Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective

Archive for the 'Pets' Category

Hotel Pool

photo figure credit: ScrapperMom

Michelle asks:

"How was the vacation?"

In a word: Fantastic!  We got to meet the newest member of our extended family (on that side, anyway…) who is already one and half!  We got to catch up with family that we haven’t seen in over 2 years.  We got to know new wives, girlfriends, and old friends a lot better.  Thanks to all of them for taking the time out of their busy schedules, providing places to stay, cooking dinner, etc.  This picture is the pool at the hotel in Orlando, which the kids loved.

As a follow up to my original post on this topic, I thought I would offer a post-trip analysis on how we did financially. It’s important to note that while we put nearly everything below on our rewards credit card, it will all be paid off by the end of the month because we had already set aside the funding for this trip.

I’ll start with the area in which I feel we did the worst from a frugal perspective: Dining out.  In total we purchased 9 meals out and they totaled $378.  This breaks down to $42 per family-meal, or $17 per person per meal if we count dear daughter #1 as a half person who shared what we ate most of the time.  Given that we ate a total of 22 meals, 9 represents only 40%.  We easily could have converted a couple of dinners out into dinners at home, but then again, we were on vacation…  We did manage to convert a couple of these meals into lunches the next day since the portions were often too big! I should also point out that this total included drinks with meals as well, which as you know can get pretty expensive.  During one meal we paid close to $9 for an 8 ounce rum and coke!

Relating to dining, our grocery bill came in at $141.  As described in the initial article, we had a lot of opportunity to prepare meals, especially breakfasts and lunches.  If you put all of our food spending together, the per person per meal average comes down to $9.50.  The grocery bill includes a 12 pack of beer that we brought to a party, as well as a lot of bottled water that we wouldn’t normally buy at home, but the local water was terrible!

In the category of transportation, we got a great deal on airline tickets: we purchased 3 seats for $597 on JetBlue.  The in-flight entertainment, especially Animal Planet and the XM station for Radio Disney went a long way to keeping our 21 month old busy on the flight each way.  In total, we spent $378 (Yes, exactly the same as on dining out!) on the rental of a mini-van and the fuel we needed for a week.  We drove the van over 500 miles since we went down to Disney, and much of the time the van was nearly at capacity with 4 adults and 2 toddlers in car seats.

Our short jaunt to Disney cost us both on the ticket side and on lodging.  We somehow thought that we still had tickets that we could use at Disney, which would have given us “free” entry to the park.  Unfortunately this was not the case, and we ended up having to buy 2 adult, single day passes for a total of $160.  Yes, that hurt.  The Magic Kingdom is a great place, but honestly I think it’s looking a bit dated, and I’ve been to a number of better parks in recent years that cost a lot less than this.  But it’s the American Way to take your kids to Disney, right?  The lodging for one night was not bad at $90.  This was our share of the split on the condo that we shared with my cousin and his family.

We spent a total of $23 on items that didn’t fit into any of these other categories.  This included a Christmas ornament from Disney, and a couple of magazines at the airport.  We successfully resisted the urge to spend $17 on a fan-assisted squirt bottle in Disney on a 93 degree, scorching hot day.  We also avoiding having to purchase every cute stuffed animal that DD#1 got her hands on.

Last, and far from least, we spent $720 at the Dog Kennel.  As outlined in this article, our dogs are expensive.  It definitely hurts to have to budget 30% of every trip we take to kenneling the dogs, and it’s the first thing that pops into my head whenever we consider a trip.  We spent a few years trying to find the right mix of costs for kenneling.  In this business, the saying is true: You get what you pay for.  We were horrified upon retrieving our dogs from a budget kennel on one trip, and they didn’t want to come home when we tried to get them from a super-expensive kennel.  Eventually we found a “just right” kennel that treats them well — but not too well.  This is certainly an area that will factor into any future pet decisions.  It’s a good argument against having two pets.

