5 Frugal Dog Things We Don’t Do Featuring My Spoiled Dog

black dog in sunlight
Do you know how hard it is to photograph a jet black dog?

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Dogs can take a bite out of your budget if you’re not careful. But being Man’s Best Friends, it’s hard to resist splurging on our wet nosed pals. Being the frugal fiend that I am, I look for ways to cut unnecessary costs for Grace. Some things are easy, instead of buying dog treats, I look for good deals like Amazon’s dog food and treat sample box. We space out her treats in rarer intervals. Other things are more difficult to be frugal about. I personally think I have the cutest “puppy” in the world. Grace’s two and a half years old, which makes her about our age in human years, but she’s always going to be a puppy in our eyes.

Adopting Grace was not cheap in the first place. She cost around $460+ when our regular city shelter would have charged us $80 to adopt a dog. Our local shelter rarely had enough stock. Apparently, there’s a stray dog shortage in the Pacific Northwest. Which is a great problem to have! Seattleites have a reputation for being splurgy dog and cat lovers. Humans…not so much, because dogs are the best humans.

The Texas-based adoption organization told us the Northeast and Northwest regions of the United States love dogs and import the most strays from other states. We adopted Grace from a small town in Texas and she was driven up here by volunteers.

Confession: we feed Grace from the table.

My husband had a rule that I couldn’t feed the dog from the table when we first got her but I never listened. I secretly fed her that one time, just – that – one – time! But Grace got hooked on it right away and she immediately picked up that I was the weak one. It just kind of snowballed from there. Now we both give her our dinner bowls to lick. During the meal, she does not bother us but once she hears the sounds of empty dishes cling-clanging together with the forks – she waltzes over and shows us her best ‘Sit.

We use her kibble as training treats. We also use real ingredients like steamed sweet potato as treats. I am pretty frugal when it comes to giving my dog pre-made treats. It’s just not something that I believe in I think it’s a huge waste of money. Because of their portion size and the fact that for the most part dogs can eat what we have around the house.

Related: 9 Frugal Wins And 3 Frugal Fails

Salon nail trims and baths

This is more for our sanity. Grace is a fearful, reactive dog. Naturally, she also hates water and nail trims. She hates having her paws touched in general. I’ve slowly built up her resistance to paw touching by incorporating it in with our playtime so she’s better about it.

Nail trims are very pricey. It’s $14 a pop and Grace gets it every month. That’s $168 dollars a year for however long she will live when I know we could just trim it at home.

We did buy this dremel set from Amazon when it was $26 and it worked great at first. But as Grace got older and heavier, we couldn’t hold her as securely. Jared is now the only one that could pick her up for a longer period of time. All the while she’s kicking like crazy.

It’s a two-person job. Jared lifts her up and holds her like a baby (while Grace panics and kicks every 2 seconds). I have the job of handling the Dremel to nail and grind down all 4 of her paws. Since Grace is heavy, we could only do half a paw per day. So trimming Graces nails takes a week. It’s not pleasant after the nail trim because she isn’t too happy with us. We take her either to the store or the salon now. They use manual clips instead of dremels, which takes a skilled hand since her nails are pitch black but it’s faster. No one needs to hold her because they have slips to secure her. She gets baths there too and the whole thing is an ordeal for a dog like Grace.

Since the professionals do it faster, there’s less stress for Grace and us both. Bonus, she comes running to us afterward. I enjoy playing the “I’m not the bad guy here” role better, even though it’s more costly.

Higher-quality food

I don’t buy my dog that cheapo Alpo scrap. That’s one thing I’m pretty sure I can definitely cut but won’t. Grace eats a mix of Blue Buffalo, Taste of the Wild, Solid Gold and I And Love And You. I think that they’re better. It shows in the ingredients. The first product is protein instead of corn or grain based. Dogs are carnivores first, they need more meats and protein than anything else. If I get to call myself a foodie, my dog should get food that’s better than the IMAS junk that you get at Costco.

Honestly, research shows there isn’t much of a correlation in terms of longevity and food so I don’t know what I’m yapping about. It just makes me feel like a better dog mom, I’m paying for that feeling. When Grace was a puppy I actually had her on the raw food diet. It was extremely expensive but oh man, did she loveeeee it.

I fed her raw pieces of steak and chicken from the grocery store. We live near an Asian grocer too so I bought her more exotic cuts like chicken and duck necks. I also gave her eggs in both raw and hard-boiled form. Eventually, I stopped feeding her raw. I couldn’t find scientific research to back up the long-term benefits of raw food and Jared was against feeding her a raw diet from the beginning. I was looking for empirical research to back up my argument against his and to balance out the risk of working with and consuming raw meat. Sadly I couldn’t find any real lab research. I gave in and decided it was not worth it. I did the next thing better which was simply high-quality dry dog food.

Grace in one of her dresses.

Dog clothes

I spent more on Graces clothes in 2015 then I did my own. She was a growing puppy at the time but I just couldn’t stop buying clothes for her. Half of her clothes don’t even fit her anymore but I have not had the heart to resell any of them. If this is partial evidence of how I’m going to raise actual kids, then they’re definitely going more than $250k.

Grace even has a fancy duffle coat. I texted the photo to a friend of mine once and she replied “Your DOG has a duffle coat?!? I’ve always wanted a duffle coat!”

Professional trainer

Grace is a great dog but she does have some residual issues from being abandoned and abused. She is fearful of human and what’s more strange…she has a real phobia of cardboard boxes. Yes, you heard me, she is terrified of cardboard boxes. If there is a cardboard box around, she’s gone. The weird thing is she was abandoned (with her litter) in a cardboard box. We think that’s what’s triggering her panicked response.

dog turkey butt
The world’s best turkey butt by a dog.

