Learn About the True Cost of Owning Pets
Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, parakeets, horses—the world loves pets.
They're our best friends and our better halves. But while they come with a lot of love, they also come with a surprisingly high price tag. Upfront fees plus the annual costs of caring for an animal add up to more than you might expect. What are some of the expenses you can expect to pay for popular pets and how high can the costs be?
What's not to love?Photo: Paul Hanaoka
You can purchase dogs and cats from breeders and pet stores or you can adopt or rescue from shelters. Adoption fees range from $75 to $200 for cats and dogs, but buying from a breeder will likely be much more expensive. Countless stores sell fish for $2 or, for more exotic species, upwards of $50. Hamsters can cost as little as $10 from a store, while birds can range from $20 to $400.
For dogs and cats, add to these fees the cost of spaying or neutering. It might be included in the fees for a rescue pet, but a purchased pet's procedure could cost up to $200. Another upfront cost for dog owners is licensing—most states require dogs over the age of one year to be licensed. A lifetime license for a spayed or neutered dog costs around $35.
Bringing a new pet home also requires equipment. Dogs and cats will need crates, beds, litter boxes and more. Small pets, like birds and hamsters, will need cages, bedding, and food. Of course, there are plenty of extras that are just as important: your puppy or kitten will look for toys, treats and comfort objects like blankets. You'll need hygiene equipment too, such as brushes, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.
While small pets don't necessarily need it, larger pets, like dogs and cats, should go to the veterinarian for an initial exam. The vet might administer vaccinations and recommend medicine to keep your pet healthy and safe. Common medicines include gels for flea and tick protection, supplements to prevent heartworms and, sometimes, vitamins. All of these will become ongoing expenses.
Depending on your living situation, you might face new deposits required by a landlord or an increase in rent. Pet deposits can be refundable or nonrefundable and as little as $200 or as much as $1,000. "Pet rent," as its called, usually replaces some or all of the deposit with a monthly fee ($35, perhaps) that basically acts as your pet's rent payment. One is not necessarily worse than the other—it depends on the costs and situation.
Caring for a pet can be costly Photo: Autri Taheri
All of those upfront costs might stack up to a sizable sum but the price continues to increase in the form of ongoing expenses. You want your pet to have the happiest, most comfortable life possible, so of course, you're going to buy the best quality food and most entertaining toys. Shampoo, toothpaste, cat litter, and other hygiene products will add a bit to your regular grocery bill. Flea and tick, allergy, and heartworm medicines might add up to about $20 per month.
Regular vet visits can become expensive, especially if anything more than a checkup is needed. You can expect a bill anywhere between $50 and $500 for various shots and procedures. Dental cleanings tend to be expensive as well, and any prescriptions will be close to what you'd expect to pay for your own medicine. A pet owner can purchase pet insurance for their four-legged family member as a precaution against emergency medical treatments that might otherwise hit hard, financially.
The price is worth every penny Photo: Avi Richards
One more consideration is travel. It's obviously more difficult to travel with a pet but it's also difficult to arrange for pet care while you're away from them. A dog walker might charge $20 per walk, a cat sitter who's not family will charge for feeding and changing litter. A pet boarding house has its own costs associated with it. On the other hand, pet-friendly hotels sometimes charge large fees to let your pet stay with you. Others, though, are letting pets in for free.
There are many costs—high and low, short-term and long-term—of owning a pet. While that soft-hearted voice inside you might think, anything's worth that cuddly companion, it's important to consider and plan for the expenses before jumping into a relationship. You owe it to that future pet to be prepared to give them the best life possible.
The credit card market is, basically, a rewards market. With the exception of beginner cards for building or rebuilding credit, each card tries to knock the others off of the podium with its best rewards program. These rewards come in various forms—cash back, points and miles—but they all do the same thing: give something back for spending money with that credit card. Though they're similar in effect, they're very different in whom they benefit. Choosing the right card means understanding your own spending habits and what rewards will benefit you the most.
Miles and points cards operate in the same way. You'll accumulate a balance of miles or points at a certain rate that you'll eventually redeem for rewards. And while true cash back cards automatically apply your cash back as statement credit, some actually behave like a points card. If a card offers 1 point for every $100 spent, that point is worth $1 and it will stay in your account until you accumulate enough to redeem them.
The main difference between points cards and miles cards is in the rewards offered. Points cards tend to be more flexible because a miles card is typically sponsored by one airline. A United Airlines Explorer card will earn United rewards: flight discounts, free upgrades, free bags, etc. A Chase Ultimate Rewards card, on the other hand, offers 1¢ per dollar spent to use on shopping sites like Amazon.
