Readers' Tips

The Costs of Adding a Cat to the Family

Having received my first cat at the tender age of three and having had many more since then, I feel myself uniquely qualified to answer this question. Like dogs, cats are most expensive in their first year with you, and I'll present this mostly as a kitten acquisition.

  • Acquisition cost varies (purebred vs. shelter vs. stray), so anything from $0-1,400 can apply.
  • First year vetting is a series of visits at 8, 12, and 16 weeks. My vet is on the inexpensive side for our area, and it's never gone over $80 per well-cat visit, except maybe if a fecal sample is run. Standard shots are distemper multi-shot and rabies and optional shots are FelV and FIV vaccines. Sick exams (excepting medication or treatment costs) are $40.
  • Females are more expensive to sterilize than males because it's a more involved operation, but my vet does spaying for $150. Complications, at time of operation make the operation more expensive still. Some vets will offer discounts for getting this done before the animal is six months old, and for the mobile low income populace, rescues and shelters run clinics offer vouchers for as low as $25. I've heard some places have taxes on vet costs (our state doesn't)! Micro-chipping can be slightly expensive, but then it's good for a lifetime. You will pay $35 to $40 for it.
  • Once your pet is a one year old, they go in for their vaccination boosters, which operate on a three-year schedule. The usual cost is under $100.
  • Standard feeding is dry food only, and a single grown cat could go through ten pounds per month. An old stand-by like Purina may only run you $15 to $20. Specialty and gourmet brands will go up to $30 to $40. Cans of wet food can cost $1 or more.
  • For gear, you need food and water dishes and a litter box. The initial cost could be $30. Collars need replacement every year or two and can be had for $5. Flea collars are $5 to $8 and last six to seven months. Cat litter is an inescapable necessity. Try a clumping litter for longevity. Scoop the waste daily and the remaining box is still clean and usable. You will need maybe 20 pounds per month at $15 to $20. Completely empty and wash the litter box once monthly for best results. Litter scoops can be had under $5 and can last for years. Bagging the dirty litter for garbage disposal is easy. Reuse a standard plastic grocery bag for free! Toys and bedding can be as simple or involved as you like, but it's a pretty good idea to get at least a standard scratching post ($40 to $50) every three years or so. Nails can actually be clipped with your own clippers if you like.


editor's note: Visit here for more on the costs of adding a cat to the family.

Unique Decor Hack

I'm not artistic, but this was easy and made a real statement in my living room. I wanted a new look, but I couldn't afford new furniture. Therefore, I decided to repaint. I started with a single color and quickly decided that it was too boring. Then I saw a picture of a city skyline in a magazine. I taped off rectangles for the skyscrapers. On some, I included a thin line on top for an antenna. Then I painted a flat black to represent the buildings. I didn't bother with any details on the buildings, but I guess you could if you wanted to get real fancy. It's a real conversation starter and makes the room look entirely different!

Additional TDS Resource: Tricks to painting interior trim

Motivating the Cook

Most family cooks get tired after years of making sure there's dinner every night for the family. Here's how I keep motivated. For each dinner I make, I estimate how much we saved by not going to a restaurant or bringing in takeout. At the end of the month, I total the savings. 10% goes into our emergency fund. I put another 10% into an account that I use to treat myself! I figure that's a small reward for all the money I'm saving my family!

Additional TDS Resource: Meal planning tips and tricks

Overly Long Showers?

I love a long, hot shower! It feels so good that sometimes I forget about how long I've been in the shower. Then I decided to put a timer on the light switch. I can set it for 5 or 10 minutes. When the light goes out, I know it's time to dry off and get going!

Before You Hire a Contractor

Everyone knows to get three bids before having any major work done on a home, but something else you need to do is check with your city or county to find out if there are any permits required and how much they cost for the work you're doing. I had one bidder include a $400 permit fee for a permit that I knew only cost $95. I know that it takes time to get the permit, but that's a lot of money for a trip to the county offices. I decided to go with a different contractor.

Additional TDS Resource: 5 questions to ask before hiring a roofer

Out from Under a Payday Loan

If you're stuck in a payday or other high interest loan, you might want to try this. It worked for me. I had a $350 payday loan, and I rolled it over for six weeks. I didn't have the money to pay it off, but then I had an idea. I called the bank that held my auto loan and asked if they would allow me to delay one payment. They agreed. I used that money to repay the payday loan. I am not sure if it'll work for you, but it's worth a try!