In total, we spent $2487.  This is a lot less than ScrapperMom and I spent on a lavish Quebec trip a number of years ago, but more than we have spent on a vacation in some time.  Was it worth it?  It’s hard to put a price-tag on the experiences that we had.  If pressed, however, I would have to say that the cost was worth it since it meshes with our values: notice that we have only a couple of magazines and a Christmas ornament to show for this expenditure.  We don’t place a high value on “stuff”, but rather experiences and time spent with family and friends.  You can’t put a price on that.  This trip would have been a lot less fun if we just went to Florida by ourselves…

We’re already looking forward to a mini-vacation in November as we travel to New Jersey to celebrate a wedding!

In the fall of 2000, ScrapperMom and I made our first big purchase together: We bought a puppy. As two engineers are apt to do, we researched this purchase to the Nth degree: What kind of dog? Who from? How much? Vet? Crate? etc…

When we finally took the plunge, we ended up bringing home an adorable 20 pound Great Dane puppy (from a reputable dealer…). Two years later, we decided that one 120 pound Great Dane was not enough for one household, and that our little deer (pun intended) needed company during the day, and so we made the mistake of bringing home another Great Dane puppy.

Val on Bed

Orion on Bed

ScrapperMom wondered recently how the dogs fit into our financial picture, and Gather Little By Little spurred me on with a recent post about the rising cost of spending on pets.

Below is the result of the report I ran in Quicken to find out just how much we have been spending on our small horses:

Cost of Unconditional Love

Category Cost
Vet $6,589.43
Food $6,555.09
Supplies $4,962.79
Training $3,687.50
Boarding $3,645.00
Dogs $1,966.90
Dog Walkers $1,362.00
Doggie Day School $1,102.50
Damage Repair Payments $218.16
Registrations $209.74
Books $171.43
Supplements $155.15
Dog Shows $132.45
Fines $40.00

Total

$30,798.14

Yes, you read that right. We have spent thirty thousand, seven hundred, ninety-eight dollars and fourteen cents on our dogs since the fall of 2000.

For us, this was a shockingly large number on first inspection. That’s $335/month, on average, for the last 92 months. That’s a little over $11 per day. I can think of worse ways to spend $11, but I still felt that this spending was pretty high in the grand scheme of our general finances, especially when our budget in the “Dogs” category for the past year has only been carrying about $150/month.

My next step was to see how the spending varied over time, since there was definitely a dual (large) income, no kids period where a weekly trip to Petsmart was no expense spared. So I ran a new report:

Dog Cost Chart

This report is really inconclusive. On the one hand, it’s looks like spending has tapered off since about early 2007. This correlates with the birth of our daughter, so it’s really no surprise that we have paid less attention to our pooches (sorry, pups!) and consequently spent less on them. On the other hand, spending was way up as recently as the middle of 2006.

In looking at ways to cut spending in the future, I identified a number of categories that are not likely to see much new spending anytime soon: Dog Walkers, Day School, and the Dogs themselves. Additionally, there are some categories that are really not fair to charge to the Dog account, such as boarding, since this is really a vacation expense that gets budgeted for separately. A number of other categories don’t see much spending in the first place.

Val and Orion

With the elimination of all of those expenses, we’re still at a $233/month average outlay. There’s a pretty good chance that we won’t be doing as much training, since we don’t have that much time anymore, and the supply bill should stay pretty low since most of the costs there were “startup” costs of ownership. That basically leaves food and vet bills. If you count only those two categories, we’re right down under the $150/month budgeted amount.

I’m sure that we’ll have to end up spending more than this per month, since we’ll inevitably have to buy supplies and other items in the coming years. Maybe we can look for ways to save on food and vet bills for now, and bump the monthly budget up to something like $175 and see how it goes.

How much do you spend on your pets? How much have you spent on your pets? What have you done, if anything, to cut costs on them? What is your cost for unconditional love?

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