To combat the social isolation aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people got pets to keep them company. Unfortunately, inflation has made it impossible for some to keep the furry friends they acquired during the pandemic. Some people might have to move into smaller apartments, or apartments that don’t allow pets, forcing them to give up their animals. Or, the rising cost of pet supplies has simply gotten too high, and there’s no room left in the budget. It was reported in 2021 that people spent more than $123 billion on their pets. That number is only going up.
Whether or not you’re experiencing inflation, caring for a pet can be expensive. But, there are ways for savvy shoppers to save on pet supplies so you don’t blow your budget on your new companion. Here are a few expert-approved ways to save.
Purchase Directly From Brand Websites
Lisa Porter, CEO of PawPurity and the owner of two dogs and a cat, recommends going directly to the websites of pet supply brands you like and purchasing there.
“The prices are cheaper than going through Amazon or Walmart online stores,” she said. “They can do this because online marketplaces charge the sellers so much. Plus, they often have specials going on that you don’t see at the larger online shopping centers.”
Buy in Bulk
“When you buy items in bulk, you’ll typically get a discount as a ‘reward’ for your large purchase,” said Charlotte Bryan, dog trainer and behaviorist and the owner of Paws, Claws & Tails. “This is often the cheaper way to go for items such as toys, food (that has a long shelf-life) and items that can be easily used up, broken or worn out. Plus, it saves you the cost of gas when you have to keep driving to the shop to replace one of your pet’s items.”
The best places to shop for bulk pet supplies are Amazon, Chewy, Costco and Sam’s Club, said Salman Aslam, head of marketing at the product review and comparison site MuchNeeded.
Buy Second-Hand Supplies
“You may not want to buy second-hand slobber-covered dog toys for your dog — that’s kind of gross! — but items such pet carriers, rabbit hutches, food bins and harnesses can often be bought for less than half the original price,” said Bryan, who herself owns three dogs, three turtles and eight guinea pigs.
Repurpose Household Items You Already Own
If you get creative, you can repurpose items you already have around the house to avoid having to purchase new pet supplies.
“Have some old bowls in the kitchen or an oven tray? These could become dog water bowls,” Bryan said. “Have an old bath mat? Turn this into your dog’s travel blanket.”
Make Your Own Pet Food
“You can make pet food at home,” Aslam said. “There are a wide variety of recipes online, and when you use rice and meat, you get plenty of meals in one batch.”
Keep an Eye Out for Sales
“For sales and discounted supplies, Amazon and Chewy are the best places to watch,” Aslam said. “Occasionally you’ll see some of the other name-brand pet stores have good sales, and you can get even better deals if you’re part of their customer loyalty programs.”
Buy Pet Medication Online
Medications for your pet can be pricey.
“However, you don’t have to buy medications directly from your veterinarian,” said Li-ran Bukovza, dog owner and the founder of Puppy Tip. “Buying prescription drugs — as well as non-prescription drugs like flea and worm treatments — from reputable online pet pharmacies is a great way to save money on medicines.”
Shopping online for your pet meds also allows you to use coupons toward your purchase.
“You can often save around 30% by purchasing your pet’s meds online and you can almost always find coupons, too,” said money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. Sites like CouponCabin.com offer 25% off at PetCareRX plus 7% cash back.
Check Out Your Local Dollar Store
“[Shopping at] dollar shops is a great way to save money on various pet supplies like cat scratching posts, dog chew toys, pet bedding and small bird accessories,” said Jeffry Thornton, founder of ThePetly.com, which covers pet care and pet products. “They sometimes also sell dog and cat grooming accessories at much lower prices than specialist pet stores.”
Reevaluate Pet Insurance Every 6 Months
Insurance rates are constantly fluctuating–especially in turbulent economic times. Set a date in your calendar every six months where you get new quotes on your pet insurance to make sure you’re paying the lowest rate available. If you find you already are, contact your current provider to see if there’s any promotions or discounts that could be applied to your current policy.
Take the Time To Comparison Shop
Before purchasing a specific product, check to see if there is a cheaper alternative from a different manufacturer.
“It is highly recommended to check for product reviews and comparisons that are available online,” said Mike Powell, owner and editor of Dog Embassy, a comprehensive database of dog products and care tips for dog parents. “Some manufacturers can provide an equally good alternative for a lower price, while others simply compromise the quality of the products to make them cheaper.”
You may also be able to find the product from your preferred manufacturer selling for less elsewhere online.
“When shopping around, you can use sites like PriceGambler.com to find the item’s lowest price,” said Harvey Wells, pet parent and founder of Cool Pets Advice.
Earn Cash Back on Your Pet Supply Purchases
“Use services like Ebates or Ibotta to earn cash back on purchases, especially pet food,” Aslam said.
Be Wary of ‘Subscribe and Save’ Deals
You may assume that subscription services are a good way to save on pet supplies, but this isn’t always the case.
“A lot of online retailers, such as Amazon and Chewy, offer a small discount on items that you subscribe to. If this is an item you know you’ll need again, that savings could be great. But make sure it’s something you truly need, and don’t subscribe to a smaller, more expensive item if a discounted bulk version is also available,” said Daniel Caughill, co-founder of The Dog Tale. “Another example is pet toy subscription services. These services usually claim that the value per box is less than you’re paying, but in a lot of cases, you’ll end up buying way more toys than you’ll ever need. That doesn’t mean you should never join a subscription service, but make sure you run the numbers and compare it to how much you’ve spent over the past few months to see if it’s worth it.”
If You Do Need to Rehome Your Pet, Do It With Care
Sometimes, there just isn’t anything else you can do for your pet, and you’ve realized that giving him or her a new home is the best case scenario. First of all, this is not an easy decision, but the fact that you’ve chosen what’s best for your pet shows a lot of compassion for your animal. Avoid posting your pet on sites like Craigslist, and instead, reach out to a local animal shelter. If you want to avoid putting your pet in a shelter, another option is a site like Get Your Pet. Get Your Pet brings people who have pets they need to rehome with potential owners in a way where you can communicate and get to know someone before giving your pet to them. Another perk of Get Your Pet is veterinarians examine pets at no extra charge as a part of the adoption process.
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Sam DiSalvo contributed to the reporting for this article.