Can You Afford It?
I had a coworker recently ask me if I felt owning a dog while being a college student was a financial burden. Owning a pet is expensive, especially if you decide on a puppy. You’re reaching into a grab-bag of potential health-issues, diseases or bad genetics. I ended up with a dog who requires the most expensive dog food known-to-man (slight exaggeration) due to food sensitivities. I’ve also paid over $300 in vet bills in the last year to fix ear infections.
But that’s nothing compared to the thousands of dollars my parents, then newlyweds with an infant living in a shoebox-sized house in Minneapolis, spent on hip replacements for their first puppy (see above photo of said infant and puppy). They found the money because it was their responsibility.
So this is what I told my coworker when she was trying to decide if she could afford a dog:
I. If you don’t know if you have the money, you don’t.
That’s all there is too it. If it makes you anxious, don’t do it. It’s that simple.
I knew going into it what my expenses would be and how they would fit into my budget. I also new that if necessary I could pick up extra shifts given my job waiting tables to cover unexpected expenses. That was worth it for me to have a dog.
II. Look at where your expendable income goes.
Many students don’t realize how much extra money that have. Do you get Starbucks once (twice, three times) a week or even daily? Do you go tanning? Get your nails done? Do you have a gym membership when you have access to a free campus rec center (or could go runs with a dog in your neighborhood)? These are habits that are funded with expendable money- by many college students claiming to be broke.
I’m not saying you have to make these changes to your daily habits before getting a dog. If you think you can’t afford a pet without major lifestyle changes, you probably can’t. I’m just saying, if I end up in a bind, these things can easily be eliminated from my budget to free up quite a bit of money each month.
III. What is your emergency funding plan?
I knew it would be a while before I could set aside emergency savings for my dog, so I took out a credit card.. This was actually a great financial decision for me because it helped me build some credit.
Again though, if you can’t trust yourself with a credit card (some college students can’t), or you can’t set aside a few thousand as an emergency vet fund (many college students can’t), you may need to reconsider if it’s the right time to get a pet.