We’ve talked about owning pets during a recession before, and as the economy continues to stagnate, it’s more important than ever to share ways to keep your family together without breaking the bank. I’ve recently started doing several things to both reduce my own pet-related expenses and help others with their own pets. I’m focusing on the three R’s, usually referred to as a strategy for conservation: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
It’s important not to cut back on the things that will help your pet live a long healthy life. Don’t reduce your spending on high-quality food (consider a raw diet as a possibly less expensive and even healthier alternative to super-premium kibble or cans), and of course don’t skimp on needed veterinary care. However, in numerous other areas of spending, you can reduce what you purchase and use.
For example, instead of buying stuffed toys that will be gone in ten minutes, focus your spending on durable chew toys. Reindeer antler sections are expensive, but tend to be very long-lasting. I know dogs who’ve had theirs for years, chewing them daily. Instead of buying new plastic dishes for your dogs every few months, use sturdy ceramic dishes that can be put through the dishwasher weeky. Cut back on new collars and leashes, replacing them only if they become frayed or otherwise dangerous. If your pets prefer to drink from a pet fountain, but will drink from a bowl, consider only turning on the fountain for a couple hours in the evening and providing a bowl of water all the time. You’ll save on filters, and it can be a pleasant evening ritual to turn on the fountain and watch the pets play with it.
Think about things that you usually throw away, and find ways to reuse them to reduce your pet expenses and overall spending. If you grow flowers, you can buy or make a composter to turn dog waste into fertilizer. Don’t use it on food crops, but you can reduce or eliminate spending on compost for your flowerbed. Some other pets’ waste can also be used as fertilizer.
Instead of throwing out old pet toys, think about whether or not you can make them like new again. Don’t keep anything that might prevent a choking hazard or cause pets to swallow stuffing, but sometimes stuffed toys can be mended rather than discarded. Cat toys that become boring to your cat might just need a spritz of catnip spray to become a favorite again. Stinky old Kongs can be soaked in a bath of hot water, vinegar, and Dawn dish soap, then run through the dishwasher. They’ll look and smell as fresh as the day you bought them.
If you can’t use or reuse a pet-related item, there’s probably someone who can. Rather than discard anything that still has life left in it, try using Freecycle or the Craigslist free section to give away pet supplies you can’t use. Some items might even be saleable for a reasonable price on Craiglist or Ebay.
Beware of giving away or getting opened bags of pet food on any “free stuff” or swap sites. Open bags may have been tampered with, or you might be accused of tampering with food you gave away if the receiver’s pet becomes ill soon after eatingit.