For many of us, pandemic puppies and kitties—and bunnies, in my case—have provided plenty of joy. They also can be expensive: Depending on the pet, you might need a cage, leashes, toys, wee-wee pads, sweaters—never mind grooming and the occasional prescription. Indeed, the average annual outlay, including vet visits, can range from more than $800 for a cat to more than $1,000 for a large dog, according to ASPCA. Here’s how to save.
Get Recurring Shipments for Things Your Pet Uses Regularly
“Most major chains, like Petco and Chewy, offer discounts for recurring orders. Some give as much as 35% off just to sign up and often offer free shipping and additional discounts going forward,” says Bobbi Rebell, a certified financial planner and host of the Financial Grownup podcast.
Score Free Gift Cards and Cash Back
Before shopping at any major pet retailer, check your favorite deal site or app for offers. Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch likes the Fetch Rewards app to save on pet supplies. “When you’re done shopping for pet supplies at any store, including small mom and pop shops, scan a picture of your receipt with the app to earn points toward free gift cards to stores like Petco, 1-800-PetSupplies.com, Walmart or Target,” she says. “Also, check the ‘special offers’ section to see if there are any bonus cashback deals available.” And you can earn cash back through sites like Rakuten.
If you have a wholesale club membership to somewhere like Costco or Sam’s Club, check prices on supplies and essentials, like crates and beds. According to Woroch, you can save anywhere from 30%-60%.
You can also find used items on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, LetGo and eBay. Marissa Rizzuto, an animal rescuer and founder of pet merch site I Love My Pet More Than You, says that items like dog crates are easy to find because dogs grow so fast. She also recommends checking for gently used items at garage sales and at thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army.
“If you get a puppy, many of the things you will need are only for the puppy phase,” Rebell says. So, “don’t be shy about asking friends with one-to-two-year-old dogs if you can take something off their hands.”
Check the Clearance Section
“The clearance section is always a treasure trove, especially for toys and costumes. Take advantage after big holidays—toys and apparel will certainly go on sale,” Rizzuto says. She also recommends shopping for discounted pet items at TJMaxx and HomeGoods.
Save on Grooming
Check for grooming deals through a discount platform like Groupon or Living Social, says Woroch, who adds that it’s also worth asking about discounts for paying with cash, or for a volume discount if you buy multiple grooming sessions at one time. And Rizzuto recommends contacting local shelters and rescues to find out who they use. “Many times, the people on staff or volunteers are groomers, so this is a fantastic untapped resource. It’s also a great way to find a dog walker or pet sitter,” she says.
“Bathing, ear cleaning and nail trimming are all things that can easily be done at home,” says Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy. “Leave things like de-matting and anal glands to the pros, though, as injuries can occur.”
Save on Meds
To save money on medications for your pet, Dr. Jeff Werber, a chief veterinary officer at the pet tele-health app Airvet, recommends GoodRx and adds that some pet owners should consider buying pet insurance. “Pet health insurance will cover many medications, partially or fully,” says Werber. Another good option is checking a deal site like CouponFollow.com, says Woroch, as you may find significant discounts, like 25% off at PetCareRX and 20% off your first prescription order at Chewy.com. And Rizzuto recommends checking prices at PetMeds.com or using a medication-discount card from ScriptSave WellRx. The card is free and gives you access to discounted medicines.
Skip the Fancy Clothes
Not all dogs need sweaters or coats. Even in cold climates, large-breed dogs with thick coats do not require extra insulation, says Dr. Rachel Barrack, a veterinarian and founder of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. And while some small and toy breeds, dogs with short coats and some older dogs might need a sweater or jacket, it doesn’t need to be fancy.
Millie content is licensed from Meredith Operations Corporation, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle and more.
Trae Bodge is a lifestyle journalist and shopping expert with a passion for helping people save money.