Make fun of pet lovers all you want — dressing a dog in the latest canine trends, dedicating half the living room to cat condos and feeding an animal human-grade food still doesn’t cost as much as raising a child. Sure, having pets isn’t cheap, even if you’re buying only necessities, but financially speaking, it’s better to have a furbaby than a human baby.
So it’s not a stretch to say millennials’ apparent tendency to fill their homes with pets rather than people is a smart money move. The Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai just wrote about this, citing a survey showing higher pet ownership among young Americans: About 75% of Americans in their 30s have dogs and 51% have cats, and among the general population, those rates are 50% and 35%, respectively. The figures come from a survey of 2,001 adults conducted by Mintel, a marketing research company.
Meanwhile, today’s young Americans are less likely to be married or have kids, when compared to previous generations’ behaviors in their 20s and 30s. Bhattarai quoted one researcher who went as far as calling pets a replacement for children.
“They’re less expensive,” Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, told the Post. “You can get one even if you’re not ready to live with someone or get married, and they can still provide companionship.”
Many people would likely argue that cuddling with a puppy isn’t as gratifying as raising a human being, but in this era of record-high student loan debt, disappearing starter homes and dismal personal savings, delaying or skipping parenthood can be a practical choice. It’s not that you can’t have it all. Perhaps starting out buying kitty litter instead of diapers will help young people achieve their dreams of being debt free, owning a home or retiring comfortably.
Ultimately, if it’s companionship you seek during that dark period between paying rent and payday, animal snuggles are probably more than sufficient, not to mention relatively economical and low-maintenance.
Disclosure: This post was written by a childless millennial dog mom.
Q. I show my dog at dog shows, and sometimes he wins money. If I have to declare it as income, can I deduct things like dog food and vet bills? — Owner
A. You have to prove that this is a business and not just a hobby.
If you are in a business of training dogs for dog shows, then any expenses related to the business would be tax deductible, said Ken Bagner, a certified financial planner with Sobel and Co. in Livingston, New Jersey.
He said the burden of proof falls on you to show the IRS that you are not conducting a hobby and are actually involved in a business.
Bagner said you may consider setting up a separate business entity, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or an S Corp., to help demonstrate you are conducting a business.
“If it is deemed a hobby and not a business, the income will be taxable and expenses can only be deducted up to the amount of income for the year,” Bagner said. “In addition, the expenses would be have to be listed as miscellaneous itemized deductions on schedule A.”
These deductions have to be over 2% of your adjusted gross income before you can take a deduction, and if you are into the Alternative Minimum Tax, the itemized deductions will not be deductible, he said.
“If you can prove you are in a business, then you can deduct all ordinary and necessary expenses in the business under the IRS code,” he said. “This may include dog food, vet bills, travel expenses and any other expenditures related to the business.”
[Editor’s Note: Remember, it can be tempting to overspend on pets, but, whether for business or as a hobby, you’ll want to be sure you can afford whatever you’re buying for Fido. Otherwise, you risk busting your budget or even going into credit card debt and hurting your credit scores. If you already have credit card debt, you may be able to pay it down more swiftly by prioritizing payments by making minimum payments on all your cards, while putting extra funds towards either the card with the highest interest rate or lowest balance, reviewing your budget for places you can cut back and looking into a balance transfer credit card or debt consolidation loan. You can see how your spending may be affecting your credit by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing two of your scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.]
So you think you’re ready to bring a fluffy bundle of joy home, but you can’t decide between getting a cat or a dog?
MagnifyMoney might be able to help, at least where your budget is concerned. We broke down the costs of owning a cat and a dog, so you can decide which of the most popular pets in the U.S. you’d like to bring home next.
We didn’t just stop at determining the annual cost of kibble or Fancy Feast.
We looked at how much a dog and cat costs in the first year of ownership — and how much each pet costs over their lifetime.
Check out our findings below.
