Should You Get Pet Insurance?

Let’s be real – this post is just an excuse for me to share adorable pics of my parents’ new puppy, Rudy.

Rudy 3

Tired out from 10 minutes of hardcore wrestling that stuffed animal.

Just kidding. Pet insurance is a real thing. And with the vet costs on the rise, it’s something a lot of pet owners consider purchasing. My mom requested that I write this blog because she was wondering if she should get pet insurance for her new puppy. FYI – he’s an eight week old yellow lab in case you’re wondering. He just went home with my parents yesterday! I might have to move back in with them just so he has a sibling . . .

As cuddly and cute as Rudy is, he’s expensive. Your wallet gets hit the first time when you purchase your new pal. Then you have to spend more money on every day expenses like food, training, and accessories (leashes, crates, toys). By the time you get to vet fees for stuff like shots, neutering, and check ups Rudy and his fury friends are running up a pretty high tab.

According to a survey done by the American Pet Products Association, cat owners spend an average of $219 a year on routine vet visits. That’s a per cat cost, too, so if you’re a crazy cat lady then you can multiply it by 12. For dog owners the cost is even higher at an average of $248 per year. And that’s only if your four-legged friend is healthy. Costs go up dramatically if your pet has a health scare. Foreign body ingestion, aka your dog ate something he wasn’t supposed to, costs an average of $1,629 to handle. Our old dog Bode suffered from Inter-vertebral Disc Disease. The average cost to treat that? $3,282. Not cheap! Plus the only repayment you’ll get from your dog for a lot of these medical expenses are the laughs that ensue while watching them live with one of those embarrassing cones on their head.

Our old puppy Bode and his Cone of Shame.

Bode and his Cone of Shame.

All joking aside, most of us want to do whatever we can to keep our pets healthy. They’re members of the family after all. But with the cost of care so high, footing the bill for veterinary visits is no easy feat. A recent survey by the Associated Press showed that 41% of pet owners are somewhat worried that they could not afford medical care for a sick cat or dog. So is pet insurance a good solution?

The answer is yes and no. You see, experts still don’t agree on whether or not the cost of pet insurance premiums is worth the coverage you get. Because even though it’s for pets, it’s still insurance so it has to be complicated.

Consumer Reports did an experiment in 2011 where they compared the cost vs. payout of nine pet policies for Roxy, a healthy beagle. In her ten years of life Roxy’s owners had spent about $7,000 on veterinary costs. For the same period of time, the total price of pet insurance premiums exceeded $7,000 for each of the nine insurance companies they researched. Based on this study, Consumer Reports concluded that the benefits of pet insurance are very rarely worth the cost.

Here's another pic of Rudy in case the insurance talk is boring you.

Here’s another pic of Rudy in case the insurance talk is boring you.

That Consumer Reports study was done four years ago, however, and medical costs for pets have only gone up since then. New treatments for pets are being created all the time. Bode even went to a doggy chiropractor a few times. With more and more options for treatments available, pets are living longer. Which means owners are encountering more medical costs. So the chances that vet costs might exceed those insurance premiums are increasing.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Kelsey, this doesn’t help me at all! Should I get pet insurance or not?!”

My answer to that questions is yes, you should consider pet insurance IF:

  • You can afford the monthly premium, which is typically anywhere from $20 to $60.
  • Piece of mind is important to you. If you don’t ever want to have to choose between your pet’s health and your wallet’s, then pet insurance might be right for you.
  • You understand the terms of the insurance coverage you pay for. Pet insurance, like other types of insurance, comes with deductibles and co-pays. Make sure you understand what is covered for your pet so there are no surprises.
  • You’re fine with the possibility that you could pay for insurance each month and never use the coverage for a healthy dog or cat.

If you don’t think pet insurance is right for you, then here’s an easy alternative – make a pet savings account! Put $10 or $20 a month into a savings account specifically designated for potential pet-related expenses. At our credit union you could set up a club savings account in minutes, in person or on the phone, to start saving for your pet ASAP. You can even set up an automatic transfer each month into that account so the money gets saved without you having to think about it. The money in that pet savings account will help you pay for vet costs. And unlike with traditional insurance, you won’t be restricted to using the funds for medical expenses, so you could use it to pay for other stuff like going to the groomers or extra treats! Bonus – if your pet lives a long, happy life you might never use the money and this way it would be in your bank account instead of the insurance company’s pocket.

