Buying a Dog vs. Having a Kid: A Cost Breakdown

The decision to add a baby or dog to your life is never an easy one. It’s a commitment that includes at least a few months of sleepless nights while your new bundle of joy adjusts to life. Not to mention, there’s the prospect of cleaning up smelly messes as your little angel regards you with large, innocent eyes. But more importantly, there’s the financial cost to have a baby or dog.

Before you opt to bring a new family member on board — whether it be a baby or puppy — review your finances and analyze the potential expenses.

To get you started, GOBankingRates.com scoured the web for first-year cost estimates and price comparisons so you don’t have to. Of course, costs and expenses will vary depending on your situation. Still, here’s an estimate of what it might cost to have a baby or own a dog in just the first year.

Although the overall first-year cost to own a dog is less than the cost to have a baby, there are other expenditures you need to consider. For example, flea control can cost more than $100 per year, and spaying or neutering costs as much as $200. Dogs with extensive health issues might require more medical attention, which means more money will need to be spent on medications or veterinary visits. Then again, the same is true for babies.

No matter the cost difference, it all comes down to personal preference and the price you’re willing to pay. Kids won’t chew your furniture to shreds, but both dogs and kids are likely to have accidents that will ruin a rug or two along the way. Your dog can never share his deepest thoughts with you or ride the attractions in Disneyland on family vacation.

On the other hand, you won’t have to get up at 5 a.m. to drive him to football practice.

Tips to Lower the Cost to Own a Dog

Giving your dog the best care possible doesn’t necessarily mean choosing the most expensive options. Savvy shopping and learning how to perform basic dog care tasks will save you hundreds of dollars each year. Here’s how you can lower the cost to own a dog.

Opt for Adoption: Adopting your new furry friend from a local animal shelter or rescue organization can save you money. Adult dogs tend to be available year-round, but shelters might see an influx of puppies during spring and summer.

If you have your heart set on a specific breed, choose one that will cost you less money over its lifetime. For example, certain terriers and hounds are known as some of the most affordable dog breeds.

Get a Wireless Pet Containment System: If your house doesn’t have a fence to keep your dog in the yard, it can cost you about $17 to $27 per linear foot to install one made of chain link, according to data from HomeWyse. A wireless pet containment system could be a less expensive alternative, costing about $250.

Find a Low-Cost Spay or Neuter Clinic: Getting your dog spayed or neutered can cost roughly $200 at your veterinarian’s office, according to PetFinder. Instead, look for low-cost spay and neuter clinics sponsored by local rescue groups. Check out the ASPCA’s free and low-cost neuter program database as well as discounted surgeries through local humane societies and rescues.

DIY Dog Grooming: Adopting a short-haired dog that doesn’t need much in the way of grooming can save money. But you can save even more money by learning how to take care of basic grooming needs, such as brushing, bathing, clipping nails and brushing teeth.

Find Dog Food Deals: Diet is one area where you don’t want to cut too many corners. But you can find affordable dog foods where whole, fresh ingredients top the list. You can save money on pet food — as well as other pet supplies — by signing up for a loyalty rewards program. For example, Petco’s Pals Rewards program gives you five reward dollars for every $100 spent.

Don’t Miss: 6 Tax Breaks for Pet Owners

How to Reduce the Cost to Have a Baby

Ask 1,000 parents, and they’ll probably tell you the same thing: The cost to raise a child is high. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that middle-income parents with a child who was born in 2015 can expect to spend $233,610 to raise a child through age 17. Add in college tuition costs, and you could be looking at an added cost up to several hundred thousands of dollars.

But in your first couple of years, you can save money on child costs. Here are some tips.

Enroll in Good Health Coverage: If having a baby is even remotely on your radar, make sure you have coverage that includes maternity benefits so you can save money on out-of-pocket costs. Check out the best and worst states to get health insurance.

Ask for Baby Gear as Baby Shower Gifts: To save money on baby clothes, diapers, gear and supplies, let your friends and family help out. Head to your local store or its website to create a registry of things you’ll need for your baby, and share the list with your attendees before your baby shower.

If you don’t want to have a baby shower, you can still save money by shopping smarter. Buy your car seat new, but look for nearly new items at garage sales, thrift stores or online marketplaces such as Facebook or Craigslist. Reduce the need for toys by creating your own. For example, make a rattle with a water bottle with pasta inside — glue the lid on — or a homemade mobile made from a plastic hanger, colorful fabrics and pictures.

Cut Down Breastfeeding Costs: It’s often recommended that mothers breastfeed their babies instead of using infant formula because it’s the healthier option. And although it might be cheaper than using formula, that doesn’t mean it’s free. Breastfeeding can get costly. Luckily, you can take advantage of tax breaks for breast pumps and supplies.

Shop at Thrift Stores for Clothing: Pick up baby clothing for next to nothing at thrift stores, garage sales or reputable online sites like Swap.com. If you receive lots of newborn outfits as gifts, exchange them for 9- to 12-month sizes or other things you need.

Up Next: How I Feed My Family of 5 Well on $125 a Week

Methodology: GOBankingRates used the following sources to determine estimated costs to own a dog: PetFinder.com, PetEducation.com and CostHelper.com. Estimated costs to own a baby were sourced from the USDA Cost of Raising a Child Calculator, CostHelper.com, JustMommies.com, BabyCenter.com, WhatToExpect.com, CarSeatResearch.com, CostLightHealth.com, AmericanAdoptions.com and ChildbirthConnection.org. Estimated annual cost of baby doctor visits includes health insurance; the cost of baby vaccinations does not include health insurance. Hospital delivery costs include out-of-pocket costs for cesarean and vaginal births for beneficiaries with commercial insurance.