Squirreling Gone Wild #29: Pet Expenses and The Bird Brain

Pets can be expensive, no question about it.  When budgeting for household expenses, it’s often necessary to include a fair amount allocated for pet needs.  While many people naturally accept and factor pets into the budget, some others resist and even resent the amount they can cost.

The annoyance at pet expenses makes you wonder why some of those people bought a pet in the first place, but hey, to each their own, right?  Well, a recent story I saw on vet costs reminded me of a discussuion I had with guy I worked with some years ago. He was irritated about how much money he had to spend on pets for his family. Yeah, I know…on the surface he sounds like a reach charmer of a guy:) I almost can’t believe I forgot about this, so I’ve got to share it here as the 29th edition of Squirreling Gone Wild.


As a backdrop, the guy was a cost-conscious co-worker.  I was younger, so I didn’t quite get his hangups then, but I totally understand now how he’d be watching expenses as he had a family.  That part I get, and think was perfectly reasonable.

Anyway, at lunch one day – with a group of us – he was complaining about the costs of taking his dog to the vet, and how these bills really added up. He didn’t want the dog at all in the first place, since he felt that they’re expensive and he would have rather saved the money instead since he had a family to care for. Again, I totally get that. I know some hard-core dog lovers might not, but I do understand.

Now, I have never owned a dog. With allergies in the family, we didn’t buy a dog when I was growing up – and I haven’t purchased on since. So, I was just curious how expensive the dog really was for him. He continued on about vet costs, but also talked about how the dog added wear and tear to their home, consumed a lot of expensive dog food, and so on. Fair enough, I got the picture. Even though it was a small and older dog (don’t remember what breed), it was costly. He also made it sound like he was pretty much made to buy the pet by his wife. The words I still remember his saying were “That damn dog”.

Bottom line: he couldn’t stop thinking about how much money that dog was costing him.

The Scheme

He then proceeded to talk about how his kids wanted to buy a parakeet. As he mentioned that, I recall an eye roll. Obviously, he had enough of spending money on pets.

Then, he smirked as he told us what he would do if he was forced to buy this pet as well: buy an old bird.

His reasoning was that if he got an older parakeet, it would die sooner and he would have to spend less money on it over it’s lifetime. A baby parakeet would mean a longer life, more seed, upkeep, etc. I don’t know if he realized that parakeets aren’t exactly a big source of vet bills!

Anyway, we were all chuckling and shaking our heads, saying things to the effect of “Come on, man!”

Now, when I was a young child, we did have a couple of parakeets as pets at home, so I remembered how to tell an younger bird from an older one. The way I was told is to look at the forehead of the bird, and see if it has bars (lines). If it has bars, it’s a younger bird that’s just a few months old. If it has no bars, and has a solid color, it’s a more mature bird. Maybe not old, but at probably older than a 3 months old.

With that knowledge, I actually shared that information with him and the group. At first, I could tell his reaction was mild amusement as he looked at me: “This guy had a parakeet when he was a kid. Who knew?”

Then, I could see the lightbulb turn on. His eyes got bigger, and he pointed at me saying “That’s it!. If I have to get a bird, I’ll get one with no lines on it’s head, so at least there’s a chance that it’s old!” He laughed as he said it.

Get the picture? He was talking about buying the kids an old pet that would die soon so that he wouldn’t have to spend too much on it for too long.

To be fair, I have no idea if he actually bought an old bird or bought any bird at all. I never heard about the topic again, and never asked. Maybe it was all hot air.

But it was a crazy and shameful idea on how save money!

Note: I’m sure you realize this, but I don’t condone intentionally tricking family members or that guy’s plan. Just in case you’re new here:)

My Questions for You:

Have you ever let the cost of a pet deter you or influence your purchasing decision?

If you do have pets, how much do they cost you?



  1. says

    I have two cats that both are old and now pretty expensive as they each have chronic health issues that require special food and special medicine. Still, they’re a part of the family so I don’t resent them their issues. Once you welcome a pet into your house as a member of your family, I think you should be prepared. Now, I won’t undertake extreme measures that some people take, because I think you also have to consider when you’re doing something for their health, whether you’re doing it for the animal’s well being or for your own. Right now, the food and medicine they get are pretty much transparent to them, so it’s a no-brainer. But would I put a 16 year old cat through surgery with low chance of it adding much, if any, meaningful time (not to mention the recovery that the poor animal would have to go through)? Probably not. Eventually I’ll have to make that call, though, when the medicine eventually stops working.

    Buying an old bird so it would die faster. That’s ice cold.

    • Squirrelers says

      Money Beagle – I think I see it the way you do, and can appreciate your perspectives on how you would handle expenses for your own pets. Also, I do agree that this example in the post was cold. Ice cold.

    • Squirrelers says

      Mom’s Plans – I guess he just couldn’t say no to the dog:) As far as the bird goes, I don’t know if he ever bought an old one or not. His thinking was comical.

  2. says

    I don’t have pets. My wife and I don’t have pets for other reasons, but yes, it is obvious that it costs a lot of money. I did have pets growing up and you wouldn’t believe how much money they cost for shots and such.

    • Squirrelers says

      20’s Finances – oh, I’m sure they’re a lot. For those who choose to go the extra mile for pets, it could really add up. Hard for some to say no to expensive treatment for a pet they love.

  3. Kamla says

    We have a 35 gallon fish tank. I have notied that their food is quite expensive these days. Also the suction pump and filters are expensive. Now a days they don’t last very long!

