6 Cheap Pets You Can Afford to Love
Pets are a wonderful addition to the family, but before you buy one, it’s very important to make sure you can actually afford one. Not just the initial adoption fees, but the food, toys, leashes, and other items a pet will need consistently throughout its life. Every year, hundreds of pets are abandoned or sent to animal shelters because their owners can no longer afford to take care of them. To avoid this heartbreaking scenario, it’s important to check your budget before buying.
If money is tight, don’t worry, you can still afford a pet. These cheap pets are inexpensive to purchase and inexpensive to maintain.
1. Betta Fish
If you don’t have a lot of cash but you desperately need to add a little friend to your family, the betta fish is the perfect pet for you. They are available at pet stores, but you can also get one from your local Walmart for $8. Plus, they’re super easy to care for. The biggest expense will likely be the tank. Although betta fish are known for being able to live in relatively small amounts of water, that isn’t ideal for them. They are very active fish and like to swim around, so a 5-gallon tank is ideal. These typically run anywhere from $30 to $65, but the nice thing is, once you buy one, you don’t need to buy another as long as you keep it clean and take good care of it. It’s also a good idea to buy some rocks and foilage for the betta fish to interact with, and a brush for cleaning these accessories regularly. But that should be all you need to get started as a betta fish owner.
When it comes to ongoing maintenance, betta fish are pretty cheap in that area as well. You will need to continuously replace the filter for the tank to keep the water clean, and you need to feed them of course, but that’s about it. They’re also very affordable when it comes to time investment. Unlike dogs, which need walked and played with, betta fish are pretty much content to exist on their own. They liven up your space, but they don’t require much from you besides love.
2. Hermit Crab
There is so much to love about the majestic hermit crab. They are unusual pets, but they’re great if you’re looking to adopt a little friend on a budget.
Hermit crabs may sound like creatures that prefer isolation, but they actually do very well when they live with multiple crabs in one terrarium (as long as they have enough space) and they are usually happy to be held and handled by humans. They will pinch if they feel threatened, but otherwise, they can be very hands-on pets.
Getting started as a hermit crab owner requires a few upfront costs. Hermit crabs themselves only cost $7-8 each, but you will also need a terrarium (at least 5 gallons for every two hermit crabs) with a lid and gravel, and a water dish for them to soak in occasionally. You may also want to purchase a tank thermometer and hygrometer to keep track of the temperature and humidity in the terrarium, as hermit crabs typically prefer it warm and humid.
As for ongoing costs, those are relatively low. You just need some slightly larger seashells for your little friend to grow into and obviously some hermit crab food. And that’s it! Keeping a hermit crab for a pet is a great way to add a little love to your life without breaking the bank.
3. Guinea Pig
If you were envisioning a pet that’s a little…cuddlier, then don’t worry, there are inexpensive options that are fluffy too. Like guinea pigs!
Still, all this added cuteness comes at a price. The initial cost of buying a guinea pig and the upkeep costs are both higher than with fish or crabs, but they are still less expensive than a dog, cat, or horse. First, you’ll need the guinea pig itself which can be purchased from a shelter, a breeder, or a pet store for anywhere from $10 to $40. Then you’ll need a large cage. Guinea pigs need space to run around, so it’s important that their cage habitat be at least 7.5 square feet. On average, these cages cost $70, which is significantly more than a fish tank or crab terrarium. If you can’t afford a large cage, then you need to consider a different cheap pet, because it’s cruel to buy an animal only to deny it a properly sized home. Pet ownership is fun, but it’s also a responsibility.
Guinea pigs also need a water bottle, food dish, and things to hide in and play with. You should only have to buy these things a few times throughout a guinea pig’s life, but there are several maintenance items you will need consistently, like bedding, chew sticks for their teeth that are always growing, and food, which should consist of grass hay, pellet food, and fresh fruits and vegetables. This should cost approximately $50 per month.
Guinea pigs might seem expensive, but bear in mind that guinea pigs don’t require vet visits (unless they seem sick) and pet insurance is typically unnecessary or very affordable. (If you didn’t know insurance for pets was a thing, it is, and pets insurance is actually not a bad idea for more expensive pets).
If guinea pigs seem too expensive, a slightly cheaper option is its smaller cousin, the hamster. A hamster is small, adorable, and comes in countless precious species, so you can find one that looks exactly like the image you have in your head of the perfect hamster.
Like guinea pigs, your hamster will need a nice-sized cage with a water bottle and food dish and lots of toys, for both inside and outside its cage. Hamsters need to spend some time out exploring the world or they will quickly grow bored, which can lead to stressed out or lethargic behavior. Most hamsters will let you hold them, but it’s also a good idea to get a hamster ball for it to run around the house occasionally. Altogether, these things will likely cost somewhere between $50 and $70, plus the hamster itself will cost $5-15.
When it comes to long-term care, hamsters need bedding, food, and things to chew on. Each month, you can expect to spend about $20 on this upkeep. That’s one benefit to having a hamster: they’re smaller, so they need less food, lowering their food costs. Hamsters are ideal home pets for anyone looking for a furry friend that they can afford to take care of.
If you’re extroverted but live alone, and want someone to chat with, get a parakeet! They are social creatures that love to chirp, and can even mimic human speech. Plus, they are surprisingly affordable. Typically, you can buy a parakeet for $10-50, depending on the breed, but you really should buy at least two. As we said before, they are very social creatures, and if you work outside the home for several hours a day, it’s important that your parakeet has a friend to spend time within your absence, and another parakeet can be just the thing. Just make sure they are the same breed, as different breeds live for different amounts of time.
In addition to the birds themselves, you will also need a nice birdcage, bird food, and toys to keep them occupied. A nice, large cage with room for your parakeets to fly will run you about $70, and a healthy variety of bird food including seeds, pellets, and occasional fresh fruits and veggies will likely cost less than $10 per month.
Unlike many of the other pets on this list, parakeets need to see the vet once every three years (or when they seem sick) and you may want to get insurance for pet parakeets. If you take good care of your birds, they can live up to 15 years, which means they may contract expensive illnesses that insurance can help you pay for. Cost of vet visits and insurance vary widely based on where you live, but it’s something you should look into before getting pet parakeets.
If hermit crabs aren’t cuddly enough, but pet guinea pigs seem a little too cuddly, then a hedgehog may be the perfect pet for you. They are undeniably adorable, and despite their spiny backs, they actually aren’t all that prickly and can be handled and played with, if you’re gentle.
Unlike some of the other pets on this list, hedgehogs themselves can be somewhat expensive. They typically cost somewhere between $70 and $250. Other initial costs include a spacious cage (4 square feet, minimum), a water bottle, a food dish, and a running wheel. The running wheel truly is just as essential as the other items, as hedgehogs often run several miles per day if given the opportunity. Without a chance to run, they can get bored, depressed, and develop foot sores. These startup items will probably cost approximately $75.
Once you have your hedgehog and its home, you’ll need bedding and food on a regular basis. Unlike hamsters and guinea pigs, which are rodents, hedgehogs do not have teeth that continuously grow, so they don’t need things to chew on (also, they aren’t rodents!). In the past, most hedgehog owners fed their pets kitten food, but now pet stores sell food specifically for hedgehogs, and generally, it’s much better for them. In the wild, hedgehogs primarily eat insects, and hedgehog kibble contains ground-up insects, which suits their natural diet better than the ingredients in kitten food.
Kibble and bedding will likely cost about $10 a month, making hedgehogs one of the most affordable pets to maintain, even if they are a bit more expensive on the front end.