2020 was forecasted to be the highest ever year for pet spend, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). The projected spend of $99 billion was an increase of 3.5 percent from the previous record-breaking high of $95.7 billion in 2019. But were people actually willing to spend the extra cash on their pets in the midst of a pandemic?
For many, the year meant layoffs, furloughs, and the inability to pay back loans, hardly leaving enough to splurge on a domesticated companion. While people aren’t willing to spend their cash to purchase pet luxuries outside of the basics, over half of Americans would still give up their own expenses in order to fund the needs of their pet.
We surveyed 3,000 Americans to find out which expenses they would give up for their pet and found that:
62 percent of survey respondents would ditch a personal expense to have more cash to spend on their pet.
64 percent of people wouldn’t splurge outside of basic needs on behalf of their pet.
Millennials are the least likely to make an expensive purchase for their pet.
Baby Boomers are the most likely to give up their own expenses to have more to spend on their pet.
Expected Pet Spend in 2020
The APPA estimated that Americans would spend $99 billion on their pets in 2020. While pet adoption rates soared during the lockdown and many e-commerce industries boomed, Bain & Company predicted the sales of luxury goods would decrease by a minimum of 25 percent.
So how did that affect people’s sentiments towards the once-prosperous luxury pet industry? Turns out people may have taken their financial resolutions to heart. After 2020 shook the financial stability of Americans, many indicate they’re no longer willing to spend money on luxury pet goods — that is, anything outside their furry friend’s basic needs.
Expenses Americans Would Ditch to Have Extra Pet Funds
Of the 62 percent of people willing to ditch expenses on behalf of their domestic darling, they’re willing to forego their fitness membership first, followed by dining out.
Demographically, people feel differently about what they’d give up for their pets based on age and gender.
Women are more likely than men to skip a bill in order to have extra funds to spend on their pet.
The first expense Millennials ages 25–34 would give up to add to their pet fund is dining out.
Baby Boomers ages 65+ are the most likely age group to forego an expense in order to splurge on their pet.
Over Half of Americans Say They Wouldn’t Splurge on Their Pet
64 percent of Americans say they wouldn’t make an expensive purchase on behalf of their pet. Only 36 percent of pet-owning Americans said they would be willing to splurge on their four-legged, or two-legged, friend.
When it comes to gender difference, women are 1.3 times more likely to make a luxury purchase for their pooch compared to men, but both genders agree about what they’d buy if they did make a purchase — clothes and accessories.
Millennials are Least Likely to Spend Cash on Pets
Turns out all the financial literacy lessons about avocado toast paid off, because older Millennials ages 25–34 are least likely to spend money on luxury goods for their pets.
Of the respondents who admitted they would purchase something for their domestic dear, here’s what they’d buy:
Millennials and Gen Z ages 18–24 would splurge on video surveillance.
Millennials ages 25–34 would most likely purchase a DNA test, closely followed by raw food.
Gen Xers ages 35–54 would purchase clothing and accessories.
Baby Boomers ages 55–64 would buy a DNA test.
Baby Boomers in the 65+ range would spend their cash on a pet walker or sitter.
How to Love Your Pet on a Budget
Many people see pets as family, almost to a fault — the industry knows we’ll pay top dollar to make them comfortable, even if there’s a small overdraft fee involved. If you don’t quite have a celebrity budget like Paris Hilton to spend over $300,000 on a dog house, consider these 10 budget and DIY alternatives to spoil your pet.
Keep your pet active: Keeping animals active not only helps their physical wellbeing, but their mental wellbeing too. Regular exercise will keep your pet even-tempered and satisfied. So get some fresh air and take a stroll.
Train your pet at home: It’s no secret that pet training is pricey. A dog training session, on average, can run up to $80 per class and into the thousands for boot camps. Instead, opt for the professionals on YouTube or bloggers who offer free resources and information for pet owners.
Create a luxurious nighttime routine: Think about how luxurious you feel when there’s a turndown service at a hotel. Give Fido or your feline the royal treatment with a turndown service that fluffs the pillows and tucks them into their cozy castle for the night.
Make your own treats: Making treats at home is not only an affordable way to give your pet a little extra love, but it’s a great way to control exactly what your furry friend consumes — perfect for allergy-prone pets.
Do your own grooming: While the upfront investment of proper grooming tools can get pricey, it pales in comparison to regular trips to the groomer. Learning the less glamorous parts of grooming, like squeezing anal glands, might not be where you choose to save your money, but even regular nail trims and brushing can save you on a la carte adds when you head to the professional for dirtier jobs.
Give your pet a spa treatment: You might be surprised to find out that most pets love a gentle massage. While cats may not be patient enough for the treatment, for dogs, it’s a way to bond with their owner, reduce stress, and improve body functions. Make sure your pooch is in a calm state, and gently rub them in a circular motion. The only downside is that they can’t return the favor.
Find free samples: There are plenty of dog blogs and freebie websites that share pet samples. From food and treats to accessories, these freebies are a great way to stock up without costing you a dime.
Shop discounts and clearance racks: When shopping for your pet, always head to the clearance racks. Oftentimes, you’ll find the same items at half the price. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to buy something at full price, find coupons online or sign up for the shop’s reward program to reap the benefits of your purchase.
DIY pet toys: Old t-shirts, plastic bottles, and old boxes sometimes work better than even the most expensive toys on the market. Search online for do-it-yourself toy tutorials to keep your animals entertained for hours on end without spending a dime.
Find Fido financial aid: You might be surprised to find out that there are financial aid programs available for families with pets. If your situation meets the right guidelines, search for local grants in your area, locate a pet food pantry, or find other pet-related community service programs for additional assistance with your pet.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and many people aren’t in the financial position to spend more than what’s necessary on their pet. In the face of hardship, try a credit-building loan to get back on your feet so you can give your furry friend the royal treatment they deserve.
Methodology: This study was conducted for Possible Finance using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no fewer than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. Responses were collected from January 4th to January 7th, 2021.
Chang is an avid writer, among other things. He grew up loving reading and writing, creating his own poems and even a book he's now hidden in an old closet, unpublished. His financial experience at a large bank along with his passion for technology to help underserved communities inspired him to write for Possible.