These are the initial start-up costs of getting a cat or a dog — adoption fees; accessories like leashes and food dishes; and veterinary services like spaying/neutering and vaccinations. To get these estimates, we used the latest data from Petfinder.com
The Winner: Cats
Your first-year expenses as a cat or dog owner could range anywhere from $125 to a little more than $1,000 depending on the size, breed, and accommodations your new pet would require, according to Petfinder.
Overall, you’d shell out less for a cat up front — as little as a $125 if you take advantage of savings during adoption, shop around to save on your initial veterinary costs, and use coupons when buying accessories or toys for your furball. On the high end, if your kitty is an expensive breed or you simply like to splurge on your feline companion, you’d spend around $635 during the first year.
Recurring Annual Costs
The costs don’t end after you bring Fido (or Fluffy) home. You should budget about $1,125 yearly on vet visits, food, boarding, toys, and grooming for a cat, and about $1,641 on a dog, according to the American Pet Products Association’s most recent National Pet Owners Survey.
THE OVERALL WINNER: CATS
If the decision came down to your wallet, cats are significantly cheaper than dogs, costing about $13,625 to $17,510 in a lifetime, compared to dogs at $16,607 to $22,423.
We based the lifetime costs on the average lifespan of dogs (10-13 years) and cats (12-15 years).
But even though cats typically live two to three years longer than dogs, they still come out more affordable in the end.
The kids are on vacation from school, and you’re taking time off work. That’s what summer is all about.
But doesn’t the dog also deserve a little warm-weather R&R?
Of course! Summer is a great time to let your puppy have a little extra fun in the sun.
Just remember to do it safely. As the American Kennel Club (AKC) reminds you:
Hot weather can make anyone feel uncomfortable, and your dog is no exception.
The AKC offers tips for keeping your dog safe this summer, including keeping them hydrated, getting them microchipped, updating their vaccinations, and talking to your vet about flea, tick and heart-worm prevention. (And if you plan to travel with your dog this summer, you may want to read about how much it costs to fly your pet on every major U.S. airline.)
The following are seven ideas for keeping your pooch happy — and healthy — during the “dog days of summer.”
1. Take Your Dog to the Beach
Just like people, most dogs love to splash around on a hot summer day. So, let your pup dip their paws in the sand. PetFriendlyTravel.com has a list of puppy-friendly beaches throughout the U.S. you may consider visiting. (If you decide to travel to one of these beaches, you may want to consider using one of the best travel credit cards in America to help pay for your trip. Just remember, high credit card balances can hurt your credit.)
If you don’t live near the ocean or a lake, consider turning on the sprinklers for your own at-home water fun.
2. Build a Dog Obstacle Course
In many parts of the country, people and pooches spend the colder months cooped up indoors, so it’s no wonder you’d want to spend every possible moment outside in summer. Build a dog obstacle course, and you and your pup can get a little exercise in the fresh air. You can find tips for building a course on a budget on sites like Cesar’s Way, and the DIY Network has more detailed instructions for a three-part agility course featuring a climbing wall, teeter-totter and weave sticks.
3. Whip Up Some ‘Pupsicles’
After all that running around, your pup is probably ready for a “pop.” There are many different types of frozen dog treats you can make that can help keep your best friend cool after a hot summer day of fun.
Modern Dog magazine has recipes for everything from frozen fruit to chicken-broth pops.
4. Dine Out With Your Dog
A frozen treat is fine, but doesn’t your furry family member deserve to be with you as you hit the town?
You can find dog-friendly restaurants on sites like BringFido.com. DogFriendly.com also has a guide to pooch-perfect eateries in the U.S. and Canada. Boneappétit!
5. Head Off to Summer Camp
Many states have summer camps especially geared toward having fun with your best furry friend. Examples include:
Camp Dogwood: Illinois, Wisconsin
Camp Unleashed: Massachusetts, Georgia
Happy Tails Daycamp for Dogs: Michigan
Maian Meadows Dog Camp: Washington
Can’t find a dog camp in your state? Then perhaps you can take your pup camping. You can check out sites like BringFido.com to help you locate a dog-friendly campground.
