The following is a guest post from Crystal who writes about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting for the fun stuff along the way.

I bet quite a few of you either have pets or take care of the pets that your kids promised to take care of a while ago. My poor mother ended up with quite a few pets while my sisters and I grew up.

Now my husband and I have two dogs. One is a very low maintenance Dachshund mutt, Miss Doxie. The other is the most allergy-ridden Pug I’ve ever met in my life, Mr. Pug. Here is how my hubby and I budget in for our pet stuff:

1. Have a Pet Emergency Fund

We throw extra money into our emergency fund for our dogs every month. We have our limits when it comes to pet emergencies, but my husband and I have agreed that we’ll pay for any one-time emergencies that can be fixed.

For example, we have paid more than $2500 to get Mr. Pug squared away since he had major teeth issues when we adopted him and his allergies led to a few major infections. Since he is a whole new dog now that he is healthy, and he has at least 5 good years left in him, it made sense for us. But we couldn’t have done it without the emergency fund…

2. Be Pet Food Picky

Mr. Pug has to have a vegetarian blend dog food that is based on sweet potatoes since he is allergic to meat, dairy, soy, wheat, and corn. Needless to say, his specialty food is pretty expensive – $45 for a 16 pound bag.

On the other hand, Miss Doxie just needs a lower calorie food for seniors. This is where we can be picky. Every 6 months I look at all the foods for seniors that have meat as the first ingredient and pick the cheapest brand. Right now that means that she is eating Nature’s Recipe for Seniors, which costs $33 for a 35 pound bag. That lasts her about 3 months.

3. Spend on the Pet Stuff that Will Save You More Later

The key to frugality seems to be to buy quality goods that will last way longer than the cheap stuff. That means you may have to spend more up front, but you’ll save a ton along the way.

Preventative maintenance for pets falls right into this category for me. I will grudgingly pay $25 a month for my dogs’ heartworm pills so I don’t have to pay thousands for treatments later on. I also dole out $20 a month to keep them flea free for the same reasons.

Between the emergency fund, bargain hunting for Miss Doxie’s food, and preventative maintenance drugs, my husband and I can enjoy our two dogs without feeling much financial pain. I will say that my experiences as a pet owner have taught me two things; pets are expensive, but it hurts less with a good plan in place.

How do you budget in the pet stuff?

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