Don’t Feed the Alligators

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

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



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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8 Responses to “The Cost of Unconditional Love”

  1. RG PetComm LLC Says:

    If you are going to cutback on the dog walkers you might want to invest in a tool you should not do without:

    The SmartWalk Manager for responsible dog owners who:
    * Love exercising with their pets
    * Like the convenience of having items available to them while walking and/or traveling with their pets
    * Having treats available as rewards at the time of the good behavior
    * Would like the possibility of doing more than holding leashes while walking their dog(s)

  2. Michelle Says:

    Well, interesting that I should read this today… I am so far behind, but catching up, and pretty interesting because I was just in Petsmart today and had quite an enlightening experience.

    You see, I don’t really like pets. (Shhh… please don’t tell because I know that not liking kids and dogs is like the barometer for making one a good person.) But, really, it’s just not my thing.

    I had lots of pets growing up, mostly dogs. And I loved them. Dearly. Very much.

    But, I’ve never liked them to to sit on me, lay with me, breathe on me, lick me, drool on me. I just don’t like it.

    And then, as I got older, and tried out pets for myself, (growing up it was all my mom’s job to take care of them, feed them, clean up after them, pay for them, etc.) and it didn’t go well.

    We got a dog within the year we married, a black lab, (but probably a mutt, got her at the MSPCA.) We didn’t do any research and really didn’t do it right. We had no fence, so she needed to be tied in the yard, we tried training, but didn’t follow through. And we eventually had cease being her owners.

    Well, long story short, we went pretty much petless for a very long time, (excpet for the cat that came with our house, but that’s a story for a different day.)

    We now have a 6 year old nature loving, science adoring, animal lover who would love to take in every moth, butterfly, inchworm, bird, or any other living creature.

    So, alas… the cat has gone from owning our house and owning us, to us having to do much more for her than we ever did before.

    And, well, shouldn’t every little animal lover at least have a fish?

    Oh, and how about a hamster?

    Okay… I’m done! 3 pets in the house of no pets allowed!

    Anyway, long story short, I went into Petsmart today for the first time ever. I didn’t think much about it. Just going in to get a hamster harness, (don’t ask…) Oh, and a ball, our ball broke.

    Well……. $65 later!! Seriously!!!! No. Seriously. Sixy-five freaking dollars on pet stuff? I must have rocks in my head!!! They make everything so cute and appealing in there! It almost made me want a dog! (Not.)

    So, I succumbed to the pink fleece cat bed, that our cat never needed before… the adorable cheetah print cat pillow, every cat needs a pillow… the purple glitter hamster ball, colored glitter? Sign me up!… the hamster wheel racecar, now Blackberry can drive all over the house!… and who the hell knows what else?

    I walked out of there thinking… wow! Petsmart is the place to own!

    I had no idea…

  3. MITBeta Says:

    Great post, Michelle. Check out this full post with pictures at Michelle’s Blog.

  4. Sara at On Simplicity Says:

    What beautiful babes your dogs (deer) are! I’m sure such large dogs require a lot of food. It does look like the cash flow is trending down. I would bet that the cost of dog ownership would be represented by the opposite of a bell curve: high initially with start-up costs and training, low in the middle, and high again when vet bills go up near the end of life.

    I’m on my first dog, so I’ll find out as we go!

  5. MITBeta Says:

    Yes, I think we also tended to spoil Dog #1, since she was our first “baby”, so weekly trips to Petsmart, for no good reason, were taken…

    On the other end of the curve, our “baby” has a degenerative neurological disease, so it’s unlikely that we will spend much, if anything, beyond routine checkups to extend her life — it wouldn’t be fair to her. So we’ll just have to budget for the final trip to the vet and decide what, if anything, we want to spend on cremating and/or memorializing her.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Frank Says:

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  7. Charlee Says:

    I raelly wish there were more articles like this on the web.


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