If You're Not Going to Get Pet Insurance, at Least Do This

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  • Pet insurance could defray the cost of a huge pet care bill.
  • If you're not going to buy that insurance, at least take the money you would've spent on premiums and save it for veterinary bills.

When my husband and I adopted our old dog, Casey, when he was about a year old, we decided not to get pet insurance for him. At the time, we had a hard time finding a policy that offered decent coverage at what we felt was a reasonable cost. And since Casey seemed like a healthy dog, we decided that forgoing coverage made sense.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years, and Casey wound up with diabetes, kidney stones, and a host of issues that resulted in some very expensive vet care. But thankfully, we had the money to cover it without pet insurance. That's because instead of paying for pet insurance, we decided to build a pet emergency fund. And if you're going to skip out on pet insurance, you should prepare to do the same.

You need some kind of back-up plan

Pet insurance won't necessarily cover every single pet care bill you encounter. And even for covered issues, it may not pick up the tab in full. But pet insurance could spell the difference between giving your pet the care they need versus having to skimp on care due to financial constraints. It could also help you avoid debt if you refuse to skimp on care.

Let's say your pet ends up needing a $6,000 surgery. Your pet insurance policy may not pick up the tab for it in full, but rather, cover $4,500. But you're better off, in that case, getting stuck with a $1,500 bill than one for four times as much.

Now, you may be of the opinion that pet insurance is a waste of money. But if so, then at the very least, take the money you would've spent on pet insurance premiums and put it into a savings account earmarked for pet care bills. That way, if you end up in a situation where you're looking at a bill that amounts to thousands of dollars, you'll have cash reserves to tap. And you won't necessarily have to resort to costly credit card debt.

Although I regret not getting pet insurance for Casey, my husband and I were really good about putting money into our savings every month to take the place of our premium costs. When we wound up on the hook for expensive medical bills, we had them covered.

Don't leave yourself in a bad spot

I know a few people who have, in recent months, racked up debt to care for their older pets when health issues arose. And a big reason boiled down to them not having pet insurance or savings for pet care expenses. One friend of mine even contemplated the idea of a GoFundMe campaign but was able to scrounge up the funds by getting a loan from her parents.

Recent data from Lemonade found that pet owners put aside an average of $439 per year for pet care. If you're not going to buy pet insurance, you may want to try to sock away even more money than that in case you one day wind up with a very expensive surgery or course of medical treatment for your pet to pay for on your own.

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