Take These Steps to Avoid Having Your Pet Land You in Credit Card Debt

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  • Owning a pet can be an expensive prospect.
  • If you're not careful, your pet could be a source of costly credit card debt.
  • It's a good idea to build up your savings and have a realistic idea of pet care costs before you bring home a new pet.

Pets are wonderful, but you shouldn't let yours wreck your finances.

If you own a home, you may have, in the past, charged a repair on a credit card when it caught you by surprise and paid off that balance over time. And if you own a car, something similar may have happened to you.

But while homes and vehicles can be a common source of credit card debt, so too can pets. And so if you're looking to welcome an animal into your home, it's important to do what you can to steer clear of credit card debt. Here's how.

1. Have an emergency fund

Pet care issues can arise out of the blue, the same way your home's air conditioner could suddenly stop working or your car's transmission could start failing. That's why it's so important to have a fully loaded emergency fund.

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If you have a nice chunk of money in the bank, you can dip in as needed to cover things like emergency vet bills. You may even end up having to tap your savings if you're called upon to travel for work unexpectedly and you need extra money to pay for a pet sitter.

2. Research pet care costs before you adopt

New pet owners are often caught off guard when it comes to pet care costs. If you've never owned a pet before, spend some time researching the expenses you might face. Also, talk to other pet owners to get a sense of what their bills look like. Granted, every pet is different, but those conversations could be a good starting point.

If you're getting a dog, for example, you may need to budget for more than just food and preventive medications. You might also spend a lot of money on things like grooming appointments.

3. Purchase pet insurance

Having pet insurance won't necessarily mean not having to pay any money out of pocket for pet care. But a good insurance policy can protect you from catastrophic pet care costs, which could, in turn, spare you a giant credit card tab.

Let's say your pet ends up needing surgery that will cost $5,000. Your insurance policy might pick up the bulk of that tab, whereas paying it in full could mean carrying a credit card balance for years.

Don't let your pet drive you into debt

Taking in a pet is a wonderful thing to do. But it's important to make sure you can manage your pet care costs before you take that step. That means doing your research, building savings, and putting a good pet insurance policy in place so you can avoid getting stuck with massive bills if your pet gets hurt or sick.

Meanwhile, if you're not in the best place financially, you may actually be better off waiting to adopt a pet -- for their sake as well as yours. If you're not on solid financial ground, you might quickly rack up a lot of credit card debt after bringing your pet home, and that could end up being a very costly mistake.

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