Here, it is important to understand your spending habits. Many points cards let you redeem points on specific rewards, or partner websites. Meanwhile, some cash back cards, even those that are basically points cards, give higher cash back value for certain categories, such as restaurants or gas. What you buy and what you want to receive for your points or miles will signal which card is best.
If you travel frequently, the rewards of a miles card will probably justify being locked into one airline. If you're paying off student loans, Citi ThankYou Points offers rebates to help. If you love to try new restaurants, the Uber Visa card will give 4% back on dining purchases. One surprising study showed that hotel-affiliated rewards cards actually offered better rewards rates than airline cards or cash back programs, even when used on everyday purchases. The average rewards rate for hotel cards was 2.5%, higher than many other points- or miles-earning cards.
The other important factor to consider is the sign-up bonus that might be offered by one card and not another. For example, the Uber Visa card earns a $100 bonus after you spend $500 in the first 3 months. The Citi ThankYou card earns 15,000 points after $1,000 spent in 3 months. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives you 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months. This card's points can become miles—50,000 points becomes $625 towards airfare. It also offers double the points earned for travel purchases and dining, so it's a good example of how cards can cross over into other categories regardless of whether they earn "points" or "miles."
While shopping for a card with high rewards, be careful of annual fees. After the first year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card charges $95 per year. Depending on the amount you spend, this fee (and the similar fees on other cards) could start to cancel out some of the rewards you earn. The Uber Visa card, on the other hand, has no annual fee. Read the details of any credit card agreement carefully because an annual fee might start (or increase) only after the first year.
The credit card market is full of great rewards through various partnerships with airlines, hotels, websites and other companies. Though it takes time and patience to sort through the fine print of dozens of cards, your work will pay off for years, whether it's in cash back, points or miles.
Tom Twardzik is a personal finance writer for Paypath. He also covers music, film, TV and gaming for Popdust, social issues and current events for The Liberty Project and travel for The Journiest. Read more on his page and follow him on Twitter
The Time is Right to Apply for a New Credit Card
It's difficult to resist the cash back offers and sign up bonuses advertised in every bank and on dozens of TV channels every day. $100 back on $500 of spending sounds like a great discount and, in many cases, it is. The right applicant under the right circumstances can take advantage of card companies' latest offers to save money on groceries, travel, restaurants, and large upcoming purchases. But it's important to be careful when applying for and opening new credit cards because doing it in the wrong way can damage a person's credit score and lower their chances of being approved in the future.
A tricky but weighty question is: how often is it okay to apply for a new card? A general suggestion is about six months between applications but, like everything that has to do with credit cards, this varies based on your credit score. Applicants with lower credit scores are required to wait a little longer between applications, to show companies that they're not a risk. Better credit scores allow applicants to apply sooner, though doing so too frequently will still hurt their score. You should also wait slightly longer if you've just been rejected by another company. Hard inquiries will almost always knock a few points off of your score. Spreading them out will avoid damaging it too much.
Be especially careful when:
- You're rebuilding poor credit.
- You've recently been rejected by another card or company.
- You're about to apply for a mortgage or large car loan.
Those few points that fall off of your score after an application might cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars more on a mortgage. Time your applications to avoid impacting upcoming loans.
On the other hand, the best times to apply for a credit card depend on your preferences and spending habits. If you're r building credit, consider secured cards that require a deposit but make it easier for someone without a credit history to begin one. If you already have good credit, you have the privilege of shopping around for the newest and best deals offered by credit companies.
Credit Score Range
Your smart credit habits give you options that include low interest rates, cash back rewards, sign up bonuses and more. To make the most of your new card, try to time any sign up bonuses with large, planned purchases. Often, sign up bonuses come with spending requirements, such as $500 in 60 days. If you're about to purchase a new computer, for example, you can use the new card to fulfill its spending requirement all at once and save $100 on the computer.
If you haven't changed credit cards in five or ten years, it's time to look for lower interest rates and better perks. Card companies always change what they offer to compete with each other, and it's probably better than what you signed up for a decade ago. If you're still paying an annual fee, check out the no-fee offerings, too.
Analyze your spending and shop for cards whose perks best match your habits. Travel miles aren't valuable for everyone. If you eat at restaurants several times a week, look for a card that will reward you for that. Others offer cash back bonuses on gas, groceries or categories that vary month-to-month. Shopping for cash bonuses and rewards is the fun part of having good credit.
