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Keeping a pet does not have to cost a lot, even in a recession.

True, expenses for the first year or two, including for behavioral training and spaying or neutering, can top $500. But after that, annual costs to care for a pet are much lower.

Devon Moos, the owner of a dachshund named Ruby Tuesday, says she spends $200 a year on all of the basics for her pet, including supplies to make her own dog food.

“I would rather take the time to make her food on a weekly basis and know she's getting what she needs nutritionally,” says Moos.

Here are some ways to curb costs (including some tips from Moos on being a pet chef):

1. Food for Less: Keep it Simple
Organic pet food is gaining appeal, but it may not actually be worth the extra money.

“Pet food, especially the organic and human-grade kind, can get expensive. For pet food, there’s no official definition of organic, human-grade, premium, no fillers, or gourmet,” notes Consumer Reports. So there’s no need to spend extra money on pet food with these claims, Consumer Reports says.

By feeding your pet traditional pet food, your annual costs can top $200 on food alone, assuming you pay about $16.99 per 20- to 30-pound bag of pet food and need one bag per month. Buying generic or store brand dog food, on the other hand could save you about 25%, according to Consumer Reports.

Some consumers question the quality of store brand products, but the fact is store brand pet food adheres to regulations set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and often the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials on the state level as well. (AAFCO verifies that pet food has either been lab tested and has the recommended amounts of protein, fat, and other nutrient content, or that it provides complete and balanced nutrition.)

And if you’ve been paying for fancy wet cat food, keep in mind that there’s no nutritional difference between wet and dry pet food, according to Consumer Reports experts. “Wet foods contain about 75% water, so you’ll need to buy more to get the same calories as in dry food,” Consumer Reports says.

2. Buy in Bulk
If you buy traditional dry pet food in bulk and stock up when it’s on sale, you could end up paying $150 or less per year on furry friend food. Remember, the bigger the bag, the more you save. And more expensive food isn’t necessarily better quality food.

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Speaking with a veterinarian about maintaining adequate portion control could also save you money and keep your pet at a healthy weight, possibly helping it live longer as well.

3. Play Chef for Your Pet
Making your own pet food could actually save you money, especially if you’re incorporating your own healthy leftovers.

Moos says she typically combines ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey or chunks of chicken with vegetables, rice and a vitamin supplement. In addition, she buys medication to prevent heart worms, treats from a local dog treat bakery, a new toy every now and then, and pays for a nail trim as needed, all for about $200 per year, she says.

4. You Be the Groomer
Having a low-maintenance pet, like a dog with short hair, could also save you money on grooming. But if you do have a long-haired pooch, you can bathe and groom your pet yourself to save money. And after all, a haircut for your pet isn’t necessarily as important as your own haircut.

5. Get Help from Human Friends
Instead of hiring a dog walker or cat sitter, or spending money on a kennel, you can set up a mutually beneficial arrangement to barter or trade favors with another animal-loving friend. Consider joining, and or other pro-pet social networks like, and a host of others that allow users to connect with other pet lovers.

6. Preventive Care
You may not have to dole out hundreds of dollars a year for pet health insurance if your pet is young and healthy. And taking adequate preventive care could curb unexpected medical costs. For example, preventive dental care and heartworm prevention measures could bring down costs by reducing visits to the vet.

If you’re concerned about unexpected medical costs, or you have an older pet, paying a few hundred bucks for health insurance may be worth it.

Related Links:

The True Cost of Man's Best Friend

Kennel Confidential: Doggy Day Care at Any Budget

How Your Pet Can Save You Money

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