Living with credit, Protecting yourself

My furry student loan debt reality check

Sienna Kossman

I made my 3-part student loan repayment budget. I selected my payment plan. I was starting to come to terms with the monthly sacrifices I’d be making to pay off my student loan debt over the next decade.

And then I saw a shelter dog’s big brown eyes.

I grew up with dogs. Ever since I finished college and moved into a place of my own, I’ve been on the lookout for that perfect canine companion. My budget is tight, but I figured if I adopted a young adult dog from a local shelter it wouldn’t be very costly — no outrageous adoption fees or puppy medical costs that way.

My 4-legged furry student loan debt reality check

So I started actively looking and last week I found a dog that seemed like a good fit–a larger Labrador/Newfoundland mix that’s the opposite of the small purse dogs I’m not a fan of, house trained with a sweet disposition and comfortable being alone for a few hours during a workday. Everything was in order, I just had to sign some papers and pay the adoption fee if I wanted him.

But then I sat down to look at my finances again.

In my excitement, I didn’t notice all the costs that add up when you first welcome a pet into your life. This dog’s adoption fee was only $150, an amount I was willing to take out of savings, but that wasn’t all I would need to pay upfront.

In addition to the adoption fee, I had to be prepared for an immediate vet checkup for minor routine medical procedures, which would cost approximately $150-200 based on the shelter’s estimations, about $100-$150 for dog food, toys, a bed and a crate, a $200 pet deposit for my apartment complex so I wouldn’t violate my lease and an extra $10 a month toward my renters insurance. In sum, I needed about $600 to comfortably get my pet project started.

That’s two student loan payments. Yikes.

As much as I want a dog in my life, that was just way too much to put forward all at once, especially with my first student loan payment due this week. I realized that if I’m serious about getting a dog, I need to put a little money away each month toward that goal, and I might even need to revisit my overall budget in order to be able to afford the continuous care and feeding of my new furry friend.

Honestly, I was really disappointed.

I knew student loan debt would be a weight on my shoulders and alter how I spend and save my income, but until I had to say no to adopting a dog I hadn’t realized just how much it would affect every other aspect of my life.

My decision is to wait, but that’s me and my finances talking. If you’re in a financial position to adopt a pet from a shelter, visit your city government’s website to find the contact information for the local humane society or check out ASPCA’s adoption resources to locate even more animals needing homes in your surrounding area. I recommend checking these resources regularly as animal listings change frequently and site postings may alert you to special events that feature waived adoption fees or other pet perks.

As disheartening as my realization was, I’m glad I sat down to do the math before making a final adoption decision. After I hit the submit button for my first online loan payment tomorrow, I’m going to revisit my budget and see what I can do to put a little more away in savings each month for a furry investment.

One step — or paw — at a time.

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  • Why not earn some extra income by being a dog sitter/walker?
    You’ll get to be around furry friends, other dog lovers and who knows, maybe get your needs for doggie love met without actually owning one of your own.
    Remember, pet deposits are almost always non-refundable so every time you move you’ll need extra money in addition to keeping a vet fund and the food and toy budget!

  • Tom

    I think you made a smart decision. It is a big responsibility and especially since you do not own your own home. Because puppies have accidents and landlords will not like urine stains after you move.

  • Brandon Frere

    Yes its true, if you find yourself in debt, you need to put together a budget and debt management plan, and your students with debt education & budget planning, setting financial goals, how to read credit reports & managing a budget. You must need learn to manage and eliminate your student loan debt.