A last word on opening a new line of credit: don't close your old card. Unless it charges an annual fee (in which case, definitely do close it), leaving that old, in-good-standing credit line open can only help your score. Credit bureaus account for the age of your credit history and credit utilization when calculating your score. Your utilization is the ratio of credit use to credit limit. Closing an old card will shorten your credit history and, simultaneously, increase your utilization by lowering your total available credit. Both of these negatives are unnecessary: if that old card doesn't cost anything, leave it open.
Your credit card might have become such a regular part of your habit that you stopped thinking about it over the years. But if you've paid it in full and on time to build that credit score into the 700s or even higher, you owe it to yourself to take another look at the card market and shop for lower rates and better deals. It's like shopping for free money—it's the least you can do to reward yourself for your smart financial habits.
Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture pieces to Popdust, travel writing to The Journiest, product reviews to Topdust and essays to The Liberty Project. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.
Let's face it: not every first, or second, or fifth job is the perfect position that a person has dreamed about since they were eighteen. The truth is that part of what makes a career successful is one's ability to change. That might mean changing jobs a dozen times or even changing career fields. These choices to start over are not failures; they are steps in pursuit of success—they show intelligence, courage and drive.
You are a person containing dreams and fears, ambitions and anxieties. You might have answered every "when-you-grow-up" question since you were eight with "elementary school teacher" but, when you finally earned that position, the school's principal turned out to be unorganized and the other teachers were unfriendly. Even a seemingly perfect position might land you in a negative workplace. There are so many reasons you might want or need to change jobs. The first step is realizing that you do want to change and that this change will be a positive step in your successful career.
Recognizing that it's time
This first step is tricky because everybody moans, jokingly or not, about Mondays and working late and unreasonable bosses. It's when you realize that you dread Mondays—that you have trouble even enjoying Sundays because Mondays come next—that a change is necessary. Some signs that this is the case:
- You're as stressed about going to the job as you are about doing the work it involves.
- You feel stuck without hope of advancing.
- You don't feel comfortable with coworkers and weekly meetings are demoralizing.
- The quality or timeliness of your work suffers because of anxiety or disinterest.
- You feel that you deserve a better salary for your level of experience.
- Evaluation of your work is irregular or nonexistent, leading to constant fear that you aren't succeeding.
These signs indicate that the job is simply not right for you. It is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to admit this and take action to rectify the situation.
Leaving a job
Changing jobs might, at first, seem like adding work and stress to an already draining situation. It is undoubtedly work but it's work that will move you away from a negative position and closer to your perfect job. If you are leaving a good employer because you want to advance, it will be easy to remain polite and respectful during your exit. However, if you are leaving a particularly bad position, it is equally important to act professionally. You cannot throw away work relationships or a potential employer reference by ranting on social media or sprinkling your letter of resignation with shade.
To a boss you liked working for, consider offering help during the transition process. Give two weeks' notice and write a polite, gracious resignation letter. Make the best of a possible exit interview by focusing on what you learned and liked. If you've had a good relationship with your employer, you can even ask for a letter of recommendation.
Leaving a job you hated is trickier, emotionally. Start with yourself: remind yourself that leaving this job respectfully is part of the road to your dream position. Realize that you're intimidated by a job search and unhappy in general because of the job you are leaving and that things will become better when you've moved on. Do not surrender to anger or impatience: even the worst employer could be a reference in the future. Ignoring your pride and frustration is important in moving to your next position quickly.
If you have to, write out your rage on a loose-leaf paper and tear it up into the trash. Then, calmly, carefully write your respectful resignation letter. You can find the positives: was there one coworker with whom you connected? Did you learn anything from the job? (You did, like it or not.) Finally, do not post to social media unless you are prepared to praise the job you've despised and thank its employees and administration.
Post-job job searching
In most cases, it's a good idea to start your job search before you've fully resigned. While it should be kept private, searching before you've left allows you to talk to potential employers about your decision to look for advancement rather than explain why you suddenly left a position without preparing your next step.
If you're changing careers or fields, consider taking free or paid online courses to build skills and boost your resume. Some offer certificates and others will show up on your LinkedIn profile. All of them will make you more confident in your change and in the interviews that come with it.
The most important key to a strong job search is reminding yourself of the reasons that made you start it. You suffered long enough in a bad position or you've been ready for months for advancement after a stagnant job: either way, you're moving closer to your dream position. Aim carefully for it. Start your search with that dream burning brightly in your mind. You deserve that job and, now, you're closer to it than you've ever been. It took courage to admit that you weren't satisfied. With that same courage, push for the best for your life and career and find your perfect fit.
Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture pieces to Popdust, travel writing to The Journiest and essays to The Liberty Project. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.