Unexpected Expenses (and Savings) of Being a New Dog Owner

Pistachio, who would definitely be rolling in a pile of money if we were better at Photoshop.

I was a laughably naive first-time dog owner. I thought I was going to be one of those “no dogs on the furniture” people, keeping my dog off my couch and bed with my commanding presence alone.

Obviously, that didn’t come close to happening. My dog, Pistachio, now legally owns all furniture in my home. I also didn’t anticipate many of the dog-related expenses that would soon lord over my wallet, and indeed, my life.

Here’s a list of them. But there’s a twist: I’ve also included the ways my dog has saved me money.


Cute dog toys: $260/year

Amazon knows my dog needs a trio of plush woodland critters.

This is kind of a “duh” one. Obviously, I expected to buy Pistachio toys. I just didn’t realize the extent to which I would buy them. They’re so cute and they’re everywhere. They are everywhere. I’m way better about it now, but when I first adopted my dog, I must have bought her a new toy every week, at roughly $5 a toy.

Luckily, I’m not the only one buying toys for Pistachio; please see “Other people buying your dog stuff below. Make enough friends, and you can completely outsource this cost!

Poop bags: $150/year

Again, I expected to buy poop bags to some degree. Just not… so many. Also, I didn’t anticipate the guilt I’d feel over buying non-biodegradable bags. The environmentally-friendly ones are more expensive, naturally. (Pun intended.)

I’d estimate that I go through two rolls of biodegradable poop bags each week. Looking at the numbers, this doesn’t seem that expensive, but it still always, always feels like I’m out of poop bags.

Gifts for other people’s dogs: $120/year

I’m going to estimate that dog gifts cost me $20 every other month. After I became a dog owner, my dog oxytocin levels went through the roof, and it became imperative for me to buy gifts for all the other dogs in my life. This is especially true if a friend adopts a new dog. I have to cap myself at $20 per dog gift (usually a bag of treats and a toy) or it would just get too out of control.

Donations to dog shelters: $240/year

Similar to above (dog oxytocin). Now that I have a dog, I feel a debt to dog shelters and rescue groups, which I express by weeping openly when I walk by adoption events. Also, I want a second dog, but I know I shouldn’t cram more than one dog in my apartment, so I settle for throwing ~$20 to one shelter or another each month.

Lost hours of productivity at work

Just kidding, I don’t care.

What’s productivity compared to that adorable face?


Other people buying your dog stuff: $120/year

This is a tough one to estimate, but I’m going to say it saves me something like $10 each month. (Caveat: most of these gifts come in chunks around Christmas.)

If you’re a new dog owner and are freaked out at how much you’ve been spending, take heart. There is a cumulative effect that benefits both you and those who love you: you’re now an easy person to buy gifts for. Once your family and friends have heard the good word that you’re an NDP (New Dog Parent), they will, in my experience, happily buy you dog supplies for holidays, your birthday, and whatever else you celebrate. My boyfriend’s parents got me a BarkBox subscription for Christmas, and I haven’t bought dog treats since then.

Never leaving the house: $1,040/year

Maybe I should give partial credit to my aging, increasingly dilapidated body, but I’ve had Pistachio for almost four years and I’ve gone out, like, twice. Watching TV on the couch becomes 10 million times more appealing when there’s a dog curled up next to you. I can’t remember the last time I wanted to leave my apartment. “Want to come to my birthday party?” No, I want to watch Forensic Files with my dog. “Want to participate in my barn raising?” No, I don’t know how to do that, and also, I have a dog. “Want to be my maid of honor?” No. Dog.

I’m going to estimate that post-dog, I’ve declined an average of one night out each week, each of which would have cost $20 (popcorn and a movie, or a couple of drinks at a bar). True, it’s impossible to know whether I would have said yes to these outings in the absence of a dog. But my apartment is much cozier with her here, and the outside world, as I’ve come to think of it, seems cold and uninviting by comparison. Out there, there’s traffic, expensive drinks, and the risk of running into someone I kind of know but whose name I can’t place. In here, there’s a dog who lets me put her ears in my mouth free of charge. The choice is pretty obvious.

Who’s a good money-saving dog?

Allegra Ringo is a writer, dog lover and podcast guy. Follow her on Twitter at @allegraringo, and check out her Maximum Fun podcast Can I Pet Your Dog?

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