Sunday, February 18, 2018

Saving Money on Pet Care

This week has not turned out at all like I thought it would! I have spent many hours in the car getting two of my dogs taken care of by multiple vets in our area. Having four dogs to take care of is not cheap and I have learned a lot this week about the varying prices that vets will charge for the same service! Here are several ways that I have learned to save money while still providing excellent care for our pets.

VACCINATIONS AND MEDICATIONS - First off, let's start in October which is when we have to update the dogs with their shots. If I go to my local vet, it's around $200/dog which is insane. So, about 4 years ago, we started using the local weekend shot clinics offered at our PetSense in town. The cost is only $79 per dog which saves us a ton of money each year! Cody (see right) is a biter so I was hesitant to let him get his shots at the clinic, but he did just fine once the vet tech let him know that HE was in charge. LOL! My local vet will price match online prices for heartworm meds (I usually use and this saves me almost $100 every 3 months compared to what I would pay if I bought it from them without the price match ($150 vs $56). So, ask your vet if he will match the online prices or give you a subscription so you can buy your meds online. It is a LOT cheaper that way!

A PET SPECIALIST USUALLY MEANS HIGHER PRICES - Jump to November. My shih-tzu, Gizzy, had an ulcer on his left eye when we adopted him 4 years ago (you can see it in this photo). Late summer, the eye started to bulge a little more and he had a lot of red in the whites of his eyes. My local vet (vet #1) said it was caused by a cyst that had formed on his eyelid. I had it removed ($200), but it didn't solve the problem. So, in December, I took him to the pet opthalomologist (vet #2) in Knoxville, TN and found out he had glaucoma in that eye! It needed to be removed to lessen any discomfort he was having due to the increased pressure in his eye. That vet gave me a quote of $1500. Yikes! I called my local vet when I got home and he gave me a quote of $800 for the same surgery. Well, that was a lot better, right? So we had the surgery early January. Gizzy had also had a dental done in December and required 5 extractions - total was $300. Remember these prices - they come into play later when I learned I could have saved HUNDREDS more on both of these services!

BE WILLING TO CALL AROUND TO GET BEST PRICE - Fast forward to February 1st. My husband got home early from work and decides to throw the ball with one of the dogs. Xena, our dachshund mix, ran out quickly when he opened the door and went down the long flight of stairs to the yard. Now, I had not been letting her go down the stairs since she started limping a few months back, but she is quick sometimes! When she came back up the stairs, she would not put any pressure on her back right leg. I thought it was her back again and, on February 2nd, called vet #3 in Rogersville, TN that I have used before because they have laser therapy. (I tell you, there is not a vet with ALL of the services I need in my town!) Vet #3 is almost an hour drive one way. I get there on February 5th and she is diagnosed with a tear in two parts of her knee structure. During her exam, I remarked about Gizzy's eye surgery and they said they would have done it for $250 (not $1500 or even the $800 I spent - argh!) However, vet #3 cannot do the knee surgery because they don't have the equipment, so refer me to vet #4 in Jonesborough, TN. I call them and get a quote of $650-850 for the knee surgery which is WAAAAAAYYYYY better than the $3200 quote I got from a vet in Knoxville that was also recommended. Major yikes! I actually called another 4 or 5 area vets to see if they even did the needed surgery. None of them did. So, I traveled to Jonesborough on February 13th to confirm the diagnosis and Xena is now scheduled for surgery next week in Jonesborough. This vet was so nice and our exam was complementary as well!

BE WILLING TO TRAVEL FOR A BETTER PRICE - In the meantime,  I had Shadow scheduled for a dental this week which he needed BADLY. The base price at vet #1, my local vet, is $200 plus extractions and pain meds, so I estimated it was going to be another $300 because I was pretty sure some teeth were rotted. However, looking at the possible $800+ bill for Xena, I knew I couldn't afford it. So, after scheduling Xena's surgery, I called and cancelled Shadow's dental thinking it would just have to wait until March or April. Then I decided to call vet#3 because they are known for their quality service and affordable prices and they told me their base price is $65 plus extractions and meds. They actually had an opening yesterday and I grabbed it and my final bill was $93 ... I saved about $200! They are definitely going to be my go-to for doggy dentals! Now, this was not a fun day as it is a very small town and so lacking in things to do and places to visit or shop. So, my day was like this - one hour drive there, drop off dog, one hour drive home, wait 2-1/2 hours, drive one hour back, pick up dog, drive a final hour back home. I was exhausted!

SHOP ONLINE FOR FOOD - A final recommendation is to check out or any other online dog food supplier for cheaper prices and more variety than what you can find in the stores. Cody must eat grain-free and it is less expensive to buy our chosen dog food online. We pay no sales tax and shipping is free if you set up an auto-ship. (I am not affiliated with; I just love their service!)

In conclusion, it has been an expensive and busy few months. I am very grateful that we have had the money in our emergency fund to take care of all of these expenses which have totalled about $3000 (there were exam costs associated with the surgeries, a couple of groomings and Cody had 2 ear infections during this time as well.) I actually set aside about $300/month to be sure we have the money needed to take care of the dogs. If I hadn't been doing that, it would have been so stressful to be dealing with these surprise surgery expenses.

On a final note, I am grateful for my local vet and that is where I take my dogs for their groomings. My biter, Cody, is settled there now and I honestly think it is best for him to get most of his treatments there because of his comfort level with the staff. So, please know that I believe it is best to have a good relationship with a nearby vet, which I do. However, there are times when it is easier on the budget to seek services elsewhere and I have no problem doing that as long as my dogs are still receiving excellent care.

