Between visits to the veterinarian and purchasing pet care products, owning a pet can be expensive. Luckily there are a number of ways you can reduce your expenses. Here are 20 tips for saving money on your pet.

1. Make Your Own Toys

From an easy catnip mouse to a towel braid, you can DIY your own toys instead of purchasing them. Just make sure that you avoid using any small parts or other items that can be potential choking hazards, and always supervise your dogs as they play with these handmade toys.

Dog at the Vet
2. Schedule Complete Physicals

While there’s no way to prevent your pet from ever getting sick, the most cost-effective way to deal with an illness is catching it before it gets serious. You can do this by requesting a complete physical whenever you visit your vet. By providing a full physical and performing blood tests or other diagnostics if necessary, your veterinarian is more likely to catch a condition before it gets worse and more expensive to treat.

3. Create a Pet Budget

If you’re not already keeping track of your monthly pet expenses, start now! Take note of how much you spend on your pet and make an allotted monthly budget. This way you’ll be mindful of how much you’re spending and able to keep yourself from going overboard.

4. Avoid Expensive Fashion Items

From fancy collars to customized sweaters, there are a lot of options for pet apparel these days. Most pets, however, don’t need these expensive accessories, so save your money and stick with purchasing only necessary apparel, like a well-made collar, an ID tag and a comfortable leash.

5.  Take Your Own Photos

With some planning, you can take great pet portraits yourself without hiring a professional photographer. You can even snap great photos of your quick-moving cat with some practice.

6. Groom at Home

Pet grooming is important, but there are a number of procedures you can perform yourself instead of visiting an expensive groomer. Take the time to learn how to perform pet pedicures and coat care.

7. Seek Out Inexpensive Cat Scratchers

You can purchase inexpensive scratching posts, “scratch trays” made of corrugated cardboard or door hangers with cardboard or sisal surfaces instead of splurging on an expensive cat scratcher.

Also consider DIY-ing your own scratchers by wrapping a cheap sisal rope around a new or used post to make it last longer, or around a log or tree limb. Just be sure whatever you create is stable enough to not fall over on your pet and tall enough to offer a good scratch.

8. Keep Up-to-Date With Vaccines

The best way to keep from paying large medical bills is to keep your pet protected against diseases that will be costly to treat. Take action by making sure your pet is up-to-date on all preventive care, especially vaccinations.

9. Find Alternatives to Expensive Boarding

Instead of leaving your pet with an expensive boarder when you go on vacation, try looking for a hotel that allows pets. Check the hotel’s website or use online resources like PetsWelcome.com and PetsCanStay.com to find pet-friendly accommodations.

If you don’t want your pet to stay with you, check out alternative boarding options like DogVacay.com and Rover.com, which, depending on your geographic location, could cost more or less than standard boarding facilities. These websites offer regular homes with vetted owners that your pets can stay with starting as low as $15 a night. Keep in mind, though, that when using an option like this, you're responsible for making sure the home is a good fit for your pet. Don't be afraid to ask questions to find out what kinds of animals your pet will interact with, whether all other animals in the house are up-to-date on vaccines, as well as anything else you might need to know to feel comfortable leaving your pet.

A free boarding option is developing a pet-sitting system with any friends who also have pets. If they agree to watch your pet while you are away, return the favor when they go on vacation.

10. Get Pets Spayed or Neutered

Money spent on these procedures will keep you from having to spend even more on medical expenses associated with intact pets (such as an emergency surgery to remove an infected uterus), as well as the costs of caring for a litter of kittens or puppies in the future.

Dog Exercising in the Pool
11. Make Exercise a Priority

By making sure your pet gets regular exercise, you can ward off obesity and channel his energy into a productive action. This can save you money on future weight-related medical bills, not to mention replacing items chewed up out of boredom and excess energy in the long run. Consult with your vet about what exercises would be best for your pet.

12. Shop Around for Pet Insurance

It’s important to consider pet insurance before you run into serious health issues. Investigate all your options and compare prices to find the right policy for you. Sometimes the most expensive option doesn’t offer the right coverage for your pet, so do your research before spending money.

13. Buy in Bulk

When you see sales, stock up on products you definitely know your pet will use. Visit warehouse clubs to find good deals on large quantities of items your pet loves.

14. Learn Your Pet’s Routine and Behavior

If you know how your pet usually acts and he suddenly starts behaving differently, you may be able to tell something is wrong before it becomes serious and more costly to address. Know your pet, and if you see any changes in behavior, start investigating what may be the cause.

15. Buy Clumping Litter

Cat Dental

Avoid expensive litters made from exotic ingredients and spend your money on clumping litter for cats. You’ll spend less on cleaning cat mess as a result. If you want some odor control, don’t shell out for litters with scents like lavender. Clumping litter with a touch of charcoal is less expensive and gets the job done.

16. Perform Routine Dental Care

Try to get your pet used to daily brushing and maintain good dental health practices at home in addition to routine dental exams at your veterinary clinic. Keeping your pet’s teeth clean all year long can help you avoid expensive procedures in the future. This isn't just a matter of your pet having better breath (although that's certainly a plus); poor dental health can also lead to tooth loss and infections that spread to the heart, liver and kidneys.

Coupons
17. Look for Coupons

Keeping an eye out for coupons is a great way to save money. Look for them in your local paper or on websites like Coupons.com. There are also websites that continually offer discounts on products, like Wag.com and Dog.com, but remember to take shipping into account if you purchase from these sites.

18. Know Your Pet

As a responsible pet owner, you should know as much as possible about your pet. Do research online or at a library and investigate if your specific pet or breed may be susceptible to any specific diseases or other risks. This knowledge can help you be aware of important preventive care steps and be on the lookout for hereditary diseases or conditions so they can be treated earlier.

19. Teach Basic Training at Home

For experienced and committed dog owners, DIY training can be a great way to save some cash. There are a number of books you can purchase or borrow, like AKC STAR Puppy: A Positive Behavioral Approach to Puppy Training, as well as free or inexpensive apps such as Puppy Coach 101 that can guide you through a training program.

If you're new to training, have a dog with strong instincts (like an Akita or Alaskan Malamute) or know that you need structure in order to follow through on training lessons, you might want to consider paying for a basic obedience group class. This can save you big bucks down the line and keep your dog from developing bad habits. Proper training, whether it's done at home, in class or with a personal trainer, is of the utmost importance.

20. Skip Designer Cat Trees

It can be tempting to spoil your cat with an expensive tree or perch, but they might not be necessary if you already have a good number of toys and scratchers. If you really want to buy one, look for inexpensive multilevel trees that will give your cat plenty of room. You can also get creative and DIY your own tree to save money.

If you’re hesitant about trying any of these tips on your own, seek a professional opinion before moving forward. Be smart about the areas you decide to spend less money on and always remember that no amount of money saved is worth a risky home remedy and your pet's health or safety.