Pet ownership can make you happier, healthier, and less lonesome. Reams of research have found a strong link between pet ownership and overall happiness.
But just because pet owners are happier doesn’t mean their wallets are. There is no way to avoid the extra expenses that come with owning a cat or dog.
Fortunately, if you want the comfort a pet can bring but not the huge cost, you still have options. Plenty of pets come with all the perks of ownership, but without the high costs of cats and dogs.
Choosing any of these eight loveable pets can help reduce financial stress while increasing emotional happiness.
Hermit crabs are fascinating little creatures that happily spend their time crawling through the sand. They’re curious and eager to explore, and their tiny size typically comes with a big personality.
With the right care, they can live for up to 15 years. All you need to get started is a 10-gallon tank filled with sand, shells, and some crab-friendly toys. Most importantly, you’ll need an assortment of shells for your hermit crab to grow into.
Hermit crabs can get lonely if they’re the only crabs in their tank, so it’s a good idea to get more than one.
You should also make sure to play with your hermit crab or crabs — they’ll be much happier if you let them stroll around and explore your home’s environment while you keep a careful watch.
Neon tetra fish
Neon tetras are lovely freshwater fish that are typically small and blue with distinctive red markings. Tetras stay small for their entire lives, growing to a length of around 1.5 inches or more while living for close to a decade.
A neon tetra can cost as little as $1 or $2 at your local pet store.
Like hermit crabs, neon tetras are fairly social. They prefer to live in schools of five to six fish — an investment of just $5 or $6. You’ll need to feed your tetra fish twice a day and keep them in a 10-gallon tank at least, although a bigger tank will be better if you can afford it.
Parakeets (called budgerigars, or budgies, in Australia and the U.K.) are a type of small parrot perfect for first-time pet owners on a budget. Like other parrots, parakeets are both curious and clever, quickly picking up on human speech and other sounds to mirror back to you.
Usually, parakeets cost anywhere from $10 to $40. They can get lonely on their own, so consider getting two parakeets if you can.
If you take good care of your parakeet and provide it with a clean cage, healthy food, and plenty of mental stimulation, it can live for a decade or longer.
Rats typically cost up to $20 each. A rat-friendly cage can cost $80 or a little more, and you’ll need to spend a bit to set up your rat with cozy bedding and a running cage for entertainment.
Once you’ve paid the initial costs, though, your primary expenses will be food and care. While rats are typically seen as pests, they often have unique personalities and are keen to explore their environments.
Rats need plenty of exercise and stimulation, and you can teach them to do some basic tricks if you have the time and interest.
Sea monkeys — also known as brine shrimp — are fuzzy microcrustaceans that grow to about 1 centimeter long.
While you can find brine shrimp in salty bodies of water like the Great Salt Lake, sea monkeys are specifically billed as “instant pets” and sold in packets of dried eggs.
The eggs don’t hatch until you add water. Once you do, your tiny brine shrimp seem to come magically to life.
If you’re lucky (and take good care of them), brine shrimp can live for up to two years. You can find an entire sea monkey kit, creatures, and tank, all for under $20 on Amazon.
Pro tip: If you buy a pet, look for creative ways to keep costs low, such as buying food and other supplies in bulk. Doing so gives you the benefits of pet ownership while also keeping you out of debt.
Interested in reptiles? Green anoles are an excellent starter pet for lizard enthusiasts, and they typically cost less than $10. If you take good care of your anole, it can live for between three and five years.
One green anole typically needs a 10-gallon tank complete with a heat bulb, UVA/UVB lamp, and some form of humidity control. You’ll also need thermometers so you can monitor your tank’s temperature and ensure your anole has enough heat to stay comfortable.
Apart from that, your green anole just needs food and water without requiring much else from you. Anoles don’t love being touched, which makes them the ideal hands-off pet.
Hedgehogs definitely aren’t the cheapest pet on this list. They can cost as little as $100, but most hedgehogs acquired from breeders cost closer to $300.
Your hedgehog’s cost depends largely on its color. Pure black or pure white hedgehogs are usually the most expensive, while salt-and-pepper hedgehogs are the cheapest.
If you’re OK with the higher costs, hedgehogs are active, fun, curious pets. You do need to be careful with their quills, and you should check to make sure it’s legal to own hedgehogs as pets in your area.
Otherwise, they’re cozy, low-maintenance pets that can provide you with low-cost companionship.
German Wirehaired Pointers
If you’re committed to the idea of dog ownership but spooked by the price, you might just need to find the right dog breed.
Many purebred dogs have breed-specific health issues that can cost thousands of dollars over the course of your dog’s lifetime, which makes the German Wirehaired Pointer a welcome exception.
Thanks to their coarse, short fur — the wirehair they’re named for — German Wirehaired Pointers don’t cost much to bathe and groom. They typically have relatively few health problems, which keeps veterinarian costs lower.
Pets can enrich your life in many ways, from helping you stay active to giving you a small companion you can love and take care of. And as these eight pets demonstrate, your budget doesn’t need to exclude you from having a wonderful pet.
But if you still want a cat or dog, consider developing a side hustle or finding other ways to make money so you can afford a furry friend. It’s hard to put a price on the love a great pet offers.