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Savings are a family affair Add to ...

If you’re not excited about experimenting with homemade pet food production, rely instead on coupons and sales. Coupons for dog and cat food are common, and if you use high-value coupons during good sales, you can easily come away with your pet’s preferred food for up to 60 percent off the regular prices. Stock up when these opportunities occur, so that you’re well supplied until another sale arrives. Regularly check the pet food manufacturer’s Web site for coupons. (Even without the coupons, waiting for good sales is the time to stock the pantry with pet food.) This money-saving technique also applies to other pet care essentials, such as cat litter and doggy treats.

Do-It-Yourself Pet Toys

No matter how much I spend on toys for my two cats, it’s inevitable that the true winner is the aluminum foil ball that I scrunch together. That or the good old-fashioned cat favorite of a ball of yarn pleases them more than any fancy toy. So, don’t feel guilty if you don’t spend a mint on entertaining gadgets for your pets, because it seems that they usually show us up by preferring the basics anyway.

Try entertaining your pet with these:

• Cat toys: Cat fishing pole. This toy is worth its weight in gold (or in the minds of my cats, worth its weight in catnip). It is a simple plastic pole with a length of elasticized string and a plastic ball with jingly bells inside attached at the end of the string. My cats went bonkers for this toy! You can easily make this toy yourself with a dowel rod, some elastic, yarn or string, and a firmly attached ball. Balls of aluminum foil and yarn are great fun for cats, as are newspapers and cardboard boxes.

• Dog toys: Purchase Frisbees at dollar stores or garage sales. Or find them for free at trade shows and vendor booths. Take a walk to your neighborhood tennis courts when they are empty and you can pick up any stray balls left behind for free. Tie an old blanket or towel in a knot and use it as a tug toy. Taking the frugal theme to an extreme, consider good old sticks to play fetch with. When you think of the times your dogs are the happiest, the toys are usually the old stand-bys, not the posh and polished versions.

• Toys for birds: I have it on good authority that birds go wacky for a nice, shiny mirror. Make sure the mirror is in good shape and safe, so that their pointy beaks won’t be able to wreak havoc. Like any pet, birds have their own unique preferences, and sometimes are just as happy with some cardboard cutouts tied onto a length of string.

Watch the joyful expressions on your pets’ faces and you’ll see that they don’t mind at all that their toys were snagged on the cheap. They’ll never know that they were so friendly to the budget anyway. To them, fun doesn’t come with a high price tag.

Veterinarian’s Bills and Pet Insurance

We’ve already discussed how beloved our pets are to us. They love us simply and unconditionally—even when we’re sprawled out on the couch battling a nasty cold, or when we’re just not in peak form (such as before that first cup of java in the morning). So, of course their health is of vital concern to us pet lovers, but unfortunately the health of our pets also can come at a high premium.

Pet insurance can either be viewed as extravagant or, if you’d be willing to pay any price to keep your pet healthy, vital. Pet insurance helps you to cover the high costs of medical procedures for your pet that occur due to illness or accidents. If your pet requires emergency veterinary care, the attached bill can quickly escalate into thousands of dollars. Pet insurance can cost under ten dollars a month (but can be upwards of forty dollars for older pets), so for pet owners, it might be a logical way of handling these unexpected emergencies. Keep in mind, however, that pet insurance usually doesn’t cover routine visits to the vet.

Keep your pets healthy by feeding them nutritious food, giving them regular exercise and grooming them regularly. Also, keep up with their vaccines and medication for heartworm and fleas. Don’t overfeed them or feed them people food; it may be hard to resist that begging face, but they will be much healthier if you do.

More Ways to Save Money on Your Pets

1. Not necessarily a pet sitter. A trusted neighbor, friend or family member will likely not mind looking in on your pet while you’re away. You can return the favor for them in the future when they travel.

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