Husband vs. Wife: Fixing a Dollar Value to Man’s Best Friend

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Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage—except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 8 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.

This round, she says let’s get yet another pet.  He says we’ve busted our budget by falling for the cute and fuzzy one too many times already.

It’s the animal lover versus the cheapskate. Who will win?

Mrs. Fuchs: So, I saw this really cute puppy today and I was thinking that it would make such a fun surprise for the kids. We already have dogs and cats, what’s one more? And I promise to clean up after it. What do you think?

Mr. Fuchs: The way things go around our house, which sometimes feels like a home for wayward animals, it would actually be more of a surprise if we passed on a puppy or kitten. But, really, they are four legged budget busters. We get caught up in the emotion of seeing a cute kitten and the kids begging and we don’t think clearly. Please, lets put an end to the madness.

Mrs. Fuchs: Pets aren’t about money! They are about unconditional love – that and cleaning up poop.

Mr. Fuchs: Everything is about the money, especially pets. (Want to learn about some of the nuttiest pet businesses out there? Click here.) In fact, the way people make decisions about getting pets with more of an emphasis on emotion than back-of-the envelope calculations make them a good metaphor for a lot of our spending decisions, said Ashley Parks, a financial adviser from Martin Financial Group in Dallas, who recently had to pay a surprise $300 for her dog’s after-hours emergency vet visit. Look at us, a family who gives into cuteness and is all but handing chunks of college money to Petsmart (Stock Quote: PETM) as a consequence. At one point we were up to four cats. Now we are tipping the scales at two dogs.

While we always assume one vet visit a year and a minimal amount of food, we spend way more. If there is one thing that challenges our sticking to a budget more than anything else, it’s probably our addiction to the fuzzy. Costs just multiply: look at our friends the Sasslofs.  They go to the North Shore Animal League to get one cat and end up coming home with two, double the costs they expected. All because they didn’t have the heart to break up a brother and sister kitty.


Mrs. Fuchs: But Mike even says that there are unintended consequences at play, actually saving him money. The male arbitrarily pees, which means who wants to buy a new couch? A penny saved!  

Mr. Fuchs: A lucky turn of events. But remember when one of the so-called free kittens we adopted cost $500 the first month we had him? With all those shots and repeat vet visits, that little pip almost put us in debtor’s prison, where truly free cats probably roam. 

Mrs. Fuchs: So what’s your point about all this? I am feeling like you don’t think it is wise financially to get another dog. Do we really have to plan and budget our pets like the rest of our lives?

Mr. Fuchs: Well, I haven’t stayed married this long by telling you what to do. So I’ll let Parks do it. “Putting pen to paper could be eye opening to people,” in regard to pets, she said, ticking off a laundry lists of costs that people usually ignore, if they even try to catalogue them when their hearts are aflutter with the prospect of a puppy, from heart worm medication to flea prevention to boarding the little rascals when you go away. Even doggie day care, if its needed. Or flying your pet on its own airline.

Mrs. Fuchs: Well, at least we don’t go that far. OK, why don’t we go ahead and figure $150 per pet for their regular check up and maybe another $150 for an unexpected vet visit like that time our cat was attacked by the neighborhood bully. Of course there is food – I like the holistic, organic kind – so another $30 a month for the cats and $30 for the dog. We don’t have to groom them but we can’t forget all the impulse buys of absolutely adorable toys. Plus, doggie summer camp when we go to the beach.     

Mr. Fuchs: So? 

Mrs. Fuchs: Don’t rush me! You’re lucky I don’t add up what it cost to keep you! I’d say it is about $900 per year — approximately — for a dog. A third less than that for the cats — they eat less food and when we go away a neighborhood kid cares for them, which doesn’t run much. 

Mr. Fuchs: Even so, that means we can’t take on another wayward animal until the economy picks up, right? 

Mrs. Fuchs: Right, but, uh, — well, since we’re not getting that furniture chewing puppy, maybe it’s time to get that new couch ...

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