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Pricey Pets—Are They Making Us Broke?

It's hard to imagine life without our beloved pets. They often feel like another member of the family!

If a pet can fit comfortably into your budget, enjoy the benefits! Pet owners are often some of the happiest people and report a higher quality of life.

The National Center for Infectious Diseases offers a variety of health benefits of owning a pet: lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and feelings of loneliness. On top of that, pets can increase opportunities for regular exercise, outdoor activities and socialization. They can lower stress levels and increase activities that ward off depression.

But let's face it. Even though they're worth it, they're not cheap! Between food and vet bills, they put a dent in the budget. According to the American Pet Product Association, estimated spending on pets was up to $47.7 billion in 2010! This amount increases by an average of at least $2 billion every single year. And how about those times they've cost you a lot more than you expected? It may not have seemed funny at the time, but it probably is now!

Some people may ask what Dave thinks about having a pet. Well, he’s all for it—if you can afford it and set some boundaries. However, if you’re plowing through your debt snowball and want to stop to buy a $1,500 exotic bird, Dave has some strong words to say about that! Listen to the call clip.

The Ramseys have three dogs. “These dogs are somewhat like children to us. We love our animals in the Ramsey family like most of you do,” Dave said. “Pets—as much as I love them—are not humans. I’m not spending $10,000 on Maggie, and she’s one of my favorite dogs I’ve ever owned. She’s a dog.”

The “Pet” Snowball

If you have a pet and are in over your head, go on a “rice and beans” pet budget as best you can. Cut out treats and super-expensive foods. You can’t sacrifice things like heartworm pills that will put your precious pooch in danger, but the obedience classes and Halloween costumes might need to wait. Get down to the bare bones while you’re getting out of debt and working the world of pet ownership into your monthly budget.

A Man's Best Friend Dave spends some time skiing on the lake, one of his favorite activities, with one of his favorite dogs, Maggie.

Pet Insurance: Yay or Nay?

One of Dave’s Twitter followers asked what Dave thinks about pet insurance to avoid pet Murphy incidents. Dave thinks it’s a waste of money.

“I think reasonable expenditures to repair a broken pet are good,” he said. “But ridiculous amounts of money spent on an animal—many times selfishly on the part of the human because we are so emotionally attached that we allow the animal to stay in pain—is inhumane and cruel and financially ridiculous. If you have $2 million and want to spend $10,000 to keep your dog alive, I’m not mad at you. But pet insurance? Really? No.”

Instead, consider beefing up your emergency fund with your pet in mind. Choose a reasonable amount, and sock away a portion of it each month until you get there. That way, you’ll already have a healthy limit in place if your pet has a problem—and it won’t be a financial disaster. It’s like self-insuring your pet.


If you’re considering getting an animal, do your research to find out what you’re getting into. Determine what you might be willing to give up for this extra expense to fit in your budget.

You might even want to print out a photo of the type of pet you want to motivate you toward your goal. Just don’t sacrifice your wellbeing or your family’s for a furry friend. Wait until a pet can be the blessing it’s meant to be!

Tell us about your pet. Have any funny stories about unexpected pet expenses?

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.