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6 Unexpected Ways Your Dog Can Help You Save Money

6 Unexpected Ways Your Dog Can Help You Save Money

There are so many reasons to love your dog: the wet nose, the wagging tail, the constant, unconditional love even when you’re at your very worst. But in case having a pet who’s unbelievably thrilled by your very presence isn’t enough for you (take that, cats!), here are six more reasons to love your dog—the totally unexpected ways that owning a dog actually helps you save money.

1. Your dog keeps your doctor’s bills down.

You might not realize it, but your pooch’s needs encourage you to have all kinds of healthy habits, from keeping a regular sleep schedule to getting outdoors every day. All those walks add up! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted studies that found that pet owners had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as lower blood pressure, than non-pet owners.

Fido can help you raise healthier kids, too: research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that children raised around dogs (and other furry critters) develop stronger immune systems and are actually less likely to have allergies than their pet-less pals. Turns out that owning a pup is a pretty good form of preventative medicine—and staying healthy helps you save on healthcare costs down the line.

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2. Your dog can be your therapist.

Dogs aren’t just good for your physical health—they also boost your emotional wellbeing. Petting and playing with your dog can be an anxiety reliever. Even just a quick snuggle session or game of fetch will do the trick; researchers have found that 15 to 30 minutes of pleasurable pet activity is enough to elevate your brain’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, a.k.a. your feel-good neurotransmitters.

This also may be why so many studies have found that dogs help reduce your stress levels. In one study from SUNY Buffalo, seeing their dogs made participants react more calmly in stressful situations than seeing their husbands and wives did. Plus, you don’t just get to see your dog for fifty minutes a week—per minute, Rover is pretty much the least expensive shrink you can find.

3. Your dog is your security system.

Sorry, ADT—you’ve got a D-O-G on the case. You don’t have to own a Rottweiler or German Shepherd to feel safer with your dog; even a Yorkie or Malti-poo will do. Whether you’re in your home or out with your pet, thieves and other ne’er-do-wells avoid dogs. And again, they don’t want to deal with any dog—according to one criminologist, small dogs can actually be more of a deterrent than their Beethoven-size brothers, since they have a reputation for being nervous and noisy. Your neighbors should thank you, too: even living next to a dog owner decreases your risk of burglary. Save on home monitoring services, and just put up a “beware of dog” sign.

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    4. Your dog might be a deduction.

    Working dogs might not pay taxes, but they can actually help you save when April 15th rolls around. Seeing-eye dogs and other service dogs (including Emotional Support Animals) are a deductible medical expense. In order to claim the deduction, your pup must be registered with an agency as an official service animal. If you establish that the dog is used primarily for medical care, per IRS Publication 502 your pooch’s food, training, medication, and vet bills can all count as medical deductions. Other working dogs—including guard dogs and farm dogs—can actually be deducted as business expenses, but the IRS draws a clear distinction here between workers and pets. So yes, even though your Malti-poo can keep you safe (see #3), you can’t call her a guard dog and claim her as a business expense.

    5. Other people’s dogs might be a deduction, too.

    If you’re really committed to our canine companions and you volunteer at a shelter or with a dog-related nonprofit, you can deduct any non-reimbursed expenses you paid out-of-pocket. For example, if you foster dogs in your home and your dog-related expenses aren’t being paid by a shelter or rescue organization, you can deduct the stuff you paid for like puppy chow and vet bills.

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    If you volunteer at a shelter, you can’t deduct the value of your time—and come on, isn’t helping dogs find good home payment enough? But you can deduct other volunteering-related expenses, like if you used your car to help bring supplies to an adoption event. If you weren’t reimbursed by the shelter or rescue group for parking, gas, or other expenses, there’s another deduction.

    6. Your dog is a fantastic wingman.

    Now yes, studies have found that people can get as strong of an emotional boost from having a dog as a companion as they can from having another person around, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Your pooch can help you meet people in places that aren’t bars—no cover charges, no pricey cocktails, no cab fare necessary.

    From the dog park (free!) to sitting outside a coffee shop ($4, max), your dog is a perfect conversation-starter. Sure, you might be afraid to approach that cute guy or girl—but chances are pretty good your dog would love to meet them. And guess what? You’ve already broken the ice, because here’s something to talk about—your dog. If they’ve got a dog too, even better. Oh hey, who’s your groomer? Want to hit up this great hiking trail? Before you know it, you’ve got a date—maybe you can use some of your extra cash to go somewhere nice.

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    Featured photo credit: Yorkshire Portrait via picjumbo.com

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    Last Updated on September 2, 2020

    How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

    How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

    Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

    In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

    4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

    Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

    1. Be Clear About the Objectives

    Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

    It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

    Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

    2. Keep Goals Realistic

    It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

    It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

    3. Account for Inflation

    Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

    Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

    For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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    4. Short Term Vs Long Term

    Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

    As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

    By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

    How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

    Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

    • Ensuring healthy savings
    • Making smart investments

    You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

    Ensuring Healthy Savings

    Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

    This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

    1. Track Expenses

    The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

    Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

    If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

    2. Pay Yourself First

    Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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    Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

    The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

    Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

    3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

    Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

    Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

    At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

    Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

    You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

    4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

    In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

    Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

    • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
    • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
    • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

    The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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    5. Talk About It

    Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

    Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

    6. Maintain a Journal

    For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

    If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

    When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

    Making Smart Investments

    Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

    1. Consult a Financial Advisor

    Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

    Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

    2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

    Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

    Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

    As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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    3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

    Einstein once remarked about compounding:

    “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

    Use compound interest when setting financial goals

      Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

      Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

      4. Measure, Measure, Measure

      All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

      If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

      Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

      The Bottom Line

      Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

      and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

      More Tips on Financial Goals

      Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

      Reference

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