    Buying fish, also, cost a lot! We feel very sad when the fish is dead—we, kind of, are
    attached to them. One has to make allowances for extra unexpected expenses before
    getting a pet!

    • Squirrelers says

      Thank you for stopping by. I agree that people have to make allowances for unexpected expenses, and go into it informed.

  4. says

    It’d be easier for him to just explain to his kids that they can’t really afford the time or money for another pet at that time, don’t you think? I love dogs, but I know how much they can cost. But out of all the ways you can spend your money, I think pets rank pretty high on my list. It has to be a pet that you want, though, and not something pressured onto you by others.

    • Squirrelers says

      Well Heeled – that makes sense. I think in his case, he just backed down when his wife disagreed with him. Seemed like might have gotten her way with things more than he did.

  5. says

    We are a family full of allergies, so no pets here. I was so crushed when my childhood dog died that I am almost glad we don’t have a pet. (I am the opposite of your coworker, animals just don’t live long enough.)

    Whe considering a pet though, I probably wouldn’t think about cost, except when it came to buying the actual pet. I would just go to the humane society and get a mutt as opposed to spending a ton on a pure-breed.

    I hate birds though. Probably because my blind grandma had one and that thing was always on the loose and so messy.

  6. Jazz says

    My Labrador Abby is more than pet for me, I have never given a thought about the expenses on his food or vaccination. Our pet or the hypothetical one is more or less, just like another family member.

    • Squirrelers says

      Jazz – I think that’s how many folks see it, that a pet becomes like a family member. They guy I described clearly looked at the first pet he got as a cost center and absolutely nothing more.

    • Squirrelers says

      FSYA – I’m sure pets can be quite expensive. Must say that I can assure you that they do not in any way equate to the costs of having a child. Pets don’t go to college, among other things:)

  7. says

    We only had pets that could be left alone without a problem as we traveled a lot. We just couldn’t see traveling with our family of 6 plus a dog or cat along. The pets we had were hermit crabs, fish, and a beautiful tree frog.
    They guy who wanted the bird to die sooner is just cruel to his family. What a jerk.

    • Squirrelers says

      Maggie – I think the guy should just make it clear that he doesn’t want any more pets. Problem solved, right? Actually, it sounded like his wife harrangued him so that seemed to be the underlying issue.

  8. Squirrelers says

    Molly – now that’s a great example of DIY pet emergency care:) Also, it’s interesting how online searches can provide so much useful information on a wide range of things….including, apparently, stuck chicken eggs!

  9. says

    Sore subject S. We have 2 dogs, fish inside and outside in the pond, a turtle and until recently a guinea pig. We had a little service and buried Cleetus under the tree. I don’t want to know what it is costing us! :)

    • Squirrelers says

      Paul – I remember having a service for small pets when younger. Not pleasant at the time. As for costs….yeah, that current assortment of pets is probably costing you a bit!

  10. says

    We don’t have pets presently, but the cost of owning a pet is definitely a deterrent for me. I have quite a few friends that complain about the costs, while being unable to separate themselves from their pets and adding more to their families.

    • Squirrelers says

      Sher – the emotional component of being unable to separate and adding more can really increase the financial burden. To each their own, right?

  11. says

    According to Mint, I’ve spent just under $3800 on pets so far this year. Most of the cost is food, next is dog walking/boarding, and then veterinary expenses. I have one dog and six chickens. This summary does not include the $300 vet bill I just incurred having one of my chickens sewn up after she nearly ripped her wing off by getting stuck under the fence. She’s only about 10 weeks old and hasn’t laid one egg yet, but she’s the one chicken out of the flock that was hand raised and is more of a pet. I just never even considered putting her down. Besides the vet bill, for the next week or so I now have a chicken in the house that needs twice daily medicine, too.

  12. says

    I have a dog, and I love her, and I waited until I knew I had plenty of money to get her. However, the vet bills still added up to quite a bit more than I would have expected. I was perfectly able to cover them, but even in a good month she costs me about $100/month minimum. Then for her annual shots, or any month where she gets new toys, it can quickly jump up…

    Pets aren’t for everyone, and it sounds like they’re especially not for that guy at work.

    I live with people who only want their dogs to cost the bare mimnimum, but they tried buying cheap food – their dogs had food allergies or upset stomachs. They don’t buy toys, so their dogs start to chew up the house. They don’t want to pay for flea and tick preventative, so their dogs got fleas. They don’t want to take their dog to training, so their dogs are terribly behaved.

    They now end up paying for better food, more expensive chews that last long, bug preventative, and they just have to crate the one dog when guests come over to keep him from jumping all over them. It gets expensive even if you’re determined to buy them all the cheapest stuff 😉

  13. says

    I haven’t yet gotten another pet since my childhood friend died a few years back, and same with my girlfriend and her pet Pomeranian. Maybe one day we’ll have another one again! Sometimes I miss the companionship, but at the same time I feel like I would be replacing an old friend.

    You know though, sometimes the guy has a point. Some people do get pets for the cute factor and don’t think about having to take care of the pet. It can be more work than a child! I have a friend whose brother bought an Alaskan Malamute, and well… really nice dog, but the whole inside of the house is destroyed! And can you imagine cleaning up after that dog and running it around and how expensive it is to feed it a whole bag of food a day. A really fun dog if you know how to take care of it, but not the best idea to get one if you’re just doing it for the “cute” factor.

  14. Aileen Curtis says

    Probably not. I was perfectly able to cover them, but even in a good month she costs me about $100/month minimum.

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