Around Thanksgiving last year, my husband and I decided we were ready to get serious about owning a dog. We had just moved into a new place with a huge backyard and figured it was the perfect space to add another member to the family. I grew up with Golden Retrievers, so was slightly biased to the breed (good with kids, good with adults, good with everyone really\u2026but probably the worst guard dog!). Evan never experienced having a pet growing up, unless you count a three-week stint with a goldfish that ended up getting accidentally flushed\u2026long story. We were not tied to a particular breed, but agreed that we wanted a good family dog.\r\n\r\nOur first stop was the local SPCA. When we didn\u2019t find a pooch that we \u201cfell in love with\u201d, we continued our search with local breeders and went to adoption fairs at our neighborhood pet store. After months of looking, we finally found our Mabel, an 8-week ball of energy, on a whim after responding to a Craigslist posting. Yes, you can find dogs on Craigslist! But, word from the wise if you are dog shopping online \u2013 only purchase in-person from a responsible breeder and make sure they have credentials. We were so unprepared when we showed up for the adoption that I made Evan run to Petco to get a leash and a collar before we could take her home.\r\n\r\nAnd that was the moment when I realized we had no clue what we were getting into\u2026 just how expensive is owning a dog in a city like San Francisco? We would soon learn the hard way how costly our furbaby would be.\r\n\r\nFor the animal-loving readers out there interested in getting a dog or cat of their own, here\u2019s a look into the monthly costs of owning a pet.\r\nThe Costs of Fido and Fluffy\r\nPet ownership is a reality for many American households. According to the American Pet Product Association, about 68 percent of U.S. households in 2012, or 82.5 million households, shared their home with a pet.\r\n\r\nThe cost of caring for your animal varies depending on your pet\u2019s size, breed and location. The ASPCA reports that annual costs of owning a medium size dog are roughly $1,580. The bigger the dog, the more expensive your costs due to more kibble\/food, exercise requirements, grooming, maintenance and accessories.\r\n\r\nAnd be prepared \u2013 the first year is usually the most expensive. Puppies require a host of special shots and vaccines \u2013 meaning a lot of pricey trips to the vet! According to a recent article by Kiplinger, your new best friend can cost between $700 and $2,000 in the first year alone (excluding any special needs such as dog walking, pet insurance, and grooming, which can raise the cost by more than $7,000!).\r\n\r\nReady for the pet price lowdown? Check out our monthly overview of costs for Mabel, our 40-pound bundle of joy:\r\nMonthly Expenses:\r\nDog Food: $50 per month ($600 a year) for grain-free kibble\r\nPet Insurance (we have VPI \u2013 Veterinary Pet Insurance): $18-35 (for basic coverage)\r\nVet Trips: $0 - $40 per visit (Our visits are lower because we went ahead and bought a wellness package)\r\nDog Walker: $25 per walk (5 days a week) \u2013 Total $500 per month, or $1,000 per month for double walks\r\nToys: $0 \u2013 50 (We realized very quickly that our dog prefers sticks and rocks over fancy toys, so this is a category you can definitely save on)\r\nTreats: $10 \u2013 30 (Another category we can probably save on \u2013 Mabel prefers ice cubes!)\r\nAccessories: $0 \u2013 20 (this includes new collars, leashes, dog poop plastic waste bags)\r\nGrooming: $0 - 30 (We do this ourselves)\r\n\r\nTOTAL per month: $578 \u2013 1,255\r\nExtras:\r\nWellness Package: $60 per month \u2013 this is a package through our vet that allows walk-ins and all office visits to be free of charge, also includes discounts on shots and vaccines\r\nLost Pet Service: $15 annually \u2013 since we live in a big city, we wanted our dog to be on a national registry in case she went missing\r\nFrontline Plus Flea and Tick Prevention medicine: $65 per year (Optional, but we thought this was important)\r\nHeartworm Prevention Medication: Free with our wellness package\r\nBoarding\/Pet Hotel: $100 \u2013 300 (based on a 2-day stay at Wag Hotel)\r\n\r\nTOTAL: $900 \u2013 1,200\r\nStart-Up Costs:\r\nAdoption (Based on SF SPCA\u2019s adoption fees): $100 \u2013 250\r\nPuppy Shots: $20 \u2013 150 for the first year, $10 \u2013 100 per year afterwards\r\nCrate: $60\r\nDog Bed: $40\r\nCleaning Supplies: $15 \u2013 30\r\nDog Spay Surgery: $0 (Included in the wellness package) but can range from $200 \u2013 300\r\nDog Training Classes: $1,200 (4 week program)\r\n\r\nTOTAL: $1,435 - $1,930\r\n\r\nAfter our financial analysis, we realized that our sweet Mabel costs us between $578 \u2013 1,000 per month! As soon as we started tracking our spending using Personal Capital\u2019s free tools, we immediately stopped our frivolous trips to the pet store and reduced this in half!\r\n\r\n*Again, note that these costs range depending on your dog\u2019s breed, size and location. Your costs might be cheaper if you own a miniature poodle in Kansas, over a Labrador in California.\r\nIs Your Pet A Money Pit?\r\nTo some, owning a dog in an expensive city like San Francisco is out of the question. Similar to children, just providing basic needs such as a roof over their head, food, medical and education can be expensive, so it\u2019s important to create a budget before you adopt. For new pet owners, you should plan on putting at least 10% of your paycheck away to cover the first year costs. And if you can start saving at least 2-3 months before you get your pet you\u2019ll be protected against unforeseen costs, such as a trip to the emergency vet to retrieve car keys that your dog just ate.\r\n\r\nI\u2019ll admit, after logging into my Personal Capital Dashboard, I was shocked to see that Mabel is now my 2nd highest expense each month (next to my mortgage)! After months of mindless spending on the dog \u2013 random trips to the pet store for more toys and bones to be exact \u2013 we put ourselves on a weekly budget. The dog will still love us even if we don\u2019t spoil her rotten.\r\n\r\nWe\u2019ve also considered reducing the amount of dog walks per week, or alternating working from home on Fridays. And no more fancy dog hotels or boarding \u2013 we have plenty of friends who would love the chance to watch our sweet girl when we are out of town. We also completely eliminated grooming costs by bathing Mabel twice a month in our own tub and enjoying the complete trill of watching her splash around. Be warned, a free bath also means that you don\u2019t mind wiping down your entire house when she starts shaking to dry afterwards!\r\nMan\u2019s Best Friend\r\nIs pet ownership worth the expense? I\u2019m sure if you asked every dog owner out there that question, you\u2019d get an overwhelming YES! Not only is your pet a best friend, companion and essential family member, but research suggests that owning a pet can improve your health. A recent study conducted by Michigan State University showed that dog owners exercised an average of 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week \u2013 exceeding federal exercise guidelines. Forget expensive gym memberships and fancy treadmills \u2013 go for a walk outside for free!\r\n\r\nOwning a pet has not only given us added responsibility, it has also provided valuable lessons such as being patient and not sweating the small things. But it\u2019s truly the happiness your pet brings that makes everything worth it \u2013 especially when I come home from work and see that familiar tail wagging. Those sloppy greetings are something you just can\u2019t buy.