Every pup parent has to cope with the costs of caring for their dog. These costs can add up fast, so we need to know how to find the best buys on dog supplies.
You have basic supplies like beds, food, and toys. Then you add in medical costs such as veterinarian bills, vaccinations, and medications.
Of course, you can always do a DIY for things like dog beds to make them cheaper as well.
We all know that our dogs are worth every penny. But if there aren’t enough pennies to go around in your household, let’s talk about how to how to get the best deal on things like dog food and other dog supplies.
The good news is that if you’re reading this, you have the tools to get the best prices on what you need – the internet.
We all shop online. But not everyone realizes just how useful the net can be when it comes to saving money. That may be because usually, the internet is helping us to go over budget instead of managing it.
Step One – The List
First, make a list of what you need for your dog. You’ll need a notebook or computer spreadsheet to make your list and follow along on these steps. Whichever works best for you. I personally use a Google Doc so that I can do the heavy work from my laptop and then access the list on my phone when I’m in a store.
If you’re just bringing home your new family member, you’ll list things like a bed, possibly a crate, dishes, leashes, harnesses… you get the idea.
On the other hand, if you’ve already had your dog for some time, your list may be shorter. You’re probably looking for things like food, treats, and the best deals on medications.
These lists don’t have to be complete – you can always get what you missed later.
Step Two – Check Pet Store Websites
Do a search for your favorite pet store. I suggest starting with a chain. In my area, the big chains are PetSmart and Petco.
Now, do a search within that site for the first item on your list. Jot down the brands you’re interested in under the item – this is where I find it handy to use a spreadsheet since I can add rows. Then, label a column after the store you’re looking at.
In the column, note the listed price for the item next to each brand you’ve listed. If there’s a sale, mark it somehow. I use colors. You’ll want to check back another time to see if you can get the regular price as well.
Repeat this step for each chain in your area. You can also add columns for some of the local Mom & Pop pet stores who have fully functional websites.
Step Three – Check Department Store Websites
In this step, you’re doing exactly the same thing as in Step Two, only you’re looking at general department stores.
For me, this means listing places like Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, etc. Any department store you like which sells supplies for your dog.
Step Four – Legwork
Now, you’ll take this show on the road. Take your notebook price list, or your spreadsheet with access on your mobile device, and head to any store that sells pet supplies which didn’t have an online store.
Most people skip this step because they assume that smaller stores who skip online access must be boutiques with high prices. This is frequently true… but not always. For me, there is a dog-themed bakery down the street that sells some of the most fantastic treats, and I can often find better deals for these fresh treats than I can for the commercial treats I find everywhere else.
Step Five – Quality Reviews
We all want to save money, but we also want quality goods for our hard-earned dollars. This is where reviews come in.
You might skip this step if you already have brands you trust or if it’s a small ticket product. But for big-ticket items, medications, or dietary changes, I recommend not skipping this step.
All you’re going to do here is check the online reviews for the products on your list.
Using the reviews and the product’s cost, decide which options you’re going to focus on.
For example, if you’re choosing a new crate for your dog, you might have several brands listed. Let’s say three are in a price range you like… we’ll call them brands A, B, and C. Now, when you look at the reviews, you find out that the price may be right on all three, but the reviews on brand B aren’t that great.
You find that people who purchased brand B have to replace the crate in under a year… meaning that you spend DOUBLE to have that crate. You also find that their customer service is hard to contact and is uncooperative.
So, now you have brands A and C for our next step.
A note before I move on… every brand is going to get a negative review at some time. The goal is to see if most of the reviews are good. No company can win 100% of the time. You want to know that they do it right MOST of the time.
If there are multiple bad reviews, see if they have anything in common. If the same complaint shows up over and over, you need to decide if that problem is minor enough for you to still try the product or if it’s not the right fit for you.
Step Six – Networking
You should sign up for the email newsletters for each store you plan to use. These often introduce new products, offer exclusive discounts, and keep you in the know about sales. (Just like we do here at PatchPuppy.com!!)
While you’re at it, many stores post exclusive savings to their social media sites. Follow your favorite stores, and you’ll never miss a deal on your Pup’s favorite treats.
Step Seven – Deal Hunting
For me, this is the fun part… it’s the thrill of the hunt. This is the step where you find the best price on the best product that meets your needs and budget… and then save even more.
Check which sites have your favorite brands and check their shipping policies. Free shipping is the goal on this one. Free shipping to the local store is a close runner-up here.
I tend to emphasize online shopping for most purchases because of this next tip – coupon codes!
Pull up Google, type in your product and brand with the words “coupon code” into the search bar. Frequently, you’ll find discounts that no one realizes are still valid. Or you’ll find obscure codes from a rebate bank that you can use for cash back (more on this in a minute).
With a coupon code, you can watch for sales, add in the discount from the coupon code, and save even more than the sale price.
Now, to save even more, I HIGHLY recommend using sites like Ebates or Honey. You may know that these sites give you cash back on your purchases. But, you might not realize that they also have deals that no one else offers for the store you’re shopping?
So, you can stack their unique coupon code on top of your store’s sale price… AND get money back!
Step Eight – Keep Your Eyes Open
Prices change, new stores open, new products launch for outrageously low prices to win new customers. All of these things impact your budget.
Every now and then, start this process over with anything you purchase on a regular basis. You might have settled on a favorite food, but if you don’t track the price changes, another brand could become the better deal – and you won’t even know it.
I use this process every year before I buy my flea and tick prevention products. At the same time, I check food and treat prices again, too. After all, if I’m in research mode, I may as well get the full value for my time!
For more Tips & Tricks, read What questions do YOU have about dog care?