Grace came with some other issues as well that’s those are more normative to puppyhood. The first week with her was very, very difficult. She was over 5 months old and still not potty trained. She was fearful of all humans but she didn’t want to be left alone. We could only get so close to her and only so far away before she would start crying non-stop. She crate trained her after several months but she never willingly went into the crate by herself (even with some heavy bribery and reinforcement!)

We hired a professional dog trainer to teach her how to walk properly. The trainer (had glowing reviews on Yelp) tried her best and we had 7 sessions of 1-on-1 time costing around the ballpark of $600 but it was not effective.

In the end, a $15 gentle leader leash and some springy hands-free running gear did the trick to curb Grace’s bad walking manners. Eesh…wish someone told us that and then we could have skipped the expensive as heck training 🙁 BUT I don’t totally regret the training because the lessons also came with teaching basic commands. The trainer was expensive because her company started off training police dogs specifically. So Grace was trained by a trainer who specialized in police dogs. Grace is now very, very well versed in her basic manners. Grace is super smart but she’s also a diva. The trainer said Grace was “one of the most stubborn dogs” she has ever worked with. To us, she’s pretty much the perfect dog (after puberty ended). She’s the “you have to crack that icy shell first” type.


This last one is a bonus. We do have doggy insurance for Grace and it’s through Jared’s overlords at Google who provided it at a discount. It was optional but we felt like we should get it. We’re not too sure if the coverage level is enough because there’s a lot of limitations to what you can apply the insurance for but it’s more for a peace of mind. We can flip a vet bill by ourselves anyway. The importance of having an emergency fund, yeah? 🙂

Related: Make Money on Rover as a Pet Sitter with These 15 Tips!


I do not regret being un-frugal with any of my selections above. I know one day I will wake up and my puppy won’t be able to run and fetch like she does now. All I’ll have will be memories. I believe the principle behind my splurging is important. Grace is important to me. It’s about lessening the stress of your dog, building that bond, caring for their well-being, making sure they’re good doggies citizens of the world and protecting them from bad things that might happen. There are some things you just can’t be frugal about for a fur-pal.

13 thoughts on “5 Frugal Dog Things We Don’t Do Featuring My Spoiled Dog”

  • Aww Grace is too cute! Having pets in America is definitely very expensive. My family used to keep a dog when I was little. It wasn’t expensive since we didn’t have to pay any registration fee and just fed the dog leftovers.

    I’m glad Grace warmed up to you guys. She looks absolutely adorable in her duffle coat!

  • What does the doggy insurance cover? How much is it as well? I feel like vet bills can be pretty crazy. Our yellow lab had some issues and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. Two vet visits and $300 dollars later we have a bunch of pain pills and the pain went away….didn’t find out the real cause. Luckily we have a good vet in a smaller town that we can use for bigger things down the road.

    • It’s incidental insurance with a pretty high deducible. Vet bills are crazy, we took Grace for a teeth cleaning and they charged us $80 to look at her teeth and say her teeths are fine but the $80 was non refundable. Sadly, your story isn’t the first I’ve heard. But having a healthy dog is the most important.

  • As a dog mom I completely agree and understand the “unfrugalness” of your choices! Vancouver is a very dog-centric place too!

    I go for nail trims for my dog too, I used to clip his nails but it bled one time and then he really got fearful of the nail clippings from me.

    Grace is so cute!! Haha, she looks really cute in that grey dress.

    My dog eats higher quality food too. I started off feeding him the generic stuff but then I think he developed the allergy to that (he’s allergic to chicken) and the I went on the path of raw dog food (ostrich meat, rabbit meat), and then pasteurized pork and sweet potato, and now just fancy kibble. For a few months there, his food bill was more than my food bill haha!
    GYM recently posted…Car2Go Vancouver Review

    • Your dog is allergic to chicken?! Oooooooh that’s an expensive one. Chicken is in everything. We have a pet rabbit too but Grace likes to play with it. She doesn’t know it’s food, she thinks it’s friend. I’ll post a video of them playing one day.

  • Our dog is our baby. He can be expensive to care for at times. He recently had an “UTI”. My wife had to buy a cranberry powder to sprinkle on his food to treat this infection. It cost $20 for a small pouch. A dog can be costly, but the love they give back is worth the cost.
    Dave recently posted…Frugal Fun: Community Theater

  • First off, she’s so cute! Our girl dog lays just like that too, so I’m glad to know she’s not a weirdo for doing that 🙂

    Second, frugality is spending money on the things that matter to you, and saving on the rest. So you are being frugal by spending on her! If she’s the part of life you decide is worth spending, then that’s not a big deal. You are both very frugal otherwise, so this is just your area of spending. We love to eat out, so we spend a bit more there. Or on a bit more traveling. Everyone that is a lifelong frugal person needs something they think is worth splurging. Otherwise, it’s not a very happy life. 🙂

  • We love our two adopted pups, Sadie and Gregg. Sadie is super smart and really trainable, while Gregg is kind of a dufus and takes a lot longer to learn commands.

    One of their favorite treats are carrots! Anytime they even hear us peeling them they come running and sit like a perfect lady and gentleman.

    We’re also looki into a trainer to help with some of their downsides of being shelter dogs. Gregg isn’t s huge fan of other dogs, besides Sadie of course, and doesn’t listen to commands when distracted.

    But we love the heck out of them even if we have to spend s little extra on them from time to time.

    Great post!
    Mr. Jamie Griffin recently posted…Is Frivolous Holiday Spending Costing You Hundreds?

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