Confessions of a yuppie dog owner and the importance of tracking your spending

When I first adopted my puppy, I joked with friends that I wouldn’t become one of those crazies who wear T-shirts that say, “I didn’t rescue my dog – my dog rescued me.” But within months of bringing John Hughes* home, I was searching Etsy for that very item of clothing. Maybe it’s because I’m a single person who lives on her own or maybe it’s because John Hughes is simply the best dog to ever walk the earth (FACT!), but he’s become a pretty big deal to me. He’s family – and it’s apparent to anyone who catches a glimpse of my All-John-Hughes-All-the-Time Instagram feed.

“Oh, I want a dog so badly!” said a friend. I was about to predictably gush about how great John Hughes was when she followed her comment up with a question I dread.

“How much does it cost to have a dog?”

I can be pretty open about money (one does not get the gig of Jane Dough by being shy about it!) but this is one area that I’m pretty embarrassed about. That’s because when I finally forced myself to tally everything up, the answer was a mind-blowing explanation of why my bank account never seemed to grow.

I had to face the reality that I was a ridiculous yuppie pet owner.

When you get a dog, there will always be some upfront fees – the adoption fee (mine was $275 to a rescue organization), first vet visit and vaccines (something around $250) and a city pet licence ($25). You’ll eventually also likely spay or neuter your dog ($300-ish). Then you get into other initial necessities and you can go simple or extravagant here – collar, leash, brushes, nail trimmers, poop bags, water and food bowls, a bed and perhaps a crate. You’ll want to get a few toys and, of course, dog food. These things can run you anywhere from $150 to well over $500.

I started off simply. In fact, John Hughes’s first bed was a folded-up sleeping bag and a stack of blankets that I bought at Value Village – which I placed in a crate that I was lucky enough to borrow from a friend. Given that John Hughes is a mutt and I didn’t know how much he would grow (he was just three-months old when he rescued me I rescued him), I didn’t want to invest in stuff that I’d have to soon replace.

But this was the end of my sane and frugal decisions when it came to John Hughes.

Private puppy training lessons, frequent unnecessary trips to the vet (“Does this nail look normal?!”), a web-streaming puppy cam to watch him while I was out, and eventually beds and a crate fit for the swankiest of Great Danes (a breed John Hughes most definitely isn’t) soon followed.

“Ok,” you’re thinking, “that’s just stuff at the beginning. It calmed down after that, right?”

Cringe.

The most shameful aspect of my yuppie dog ownership related to the ongoing “lifestyle” that I was shelling out for, all in my efforts to ensure that John Hughes would be so healthy and happy that he would never, ever die. This included:

    Pet insurance: Even when I didn’t have insurance, my dog did.

    Dog walker: While I was at work, John Hughes got picked up every day, DRIVEN to the city’s best dog park and beach where he played with a group of dogs that matched his personality, size and energy level.

    Food: Because John Hughes has a sensitive stomach (cue eye rolls), I went with a prepared, organic, raw food diet – which is astronomically more expensive than Alpo. My grandparents, who survived the Depression and World War II, would slap me in my stupid mouth if they knew what I spent on this. For a dog.

    Treats: Again, only the best marrow bones and pig ears for John Hughes.

I groom John Hughes myself, I don’t regularly buy him toys and he doesn’t own clothes (I’m not that crazy). And despite this, the grand total of what I spent on a mutt every month was …

$800.

When that number flashed on my screen, I had to stop myself from curling into a fetal position on the floor. $800. OMG. That’s just … insane.

Forcing myself to look at the financial reality of the situation (which takes more courage than it does time) allowed me to see just how nutty I was being. John Hughes is still a very pampered pooch and I admittedly still spend too much money on him – but when I saw the cold dollar figure, I knew I needed to make changes and cut back.

Chances are, I’m not alone in this. Unchecked spending – not necessarily on a dog but on things like dining out, cars, hobbies, clothes – can easily pull us away from our financial goals. If you suspect you’ve gone a little (or a lot) off the rails, confirm it by putting your spending down on paper and tallying it up.

Do you have any spending habits that freak you out? Tell us about them!

*not his real name – but would have been if I didn’t feel so silly yelling it in a dog park

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