t spayed/neutered), they also have a puppy plan that adds another $45 or so to the monthly price. Personally, I think the $30-ish plan sounds about right and will give us better peace of mind — especially as new pet parents who have no idea what to expect financially or health-wise.
Even before we actually take our pet home or insure it, there’s a good chance we’ll need to spend money on some basic accessories it will utilize upon its arrival. This includes such items as a collar, leash, food/water bowls, toys, etc. And, since their adjustment to our apartment will likely take at least some time, we should probably pick up a box of pee pads to be safe.
Being a nerdy tech enthusiast (and someone who admittedly scrolls Instagram all too often), I’ve become interested in a smart collar I saw online. Although it retails for $150, a current coupon would take it down to a much more reasonable $50. Sold.
As for the other items, we’ve looked at a few different harnesses and leashes, which would probably cost another $40+ combined. Meanwhile, I think we’ll need help on picking out the right food bowls for our breed, but I can’t imagine the final pick costing too much. Lastly, the toys are a bit of a wild card as we’ll need to see what our particular pup would enjoy. Yet, once again, I can’t imagine breaking the bank on them… at least not for the first round.
Bed / Playpen
Of all of the aspects of pet ownership we’ve thought through so far, we’ve probably spent the most amount of time considering how and where our dog would reside in our apartment. What we’ve come up with at this point is to hopefully have a doggy bed in the bedroom with us. Then, in the living room, we were thinking of getting a playpen that could basically serve as their personal hub (although they’d be able to wander the apartment as well when we’re home). What’s also cool is that the playpen we were looking at has a removable floor, which not only makes it easy to wash but also allows us to pack it up and bring it outside. Alternatively, we’ve also looked at metal playpen stakes for outside use.
The only problem with our playpen idea is that we’d likely need a more conventional crate for other times. What other times are these? Well, I honestly don’t know — but it seems like it might be a good idea. Either way, we’d definitely need a travel crate, so there’s another expense.
Basically, at this point, we’re exploring plenty of different options before we seek advice from a professional that can help guide us in a certain direction. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that we could end up spending between $100 and $300 on these items when all is said and done. The good news is that, hopefully, all of them will last us a while since we’d likely be adopting an adult dog (another win for rescuing!).
Considering that a dog’s diet is a pretty important thing, you may be surprised to hear that it’s the factor I’ve looked the least into so far — but I have a good reason for that! Rather than go down a rabbit hole of pros and cons, wet versus dry, and brand versus brand on my own, I’d much rather just ask our future pet’s foster parents what they recommend and what’s worked for them. From there, if we want to do more research and potentially make a switch, we can. However, I’m pretty confident that their opinion and experience will lead us in the right direction.
Oh – I’m supposed to mention the cost here, huh? Well, I really have no idea. Let’s say… $50 a month?
Daycare / Boarding
Finally, while we do work from home and will get to spend plenty of time with our pup, there will surely be times when we’ll need to be gone for a day or will travel for longer. Thus, we’ve been looking at several different options should we need someone to watch our dog while we’re gone or take them with us on our adventure. (I should also mention that we’re putting any adoption on hold until after we return from a planned trip in March so that we don’t end up traveling just as our pet is getting used to their new home.)
We figure that, more often than not, we’ll likely need to leave our pup behind, either for the day or for a few nights. This means we’ll need to start exploring daycare and boarding options. Looking online, it seems as though we have a few doggy daycare options, all of which come in at around $30 a day. Meanwhile, overnight boarding prices are about in the same range — going a bit higher or lower depending on which option we choose.
Although these fees (the boarding ones in particular) are lower than I feared, it’s still an additional cost we’ll need to incur whenever we travel. That said, on some trips, we may be able to take our pet with us as I’ve already identified pet-friendly hotels — with no or very low pet fees — in a couple of cities we know we’ll likely be headed this year. For example, it turns out that NoMad is one of very few hotels on the Las Vegas Strip that doesn’t charge pet fees. Similarly, if we return to C2E2 in Chicago this year, the Virgin Hotel might be where we stay for similar reasons.
Of course, there are other factors that will play a role in our decision whether to take our dog with us or board it. For one, snub-nosed breeds may have issues flying (although they do seem safer in the cabin), so taking them on a plan may pose some risk. Additionally, who’s to say that our dog will enjoy riding in cars? Or perhaps they won’t appreciate being around other dogs, ruling out some daycare and boarding options. These are all things we’ll need to brace for seeing as we don’t yet know our future pet’s personality — but at least it’s something we’re thinking about.
I don’t suppose that many people make important life decisions at 1 a.m. — at least not rational ones — yet that seems to have been what happened for us. Since then, we’ve put a lot of thought and research into preparing ourselves to become pup parents. Alas, we still have a long way to go and many other expenses to consider beyond those I’ve already detailed. Yet, while this is certainly a major decision and one with financial/lifestyle implications, we’re excited to keep exploring.