If you have ways that you share on pet care costs, please share them with me in the comments because I need all the help I can get!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Change in plans

I posted earlier today that I was going to move this blog. However, I've had a change of heart and am going to keep blogging here as well as at the other domain - Silver Hair Life - for now. I'm not sure that I want to keep paying for a blog (this one is free!) once my hosting plan expires and I'm going to look into downgrading my hosting plan for the other site down to one year. So, if you've been following me here, I'm not going anywhere! Sorry for the wishy-washy thoughts today!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Save Money When Buying a Car

As I was driving through town this morning, I found myself looking at all of the cars on the road. While I'm not "into" cars, I do enjoy reading about new cars on the market and reviewing a car I don't know much about, but am considering purchasing. Then I began counting all of the cars we have purchased in our 27 years together. I came up with 20!! Wow, that's like buying a car every 18 months! What a waste of money - we know that we have not been responsible when it comes to this part of our finances.

I would not recommend changing cars so often, of course. Sometimes we bought a car that seemed perfect only to find that it wasn't - MPG too low, front seat doesn't fit me well, small car too loud when there are two toddlers in it (ha!), car is too noisy, car is not comfortable on long trips, etc. We are settled on the cars we are driving now and plan to drive them until they fall apart! We don't put lots of miles on our cars, so we should be good until retirement. Then, we plan to buy one more car each with cash before Jim retires and drive them until we can't drive anymore.

Here is what we have learned when it comes saving money when buying a car:

NEW VS. USED: We have bought a combination of new and used cars. I, personally, don't have a problem when someone chooses to purchase a car brand new. It really is a thrill to be the first one to own a car ... with the "new car smell," the shiny interior, etc. Our first cars and our last cars were both purchased new and we've bought a few new ones in between. The key to purchasing a new car is to buy a demo model, or make a deal at year's end or when there is going to be a model change. All of these situations have saved us thousands of dollars. For example, our 2014 Kia Sorento SXL (top of the line model with all of the bells & whistles) was a demo car purchased in October 2014 with around 5,000 miles on it. It retailed for $43,000 and we purchased it for $31,000 which was around the retail price of the base model at the time. It still smelled brand new, too!

DO YOUR RESEARCH: If you've settled on a car to buy, read as many online reviews as you can. It's nice to get an overview of all of the different opinions to help you see the entire pictures. We personally use to look for new & used cars. You can set the distance that you are willing to travel to get the best deal as well as plug in all of the features you are wanting in order to get a good listing of the cars available to you. Then, find several near you to check out and test drive. We believe it is better to spend a little more for a quality car that will last the long term. We all know that Toyota and Honda have great reputations. We have had great luck with Kia and Hyundai as well.

BE WILLING TO DRIVE FOR THE BEST DEAL:  To purchase my current car, a 2015 Jeep Renegade Limited, we drove from Tennessee to Ohio to get it because the dealer offered us the most value for our trade-in sight unseen! The Renegade was a first year model for Jeep, so there were only a certain amount of them available. In addition, I wanted the Limited edition with a particular interior color and that was even harder to find. We found what I wanted through and asked our local Jeep deal to do the same deal. They refused and told us they didn't think the Ohio dealer would honor their phone offer. Turns out they did and we ended up with the payment we wanted! It was a full day of driving, but well worth it!

KNOW THE CAR LOAN RATES: While, in a perfect world, we would purchase our cars with cash and never have a payment, that is usually not the case. So, before you buy a car, know the loan rates at your local banks and credit unions. You do NOT have to use the loan companies that the car dealers recommend. We always use our credit union because they have the lowest rates around unless the dealer is offering a 0% loan, which is quite common nowadays.

CHECK THE INSURANCE RATES BEFORE PURCHASING: Don't be surprised by a rise in your insurance rates AFTER you have already bought a car. Call your insurance company before and get a quote for the car you will be adding to see if it is going to cost more than you want to spend. You will need to know the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the car you are trying to purchase in order to get the best quote.

KNOW YOUR BUDGET & BE WILLING TO WALK AWAY: Before we buy a car, we know what monthly payment we can afford and that fits well into our budget. WE WILL NOT SPEND MORE! We have walked away more than once when we couldn't get the payment we wanted and we've never looked back. Several times, the dealer has called back to give us the price we want. Don't be swayed into spending more than you want to ... there will always be another car to buy even if you have to wait a little longer.

BUY AT THE END OF THE MONTH: The last weekend of the month is usually the best time to buy a car because the sales people are trying to reach certain goals set by their managers. We've gotten our best deals by following this method! We usually will scope out the cars we are interested in the weekend before and then check back the last weekend to see if the car is still available. If so, we will then try to make a deal that everyone is happy with.

PAY CASH IF YOU CAN: I believe that I must add this here because it IS the best practice for buying a car. We all know that we won't want to drive the same car for 60 years, so there will always be another car to buy. In between car purchases, try and set aside what you can in order to reduce what you pay out of pocket for the "new" car. Who knows? You may find that you end up saving quite a lot and are motivated to save a bit longer in order to pay ALL cash for it!

I hope these tips are helpful to you! I wish we had known all of this earlier in our marriage as I think we could have saved some money over the last 27 years. However, we are smarter now and are teaching our kids how to save money buying cars. Our mistakes will benefit them!