Pets of the Millennial
Part 2: Managing finances
If only dogs could trade in Dogecoin; my life would have been sorted!
Hello, fellow millennial! If like me, you too have a dog instead of kids, and a job where you do not earn a fixed income every month, this is for you! Now, before we go any further, let me warn you that I am not a financial expert, and I do not work in finance. I understand how expensive dogs can be to take care of, especially when they get older (this does not mean you can’t adopt a senior dog, though). Go through the tips below and take or leave things based on how well they fit into your lifestyle and how they serve you. If in doubt about anything mentioned below, consult a financial advisor.
If you have neither an income nor the (immense) privilege to turn to/ rely on someone for money, please reconsider getting a dog home. Dogs are terrific companions, but taking care of them is expensive, even if we’re talking just the basics (food, leash, vaccinations). Throw in an emergency vet visit/ health issue (unfortunately, these are common), and that number shoots up very, very quickly.
TBH though, both intent and money are required to raise a dog well. One can have all the resources in the world and still treat their dog poorly. Money is not a guarantee of proper treatment; it merely makes executing the intent easier. If you find yourself with the money but lack the intent to raise a dog well, please don’t bother. If you find yourself with the intent but not the money, consider volunteering at your local shelter, helping them raise awareness on social media, or if you have funds to cover short-term care (like a month or two), sign up with them as a foster.
So yes, dogs are expensive to raise. However, a little planning goes a long way (like with human finances!). You would plan finances for a human kid, right? Then why not do that for your dog, who will get older (like, aged-older) in a short span of time? With that in mind, let’s get started on ways in which you can save and plan finances for your dog.
Think you’re ready to adopt a dog? Found a goofball on a social media post? Planning your visit to a shelter soon? Take a peek into your savings and see if you can set something aside for when the dog comes home. Between the first vet visit(s), a bed, toys, food, bowl, transportation, leash and harness, name tag, etc., you’ll spend anywhere between 12–20k (a conservative estimate + it’ll vary based on the dog’s size). I very strongly encourage adopters to factor a small amount into this that you can donate to the shelter. Your dog’s coming home but leaving behind a lot of other dogs at the shelter who can use the resources your donation will provide.
Outside of emergencies and more extensive vet visits, this first shopping spree (I like to call this ‘welcome-shopping’) is often the most concentrated expense in your time with your dog. Setting a small amount aside will cushion the impact of this expense on you. Trust me, the first few months can be overwhelming when you assess your expenditure. People think, “Oh, it’s just a dog; how much will this little thing contribute to my expenses?” The answer is — a lot! You get those pee pads and see how quickly you need to get more!
Leave some things for later or borrow stuff:
Yes, your dog is the best and deserves the world, but don’t go overboard in your effort to welcome your dog home. Your dog probably does not need the 10 kinds of toys you’ll buy on that first visit to the store. You can even purchase a bed later once you know how your dog likes to sleep. Some dogs sleep curled up, others want to stretch out; some sleep on a bed, while others prefer the tiled floor over a 6k fancy brand-name bed. Sure, you need a leash and harness (or collar) when you go to adopt, but you can ask any dog parent you know for a spare one if their dog is of a similar size. If not, buy that but keep the rest of your shopping for later, especially if you have not zeroed in/ been approved for a particular dog.
Be particularly mindful of this if you’re shopping for a puppy. Larger dogs will need different bowls, collars, harnesses, etc., as they grow. At the same time, you cannot do without these during puppyhood either. Ask around for puppy stuff that you can borrow. And if you really need to buy things, don’t become an emotional hoarder. Keep a thing or two for memory and donate/ lend the rest.
If you let dog parents in your social circles know that you’re adopting, many will lend you stuff without asking them. They will also know stores that sell good products and those selling reasonably priced products (especially single-use ones like pee pads). By leaving your ‘welcome-shopping’ for later, you will spend money on things your dog will use instead of expensive stuff that you will end up using for something else entirely. Take it from someone who has flower pots in a doggy diner frame!
Create a retirement/ emergency fund for your dog:
I started this pretty late, but my advice to anyone who’s getting a dog home is to create an emergency/ retirement fund for your dog the day you bring them home (or earlier, if possible). Even when you’re adopting a senior dog, this will guarantee at least a small amount to cushion any significant expenses that may come your way. Senior dogs aren’t more challenging to take care of, but old-age (like in humans) is when health issues can become increasingly evident and bothersome. Save up for your dog’s twilight years to be able to keep them comfortable. You need to have an individual savings plan for each dog in your family (since their requirements may differ), and you can go about this in different ways.