Bottom line: whether you chose to use insurance or not, pets are expensive. Make sure you factor in all potential pet costs when creating your budget, including those pesky unexpected trips to the vet.

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My Dog is Better than Yours

Today is National Dog Day. And although my 12 year-old yellow lab lacks the ability to read, what he does have is a keen sense of sarcasm. So what better way to honor him than by writing a post detailing all of the reasons why he is, in fact, the greatest dog to have ever lived?

10 Reasons Why Bode is Cooler than Your Dog:

1. He’s photogenic. Just look at his face. LOOK AT IT. If you could snuggle this photo, you would. Don’t lie.

Hello, friend.

Hello, friend.

2.He’s a creep. And he embraces it. Bode is always lurking somewhere, just casually staring you. Like you’ll let him outside, won’t see him for a while, and then you’ll just look out the window to see him staring at you like this . . .

Here he is just hanging out in the woods. With devil eyes. Casual.

With devil eyes. Casual.

3. He loves my mom. Bode has an undying loyalty to this woman. His only goal in life is to be as close as possible to her at all times. He will do whatever it takes to succeed.

She went in this room and closed the door. This is how he waited until she came out.

She went in this room and closed the door. This is how he waited until she came out.

4. He enjoys a good cuddle! Bode will snuggle with you any time, any where. Probably even if you didn’t want to snuggle. Most likely even more so if you’re afraid of dogs and you tried to resist him. And 100% if you sit on the floor, you will cuddle with him. You have no choice. Why would you sit down there if you didn’t want him in your lap?

"Love me." - Bode

“Love me.” – Bode

5. He appreciates a good fort. Bode’s hobbies include eating, sighing loudly for no reason, and squishing himself under furniture. I’m not really sure how he fits under my parent’s coffee table. He just does. And it’s adorable. But the real hilarity ensues when he tries to get out. How he moves is best described by the word “scuttling.” He looks like a crab.

Under the table, where the spooks can't get him.

Under the table, where the spooks can’t get him.

6. He looks good human clothes. Slippers? Don’t mind if I do! Hats? Certainly, good sir. Bode looks dapper no matter what accessories you force him to wear. But I think it’s the slight look of, “Must you really, with the clothes and the photos? Psh, humans,” in his eye that really pulls his looks together.

Bode Hat

He looks like a train conductor.

Shoes.

Shoes.

7. He’s sassy. As a puppy, Bode once ran up behind my mom and jumped a solid 3 feet into the air, just so he could nip her on the bum. Then there was the time that my sister tried to give him a treat and he rejected it. He took the treat in his mouth, gave her the hairy eye-ball, then actually tossed his head and released the treat back at her. He’s always judging and always dolling out the sass.

Throwin' shade.

Throwin’ shade.

8. He’s surprisingly good at catching things. One time, one of our neighbors free range chickens roamed a little too far down their driveway, and Bode caught him. He picked the chicken right up in his mouth, but gently so he teeth didn’t dig into him. And then he came running towards us all proud, showing off. My mom saved the chicken and brought him back to his home, but he might have died from a heart attack shortly afterward.

One time I threw a ball for Bode and he came back with this pear.

One time I threw a ball for Bode and he came back with this pear.

9. He’s majestic. Most of the time he’s a total goofball, but every now and then he will catch you off guard and look like one of those dogs in the lab calendars we’re always buying my mom for Christmas (she likes those, right?).

Gazing off into the distance.

Gazing off into the distance.

10. He’s just an all around good boy. And that’s all there is to it. As much as I may complain that he smells or licks my face while I’m sleeping or gets little white hairs all over my clothes, he is the best dog in the world. And I love him.

Love Bug xoxo

Love Bug xoxo

In conclusion, your dog is probably pretty great, but my dog is better. Happy National Dog Day, to all my four-legged friends out there.

Be Money-Smart & Well-Read – Tips for Finding Cheap Books

book love

If you are a book nerd like me, this post is for you!  I’m an avid reader.  On average I finish about 2 or 3 books a month.  If I’m really on a roll or have a lot of free time, I have been known to read 2 or 3 books a week.  And I always have a book on me, either in my purse or in my car.  I’m sure all this reading makes my mom, a 30+ year veteran of English teaching, very proud; but every now and then I add up my book tab for the month and am blown away by the price.  Buying books is not cheap!!!  The average paperback is about $12.  Even if I was being a bad reader and only got 2 books a month for a year, that’s $288 (that’s more than one month’s car payment right there!).  2 books a week would cost me $1,192.

