If you’re reading this, you already know your hobby or sport of choice is a very expensive one. The amount of money we spend on our largest fur babies is written off as ludicrous to any sound-of-mind human looking in from the outside, like my husband, Alex.
When we started dating in our mid-twenties, he thought it was interesting that I rode and owned a horse. Being an animal person at heart, he bonded with my mare pretty quickly. He was happy to be a good sport around the farm and film me ride, help with the trailer, you name it. As our relationship progressed, he was gradually tuned in to just how much of my paycheck went toward my horse’s expenses.
“Board costs how much? That’s like a second rent!”
“Why can’t she keep wearing the shoes you already bought her six weeks ago?”
“A saddle costs HOW MUCH?!”
“Does your horse really need a professional massage … AND acupuncture?”
Fast forward a couple of years and now we’re married. There’s no hiding a horse-related expense. Luckily we both have good jobs, so having my horse is a luxury I’m lucky to afford. But it ain’t always easy.
Medical issues come up. That means time off work for vet visits and paying the unexpected bills that come with it. Alex is a pretty easy going guy, and we’ve learned to save for emergencies like that. But we also just bought a house this year, which was a hefty expense. Here’s how we’ve come up with a budget and how we manage our priorities in the way that works best for us and our animal children.
Budget. Budget. Budget. Outlining long- and short-term budget goals is key. As a couple, we chart out how much money we plan to spend on groceries each month, on the regular bills, and how much money we have to spend freely. Nearly all of my “free money” and then some is dedicated to the horse. Of course, the majority of the horse expenses come from my end of the budget. Alex picks up the slack a little more with our two dogs (which can also be expensive) and more routine things around the house. But we still set aside money in our savings for long-term purchases and emergencies. For example, I need to buy a horse trailer this year. I’m cutting costs in other places on my personal budget to sock away a little more in savings for that big purchase later this year.
You Can Never Save Enough. I don’t want to come off like a nagging parent, as I’m sure you’re lectured enough at home. But whether you own a horse or a house or both, you literally cannot save enough. Aside from contributing to my 401k at work for retirement (one day) I’m pulling money out of each paycheck that goes into my “animal” savings account and then my “life” savings account. One is for horse or dog emergencies, like vet bills. The other is for routine life emergencies, like a dying water heater or a major car expense. None of these are fun to pay for, but they unavoidable. Save now so it’s not so devastating when something does break or gets sick unexpectedly.
Research Ways To Save. I’m proud to say I have excellent credit. That’s from years of paying my bills on time and never charging too much on my credit cards. I do, however, have a credit card reserved just for my pets (horses and dogs) in times of an emergency. Care Credit is a healthcare financing option accepted by (human) doctors and a network of veterinarians across the U.S. When we had an unexpected overnight stay at the hospital for colic surgery, this credit card helped pay for that big vet bill. Care Credit allows you to make payments for six months without interest, as long as you pay off the expense in that time frame. That’s way better than most other credit cards, where you end up spending more interest on long-term payment plans.
Insurance Is Worth It. Insuring your horse may sound ridiculous to some people (i.e. my husband when we first discussed it) but it does come in handy when preparing to pay for major medical expenses. Some insurance plans cover the cost of many preventative care methods for your horse, too.
Embrace The Sacrifice. Because I own a horse, I go to less “happy hours” than I used to. We still take vacations a couple times a year, but we could take more if we didn’t have our pets. I don’t show every month, but I still make it to a few events a year when I have the extra funds to do so. I buy less clothes and trinkets for myself to make room for supplements that my horse needs. It sucks sometimes, but this is the life I’ve chosen.
Always Be Honest. Alex and I rarely fight over money, and that’s because we’re always honest and upfront with one another about our expenses. I don’t sugar coat it when I need something. My saddle didn’t fit my new horse, so I had to sell it to buy a new one. It was a tough expense, but we talked about it a lot and prepared for it. Communication is the most important thing.