6. Hit a Hiking Trail
Hiking can be one of the best and most enjoyable forms of summer exercise. That’s as true for dogs as it is for people. Just about everybody is close enough to a hiking trail where you can spend hours of free and healthful fun with your four-legged best pal.
Just make sure to keep your dog hydrated and to clean up after them. And, after your hike, be sure to check your pet for pests like ticks that might have hitched a ride.
7. Jog with Your Dog
You look forward to your daily run, and your canine companion will too. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to burn extra energy and calories. If your pooch seems disinterested or a little unwieldy at first, don’t give up. According to Health.com:
Even if you think your dog is too hyper or too poorly behaved to jog alongside you, he may just need some training and some time to get used to it.
What is your favorite way to have summer fun with your dog? Let us know in the comments.
Pets aren’t just animals — they’re members of the family. So it makes sense that you may want them to join you on your summer travels. While Pet Airways, an airline that catered to our four-legged pals, stopped flying in 2013, the 12 major U.S. airways all allow pets on board. But you’ll have to pay to bring them along.
Alaska Airlines has the Fur-st Class Care program for pets and charges $100 each way, whether the pet travels in the cabin with you or in baggage hold. If you are traveling during the holiday season (November through January), there are certain restrictions on traveling with your pet in the baggage or cargo areas of the plane, so be sure to check with the airline before making your plans.
Pets must be in a FAA-approved soft-sided carrier if they come aboard the cabin on Allegiant Air flights, and pet owners will be charged a $100 fee for each direction the pet flies. Pets are not allowed on flights to or from Hawaii.
Fees to bring pets with you on your travels varies based on where the pet will be during the flight. If you bring your dog or cat into the cabin, you are charged $125 per kennel, but if the pet travels in cargo, the fee is $200 per kennel ($150 to/from Brazil). If you have a layover longer than four hours, charges apply for each leg of the trip. There is no charge for service animals.
If you are flying anywhere in the U.S. or Canada or to the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, you’re looking at a $125 fee each way to bring your pet. If you fly to Brazil, the pet fee is $75; anywhere else outside the U.S. has a $200 fee.
You are allowed only one pet carry-on for any Frontier flight, and will be charged a $75 fee for each flight you take with Fido. Pets are not allowed in the cargo area of planes. You may bring them along on any domestic flight or to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. However, pets can’t join you on any trips to Jamaica.
If you’re going to a neighboring island, the fee to bring along pets is $60 each way for each kennel. If you’re going to or from North America, the fee is $225 per kennel each way, except to/from JFK, where pets aren’t allowed to fly. If you have a layover, you’ll be responsible for paying the fee for each leg of the trip. Certain cats and dogs are allowed as carry-on items or can be checked in cargo; birds are required to travel in the checked baggage area of the plane.
Small cats and dogs are allowed in the cabin on JetBlue international and domestic flights, according to BringFido.com. To qualify for travel, the pet and its carrier may not exceed 20 pounds and owners must pay a $100 fee each way. Pets can’t fly to or from Barbados, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago or St. Lucia.
Only six pets are allowed per flight on Southwest, and acceptance is on a first come, first served basis. There is a $95 pet fare each way, and pets must be in an approved carrier, one of which Southwest offers for $58. Pets are not allowed to accompany their owners on any international flights and must travel in the cargo area.
If you bring your puppy, cat or bird aboard a Spirit Airlines flight, you’ll be charged $100 each way, according to BringFido.com. You’ll have to bring your pet in a carrier into the cabin, as Spirit doesn’t allow animals in the baggage area of the plane.
Bringing your pet in a carrier into the cabin of the plane comes with a $125 fee each way, and any layovers lasting more than four hours will mean you’ll pay an additional service charge for each leg of the trip. There are certain restrictions on where the pets may travel. If you bring your pet on a flight where they are placed in the baggage area of the plane using PetSafe, you will be charged a fee based on your destination as well as the combined weight of the animal and kennel.
Pets are allowed in the main cabin of Virgin Airlines flights but are not permitted in the first class or main cabin select sections of the plane. If you bring your pet along, you must pay a $100 fee each way.