Pets can bring love, companionship, stimulation, and fun into your life. But they can also bring a lot of added expenses.
In fact, the lifetime cost of owning a dog is estimated to run around $15,000. Cats are not far behind, ringing up at roughly $12,000 over the course of their lives.
If you’re yearning for a furry companion, but the high cost of owning a pet gives you worry, you don’t necessarily have to give up on the idea. There are actually a number of cheap pet options out there, and many are also low maintenance and adapt quickly to their new homes.
From small birds to bunny rabbits, here are nine cheap, easy-to-care-for pets you may want to consider adding to the family.
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If you’re looking for something cuddly that’s easier on the wallet than a puppy, you may want to consider a guinea pig. These entertaining creatures live about five to seven years, so they also typically require less of a time commitment than a cat or a dog.
A guinea pig can cost anywhere from $10 and $70. If you go for an exotic guinea pig from a local breeder, you can pay up to $120.
In addition to the guinea pig, owners will need to make sure they have a cage that has enough room for it to move around and some bedding that will get changed fairly often.
Guinea pig food is relatively cheap– less than $10 for a bag. But these affordable pets can also live off leftover vegetable and fruit scraps.
Guinea pigs thrive as social creatures, so you may want to purchase more than one guinea pig or ensure you’re spending ample time with your furry companion.
While hermit crabs aren’t cuddly, they can make great pets if you’re looking for a low-key companion that doesn’t require much supervision.
The cost of owning a hermit crab is pretty low (a crab runs around $6 at pet stores). Owners will also need to get a tank with a vented lid, drinking and humidity sponges, a water dish, climbing wood and a humidity gauge.
Once crabs have outgrown one shell you’ll need to buy their next, larger shell, which is a small cost.
Hermit crabs need humidity levels between 70 and 80 percent, which means owners will need to mist their pets and their tanks at least once a day to keep these creatures happy and healthy. It’s also important to clean their quarters and change their water often.
Being small creatures, crabs don’t cost much to feed. You can feed these little cheap pets vegetable scraps, fruit, or pellet food.
Sea Monkeys are a novelty pet marketed as “instant pets.” They’re actually a type of brine shrimp sold in kits, usually targeted to children.
Developed in a lab in the 1950s, sea monkeys are sold as packets of eggs that hatch when you add water. These small pets will hatch in a few days and stay alive for about two years. They also reproduce, so you could have a steady supply for some time.
Sea monkey kits, which include the eggs and an aquarium, only run around $28. To keep your Sea Monkeys alive, all you need to do is to top up water levels occasionally and feed them once a week (a bag of food costs about $6).
African dwarf frogs are small, completely aquatic, and among the easiest types of frogs to keep as pets. This species can be a good beginner frog for owners who are content to look only–handling them is not a good idea.
Dwarf frogs grow to around one-and-a-half inches and live up to five years with good care. They can live in an aquarium alongside docile fish like tetras if you want to own a few creatures.
Besides the frog, which typically only costs a few dollars, owners of these low-cost pets will need to purchase a tank with a tight-fitting lid (which you may be able to find second hand), gravel or sand for the bottom, and some decorative hiding spots, such as live or silk plants and small terra cotta plant pots placed on their sides.
Keeping dwarf frogs healthy is really just a matter of making sure that their aquarium water is clean and offering them a proper dwarf frog diet–they like to munch on frozen mysis shrimp, bloodworms, food pellets, and brine shrimp.
Goldfish can add interest to any room, are fun to watch, and pretty low maintenance. The fish themselves usually only run a couple of dollars.
While you may picture this fish living in a classic goldfish bowl, these days many experts recommend investing in a filtered tank in order to keep their habitat clean.
While aquariums aren’t cheap, the only additional cost after that is the food. Purchasing fish pellets or flakes will set you back a few bucks.
To save some money, you may want to search for used equipment at yard sales, thrift stores, or websites such as Craigslist or Offer Up. One you’ve invested in a tank and the decorative bits, these items will last indefinitely and can be re-used for future fish..
These tiny lizards are friendly and fun to have around, and don’t require a lot of upkeep. As with goldfish, the biggest cost is likely to be a habitat. You may be able to save here by buying one-second hand from an online marketplace.
The cost of a leopard gecko runs anywhere from $20 to $70. In addition to the tank, leopard gecko owners will need to get some type of lighting (with an incandescent bulb), a hide-out, and possibly a heat pad, depending on temperatures in your home.
Other than that, you’ll need to regularly feed them a diet of insects, including crickets and waxworms, as well as fresh vegetables and clean water.
If you’re looking for one of the cheapest pets, that is also low-maintenance, an ant farm may fit the bill. While ants don’t provide bonding or cuddling opportunities, it can be fun and fascinating to watch an ant farm grow, particularly for kids.
Depending on the kit, ant farms will set you back less than $40 and some include ants (you can also purchase live ants online or at your local pet store).
While kits have traditionally been made from sand, modern ant farms are now often made with a clear, edible gel that lets you watch your ants tunnel much more closely.
After you get the farm and the ants, there isn’t much to do other than making sure you provide water and the occasional bits of food.
Canaries can be great pets that offer companionship and melodies, and can even learn to do little tricks like playing with a ball or stepping onto your hand. These types of birds live around 10 years and aren’t as expensive as more exotic breeds.
Costs include a cage, small toys, food, and the occasional veterinary visit (if they’re sick). You can purchase canaries from pet stores or breeders — the latter may offer more options depending on where you live.
You could pay as much anywhere from $100 to $400 for a bird, so it’s not necessarily the cheapest pet on the list. However, it’s still considered a low-cost pet compared to a dog or cat.
While rabbits are as large as some cat and dog breeds, they qualify as a cheap, low-maintenance pet. You can expect to pay only around $25 for a non-pedigreed rabbit. You may even be able to adopt a rescue through the Humane Society or ASPCA.
Rabbits also have a small appetite–owners will typically only need to buy a large bag of food every few months (around $20). These fluffy companions will also need a rabbit hutch, but you may be able to find one cheaply through a second-hand marketplace. Or, you can build one yourself.
Rabbits are happy to live outside or in (they can actually be potty trained). If you opt for indoors, you may want to keep in mind that they can chew on wires and furniture legs if allowed to roam free. Some breeds, such as angora rabbits, also require grooming.
These furry friends live about seven to 10 years.
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Whether furry, feathered or reptilian, owning a pet doesn’t need to cost a small fortune. As you can see from the list here, there are plenty of cheap pets that are easy to care for and waiting for you to take them home.
Before you make a commitment to a pet, however, you may want to make sure your little companion will fit into your lifestyle and that you have time to take care of it.
And, since even an Inexpensive pet will add to your household expenses, you may also want to make sure that the start-up costs for the animal and equipment, as well as on-going expenses involved in the care and feeding of your new pet will fit into your budget comfortably.
Want to start setting some money aside for a new pet? Consider opening a SoFi Money® cash management account.
SoFi Money offers a special “vaults” feature where you separate your savings from your spending, while still earning competitive interest on all your money. You can even set up a vault for your future little companion.
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
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