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Everyone wants to attach a value to things these days, even to man’s best friend.

Although the cost of pet ownership can be high (even without pet insurance) MainStreet thinks it’s pretty darn hard to put a price on unconditional love. If unwavering affection and attention aren’t enough of a draw, check out these three ways pets can actually help you save a dime.

1. She’s your 24/7 on-call therapist.Pet owners have less stress and marital tension, lower rates of depression and quicker recovery times from stressful events, according to a growing body of research from the Center to Study Human Animal Relationships and Environments and the National Institutes of Health.

In urban areas, the going rate for shrinks can be $200 an hour. (And no, we're not saying you should shun therapy.)

Practically speaking, we love the little ones because they put up with our sour moods and stress long after friends and family write us off. You can complain endlessly about [insert current obsession that everyone in your social circle is tired of hearing about] and they’ll look at you like they care, without charging you for their time. Finally, even the pet-averse have to admit it’s virtually impossible to feel alone in this world when you’ve got a furry creature under your toes at all times.

2. He knows how to work the room (and the park and the Web). Happy hours, movie nights and dinners out can break the bank, but Fido is an on-command fun maker and social butterfly for free. He loves to window shop (free), is a hit at dog runs (free), finds low-budget ways to use every square inch of the park (Frisbee, jogging, or chewing on a stick, all free) and has basically never met a stranger he doesn't like. Even the most socially awkward of us can chat up someone new with Fido as the wingman. In fact, studies suggest that pet ownership can increase confidence, improve self-esteem and heighten social skills (which can lead to a bigger Rolodex, which can lead to a better job and salary).

For those who can’t be bothered with face-to-face human interaction, social networking for pets is happening, too. Web veterans, and are joined by newer networks like, and a host of others that allow users to connect with fellow pet lovers, share photos, ask questions and offer (free) advice.

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3. Hello, built-in gym membership! Depending on where you live, gym costs can range anywhere from $50 to $200, and higher, a month. But effective calorie burning doesn’t have to happen behind closed doors. NIH studies show dog owners may get more exercise than non-pet owners. Plus, fitness research has shown that a few 10-minute bouts of cardio activity throughout the day are as beneficial as a single sweat session lasting the same amount of time. So even quick walks with the pooch add up to trimming your waistline. Finally, even if you and Rex are more meanderers than marathoners, every step you take on a stroll will contribute to the 10,000 steps a day that many studies suggest you shoot for.

During a recession, it’s good to know that even Baxter can lend a paw in your cost-cutting strategies.

Related Stories:

The True Cost of Man's Best Friend

Nine Ways Pet Owners Can Save Big

5 Outrageous Ways to Pamper Your Pup

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