Additional TDS Resource: 6 easy ways to get out of debt

Great Steaks!

A great steak is a real treat! Steakhouse prices, however, are out of our reach, so my wife and I studied up and now we do our own steaks. First, we buy a good cut of meat. I go to the butcher shop and talk with the butcher. He's taught me to buy the choice cuts that are well marbled with fat (that provides flavor) and he cuts one a little thicker than normal. I take the steak home and salt it heavily on both sides. Then I let it sit in the fridge for three days uncovered. It'll dry out a bit and shrink. That condenses its flavor. Before cooking it, I shave a real thin layer from the outside. With a little dusting of pepper, it goes on the grill or under the broiler. At first, I want to use real high heat to sear it and seal in the juices. To test if it's done, I just push my finger into it. It should give a little and spring right back. Never cut it with a knife to look. That allows all the juices to escape. Finally after it's done, I put a little melted butter on it and let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving. It's a little work, but I like my steaks better than anything I could get at a steakhouse at any price!

Additional TDS Resource: Homemade steak sauce recipes

Rental Car Rates

Here's something I found that reduced the cost of a rental car. Instead of prepaying for a small discount, give yourself the chance to change at the last minute. This is especially true if you're flexible about the rental car and company. I used to help monitor what was available. Unless you're traveling on a holiday weekend or to a really popular destination, there's a good chance that one company or another will have extra cars and drop their daily rates. AutoSlash will send you an email when that happens, so you can change your reservation. Another way to find the best rate is to call each rental company when your plane lands to ask for their best deal. If they have too many cars on the lot, they may give you a better price.

Affordable Skincare

You don't need expensive scrubs to have a glowing complexion. You can do what my dermatologist suggested to me. Three times a week, I wash my face with my normal liquid soap with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in. It's gentle and inexpensive. My skin looks great! My boyfriend thinks so, too!

Additional TDS Resource: More DIY recipes for beautiful skin

Time Is Money

Everyone's heard that time is money, but I think that money is time. Before I make a purchase, I do a rough estimate of how long I'll have to work to earn that money. I'm hoping to retire early, so anything I spend moves my retirement date back just a little.

A/C Efficiency

I made a simple cover for my air conditioner out of PVC pipe and a thermal blanket. I made it so that it's about two feet bigger than the air conditioner and it's about two feet higher. The sun bounces off the thermal blanket and the blanket shades the unit. It took less than an hour to make and cost less than $5. If what I've read is right, I should save about 10% on electric bill.

Additional TDS Resource: How much will it cost to cool your home?

Father's Day

Father's Day is coming up and I couldn't decide what to get for my dad. He has everything that he needs. Then my wife suggested that I get him a gift card for his favorite restaurant. I'm sure he'll like that better than something that would clutter up his apartment!

Additional TDS Resource: More on frugal Father's Day gift ideas

Handy USB Port

Most hotel TVs have a USB Port on the back that you can utilize for your own electronic devices. Home TVs have this USB port also.

Summer Maintenance

Summer is when I like to hang my clothes out to dry. It's also a good time to clean out my dryer vent pipe. I start by taking the flex tubing off of the dryer. My shop vac has a long hose that I snake into the tubing as far as I can go. Then I go outside and remove the vent cover and run the vac hose as far as I can from the outside. After replacing the cover, I reconnect the flex tubing to the dryer. In less than an hour, the job is done!

Additional TDS Resource: More preventive home maintenance tasks

Custom Blends

I think that spices are a wonderful way to add interest to meals. I like all kinds of rubs and spice combinations, but rather than buy them at the grocery store, I make my own. In fact, some are so good that my friends ask me for them. If this keeps up, I'm thinking of turning it into a side gig!

Additional TDS Resource: More on homemade seasoning mixes

Summer Off

Now that winter is over, it's time to put your furnace into hibernation. If it's a gas heater, turn off the gas supply. There is no reason to feed a pilot light all summer and risk having it blow out and raw gas escape into your home. If you have an electric furnace and it's not part of the A/C system, shut off the breaker.

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