Don’t Let a Surprise Pet-Related Expense Drive You into Debt

If you end up relying on a high-interest payday cash advance to cover your pet’s vet bill, neither of you will benefit in the long run.

Fur parents love their fur babies; in fact, 95 percent of pet owners consider their pets to be a part of the family. And while pets aren’t quite as expensive as kids, they can still run up some pretty sizeable bills—especially if they get sick.

Pets are expensive.

The cost of owning a pet can put a lot of financial stress on low-income families. According to ASPCA estimates, the first-year cost of owning a pet exceeds $1,000, and most people spend more than $500 a year after that.

Even if you took these costs into account when you first welcomed your pet into your home, you may have experienced a change in income or other unexpected costs.  And a single pet healthcare emergency can cost several hundred dollars—an expense 40 percent of Americans would not be able to cover.

Some people might be tempted to take out short-term bad credit loans or predatory no credit check loans (like payday loans, cash advances, or even title loans) to pay for the cost of their pet’s care. But these small-dollar loans come with significant risks.

With short terms and average annual interest rates reaching almost 400 percent, short-term bad credit and no credit check loans can trap borrowers in a cycle of debt that can be difficult to overcome.

Instead of relying on expensive predatory loans to cover the cost of your pet’s care, consider the following strategies.

Budget and save.

First, consider whether you might be able to cut costs. Find ways to save money on groceries, cut out any unnecessary services, buy items used, and sell items you don’t need.

You should also compare prices for pet food and buy in bulk when you can.

If you’re a budgeting newbie, we have a helpful beginner’s guide that comes with a free downloadable budgeting spreadsheet to get you started. Even if your pet is in perfect health—or you don’t have any pets at all—you should have a monthly budget.

Visit a pet food bank.

If you’re struggling to afford pet food, check to see if there is a pet food bank in your area.

You can also contact local nonprofit organizations aimed at keeping pets with their owners. Some will be able to provide assistance with buying pet food.

Consider visiting a food bank for your own food as well. Meals on Wheels delivers both pet food and human food to families in need.

Seek help from a nonprofit.

When your pet is in need of expensive medical treatment, it can be difficult for the whole family. But before you take out a payday loan, get in touch with nonprofit organizations aimed at providing emergency medical assistance to pets in need.

The following organizations may be able to help:

The Humane Society also keeps a list of local and national resources, and the ASPCA can help you find local, low-cost spay and neuter programs.

Seek help from the community.

You should always ask friends or family members directly to begin with, but if that option isn’t available to you, you may be able to utilize crowdfunding.

When creating a campaign, be honest and detailed about your pet’s needs, and include pictures. The following sites allow you to raise money from the community:

Take out a lower-cost loan.

If you’re still in need of cash and can’t bear the thought of finding a new home for your pet, you may need to borrow money.

But short-term online loans and storefront cash advances should always be considered a last resort, and you should only borrow what you will reasonably be able to pay back.

Start by asking friends and family for financial assistance. Sure, this conversation will probably be uncomfortable, but they’re probably going to give you a much better deal than your average payday lender.

Next, visit local banks or credit unions, which offer lower-cost loans. If you have bad credit and are found ineligible for mainstream financial services, consider taking out a bad credit installment loan.

These personal loans often come with longer terms and lower interest rates than your typical payday loan. And with some bad credit installment lenders making your payments on time could even improve your credit history.

Find a new home for your pet.

It might be heartbreaking to say goodbye to your pet, but sometimes it’s in their best interest. If you can’t secure additional income, a loan won’t help you afford your pet in the long run.

You can list your pet on Craigslist, Petfinder, or Get Your Pet and personally ensure you find a loving home that meets your pet’s needs. You can also surrender your pet to The Humane Society.

Build your savings and your credit score.

If you’re in an immediate bind, this advice won’t be much good to you. But if you’re trying to plan ahead before a financial emergency strikes, you should focus on two things: building your emergency fund and improving your credit score.

Unlike money that you’re saving for retirement, an emergency fund should be easily accessible during times of financial duress. Start with the goal of building a $1,000 fund, but don’t stop there. The more money you have saved up for emergencies, the more secure you’ll be.

When it comes to your credit score, better credit means more access to low-cost loans and credit cards to help cover unforeseen expenses. Paying down your existing debt and paying your bills on time are the two best actions you can take to improve your score long-term.

Your pet has no idea how emergency funds or credit scores work, but if you’re financially prepared to weather a pricey veterinarian’s bill, we’re sure they’ll find a way to thank you for it—probably one that involves lots of licking and snuggles.

To learn more about how you can build your savings and your credit, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

Do you have a personal finance question you’d like us to answer? Let us know! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.