- As an Indian person, shagun envelopes are very common in my life. You’ll be surprised at how much money these can accumulate to! Keep these aside for your dog (yes, I’m asking you to keep a piggy bank; no, it’s nothing to be ashamed of). In fact, if you are shameless like me, ask friends and family (who understand, of course) to send you money instead of gifts on important days (these do not include people who do not gift you stuff; that would be an awkward conversation). It’s about time we started gifting practically, anyway.
- Invest for your dog! If you can set an amount aside for your dog every month, start a SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) (MutualFundsAreSubjectToMarketRisks…you know how it goes!). If you’re investing monthly, you have the flexibility of skipping months where you feel you can’t invest and investing more in months where you save more. Even if you can’t, you can still invest in Mutual Funds through a one-time investment (good for people who get paid by the project). I like to think of investment as a piggy bank that gives me my money plus enough return to mitigate inflation, while leaving me with an extra amount. If you’re not confident about investing your money in Mutual Funds (or stocks), look at Fixed Deposits and Recurring Deposits. The interest rate is lower, but many people consider this a safer option.
Mutual Funds are, as they say, subject to market risks, and your returns will be the result of these fluctuations. There is also a lot to understand beyond market risks before investing. For starters (this is where reading the offer document carefully comes into play), familiarise yourself with terms like lock-in period, expense ratio and exit load, and determine how much tax you’ll need to pay on your returns. If you have friends or family who invest or a trusted financial advisor, reach out to them to learn the basics. You can also sign up for a class on investing or turn to an app/ website that tracks fund performance and recommends funds based on your requirements. I’m keeping this general because everyone invests based on their unique requirements and financial situation + I’m not an expert here anyway.
- If you don’t want to invest or start an FD or RD and don’t get shagun envelopes from anyone, you can explore opening another bank account and transfer money into it for your dog, either monthly or whenever possible. Money sitting in the bank account accumulates an interest but the bank may also charge you certain fees, so that amount may be deducted (plus you’ll pay taxes too). Ignoring all the variables, assuming you add an average of Rs. 500 to that account per month: for a dog you’ve adopted at 3 years old and need to pay for when they’re 10, you’ll have Rs. 42,000 saved up (500 x 12 x 7). That’s 42k less for you to arrange in an emergency.
Plan for your dog’s monthly expenses:
While saving for your dog’s future, you also need to pay for their daily, weekly and monthly expenses. How much these come to depends on what you choose for your dog’s diet, products, travel/boarding, grooming, etc. Usually, there’s a trade-off between convenience and cost. For example, doggy spa sessions will be costlier than giving your dog a bath at home; buying pre-cut and trimmed meat will cost more than getting meat on the bone at home and working on it. The one area where I would never ask you to skimp on is your dog’s diet. Diet is tied in with gut, dental and overall health, so spending on a wholesome diet is as good as investing in good health.
A few months into living with your dog and tracking expenses, you should have an idea of how much you’re spending on them. Add in your vet expenses to this amount. Initially, you may need to visit the vet frequently (like if you’ve brought home a young dog who needs vaccinations). With time, as your dog grows up and adjusts to their new home, and as you start managing smaller issues at home, vet visits will become less frequent, and the overall vet expense will decrease. Nevertheless, you’ll need to keep an allowance for at least one thorough annual check-up for your dog, whether you add this to one month or divide it up between months. The exact amount for this will vary from vet to vet.
Since your dog’s monthly expense is variable (unlike, say, rent, which is a fixed amount per month), you may end up spending more or saving some of that amount. If you save money from your dog’s budget, it can become your dog’s fun money (extra treats maybe!), carry on to the next month, or go into their retirement/ emergency funds — that’s up to you! If you spend more, you can cut the next month’s funds short to adjust the overall expense or revise the amount you set aside. In either case, it’s good to have an amount planned to go towards your dog since it gives you a more accurate picture of your finances.
Explore health insurance for dogs:
Like you would get a health insurance cover for yourself and your human family, you can get one for your dog. There’s a catch, though. Most dog health insurance providers provide coverage for dogs only up to 6 years of age (Future Generali provides it up to 10 years; be thorough anyway). These are often the ‘healthy’ years of a dog’s life, so you won’t need to rely on health insurance as much now, and would actually need it later. If you’re considering health insurance for your dog, please read all the terms carefully to ensure your money is put to use for your dog’s benefit, not the insurance provider’s benefit.
So here are some ways in which you can raise your dog without breaking the bank. These are, as I’ve said earlier, general tips and ideas. If you have a practice that has helped you manage finances for your dog well or a trick you use to save on daily doggy expenses, do share it in a comment here!