Paying for a pet is no walk in the park, and the amount of money Americans are spending on their furry friends has been clawing higher and higher in recent years. In fact, our research shows that Americans’ total expenditure on pets increased 50% from 2013 to 2018, rising from $57.8 billion to $87 billion. Woof!
For this study, MagnifyMoney, a LendingTree company, analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Consumer Finances. It found that the amount of money spent on beloved companions is increasing at a higher rate than money spent on essential expenses like food and medicine.
Having a furry friend isn’t exactly frugal—our study found that in 2018, the average amount spent on pets per household was $662. That’s a sharp increase from just six years earlier, when the average amount spent per household was only $460.
Combined, American households spent a whopping $87 billion on pets in 2018, up from $57.8 billion in 2013—a 50% increase in spending. Notably, that outpaced the increase in annual income from 2013 to 2018—which was up a mere 23%. Sit, stay… spend.
While Americans nationwide spent a decent chunk of change on their pets, that amount varies widely by region. Our study found that Midwesterners increased their pet spending the most over the 2013-2018 period, up 66%. In 2018, the annual average amount spent by pet owners in the Midwest was $725.
Americans in the Northeast and West boasted the second highest increase in spending on pets, up 49% from 2013 to 2018. However, pet parents in the West spent an average amount of $760 in 2018, while those in the Northeast spent an average amount of $590. Meanwhile, Southerners increased their spending on pets 28% from 2013 to 2018 with an average spend of $605 in 2018.
Our study found that over the past six years, the rate of increase on pet spending outpaced growth in spending on essentials, including grocery items, personal care products and medicine.
While spending on pets increased 44% from 2013 to 2018, spending on fresh fruit and vegetables increased just 14% over the same, and spending on personal care products and services spiked only 26%. The amount of money doled out on furry friends also increased at a higher rate than spending spent on other crucial necessities, including water and other public services, which had a 21% increase, and medicinal drugs, which had a 3% increase over that same time period.
In terms of overall dollars spent, our study found that the total amount spent on pets in 2018 ($662) topped the amount spent on alcohol ($583), beef, pork and poultry ($613), water and other public services ($614) and medicinal drugs ($483).
Not surprisingly, our research found differences in the amount of money spent on pets when looking at different income levels. The richest 20% of Americans—the top quintile—saw the highest increase in spending from 2013 to 2018, up 70%. The remaining four quintiles had just a 20% to 46% increase in spending on pets.
What is certainly noteworthy, though, is the sheer amount of money wealthy Americans spent on their pets in 2018: an average of $1,523. Meanwhile, other income levels spent averages ranging from $263 to $758 on their furry friends.
One explanation for why Americans are spending so much more money on pets could be chalked up to the fact that younger generations are delaying having children, and therefore have more disposable income.
A key finding from our study underscores this theory: It found that married couples without children are one of the leading demographics for increased pet spending, with an average amount spent on pets climbing from $555 in 2013 to $937 in 2018. For married couples with children, the amount spent on pets was $753.
Additionally, over the past decade, the pet industry has become a booming business. For example, Chewy (a popular e-commerce site for pet products and supplies) made headlines for its wildly successful IPO debut in 2019. The company is now worth billions.
Although pets are pricey, there are easy ways you can cut back on the costs. Depending on your budget and the type of pet you have, consider pet insurance. While you’ll have to pay a monthly premium, it could be worth it if you find yourself constantly coughing up cash at the vet’s office.
Another way to cut back is to be strategic about what kind of credit card you use to pay for all those pet expenses. For big one-time purchases, it might be a good idea to take advantage of a credit card with a 0% introductory APR. Low-interest credit cards are also a smart way to save. One credit card, CareCredit® credit card, even has a special financing feature for vet bills. None Explore your options.
In order to create this study, researchers analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Consumer Finances.