I know what you’re thinking . . . “Go to the library, dumby! The books there are free.”  And you would be right – getting a library card is the easiest way to save money on buying books.  Almost every town has a public library and getting a card is typically free for all residents.  BUT if you are a super-reader, the library might not always solve your book-buying problems.  For example, when new books come out, it often takes libraries a little while to get them.  So if you’ve been waiting months for the new “Immortal Instruments” or “Game of Thrones” book to come out, you might be too impatient to wait for your local library to get a copy.  In addition, the library can only get a certain number of copies, so if you need a book right away and someone else has it out, you are out of luck.  Or what if you are stuck at home/ work and need something to read right away or you will die of boredom!!!!!!!! Or maybe a book ended with a cliff hanger and you need the sequal ASAP so you can find out what happens next (can you tell this happens to me frequently?).  And finally, sometimes borrowing a book isn’t enough; if you love it enough, you might need to own it.  The point is, if the library can’t meet all of your book needs, there are still ways you can get books on the cheap.  You can feed your book addiction without breaking the bank.  Here’s what to do:

1. Get an E-Reader: The best things about e-readers is that you have access to thousands of titles 24/7.  So if you have a “reading emergency” and need a book right away, you don’t have to make a trip to the store or library.  You can get a traditional e-reader like the Kindle or Nook or just use the iBooks app on your iPad.  E-readers have 2 great benefits: 1. Classic novels are usually free.  Canonized titles like “Pride and Prejudice,” “Wuthering Heights,” or “the Scarlet Letter” don’t cost you a penny to download. So you can feel literary and money smart at the same time. 2. New books for sale in stores in hardcover only are available for less on e-readers.  For example, I am obsessed with the author David Sedaris.  He is the funniest man alive and it is my ultimate life goal to write a novel that is 1/100 as funny as his semi-autobiographies.  When his new book “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” came out last April, I was able to get it for $9.99 on my iPad.  In stores it was available in hardcover only for $24.99. I was too impatient to wait for the book to come out in paperback, but I still saved myself $15.

2. Hook Up Your E-Reader to Your Library’s Digital Collection: Most libraries now offer a “virtual collection.”  This means that they have electronic versions of books availble to download on your computer, e-reader, iPad, etc.  The only downside is you only have access to the book temporarily, so after 7-14 days it will disappear from your library.  Additionally, they can only allow so many downloads of a certain title at a time, so the book you want might not be available.  But if you are looking for a book on your e-reader, I reccommend checking if your library has a digital copy first.  If it’s available for free through the library, save yourself money on the download Next time you stop by, ask your librarian if they have a electronic library and how it works.

3. Search for Book Swaps: One cheap way to get new reading material is to trade good books with friends and family.  Your friends most likely have similar interests and taste in novels so it’s a great way to find new titles and save a buck.  My mom always says “never throw a book away” so trading with friends lightens your book load and helps you share stories you love.  In addition, check out if your community has a book swap program.  The non-profit Little Free Library puts up little mailboxes where people can take/leave a book for free across the U.S. (and the world!).  Take a peak to see if there’s a Little Free Library in your area by visiting their website http://littlefreelibrary.org/ or think about making one if there’s not.

4. Buy Used: Like most things, books are cheaper if they were “previously-loved.”  A lot of book stores (Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble) often have a section of pre-owned books for sale.  They tend to only put out books that are gently used (so you don’t have to worry about missing pages or scribbles in the margins) and they are a great steal at $2 – $4.  Another hidden source of books – yard sales!  People looking to declutter their houses often put out stacks of books at yard sales (especially children’s books their kids have outgrown).  The prices are often negotiable and you might find some oldies but goodies in the pile.

I hope these tips help keep your library big but inexpensive!

bode snugs

P.S. Here’s a cute pic of my lazy Sunday reading partner.  Bode might not do any reading himself, but he loves to snuggle up  to you while you enjoy a good book.  Warning – he is sort of a blanket hog and he snores 🙂 .