To combat the social isolation aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people got pets to keep them company. A survey conducted by Rover in October 2020 found that one-third of people in the U.S. had welcomed home a cat or dog since March, and by January 2021, nearly half (49%) of Americans said they got a new dog during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And while a new pet can be a major mood-booster — the same survey found that 93% of people said their “pandemic pet” improved their mental and/or physical wellbeing — it can also be a major expense. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners reported spending as much as $1,400 per year for dogs and $900 annually for cats. 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 of Pet Plaza, who owns 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.”
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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.
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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 6.1% cash back, so you can even make some extra money back on your purchase.”
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.”
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.
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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.”
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Last updated: June 10, 2021
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Get a Pet During the Pandemic? Here’s How To Save on Supplies for Your New Furry Friend