Eighty percent of Americans carry debt of some form including mortgage, credit cards, student loans. Forty-three percent of Americans do not have enough savings to make it a month without a paycheck. Twenty nine percent have no emergency savings at all.
Those statistics are scary. They are even scarier when you are one of those in debt and with no savings. It means if an emergency comes up we might not be able to afford the care our pets would need. Blog The Change is about making a difference for animals. For this Blog The Change I thought I would share information to help those who struggle with money like I do. When it comes to helping pets, it’s just as important to be able to help our own as it is to help other pets. When you are deep in debt it can seem impossible to dig yourself out. But it is possible and it could be the best thing you do for you and your pet.
When Debt Hurts Your Pet
I’ve been lucky when it came to pet emergencies. I worked for vet clinics and not only got a discount, but could pay my bill off over time. I knew I was giving that up when I moved to a job outside of veterinary medicine. For quite a few years everyone stayed healthy, but luck only holds out for so long.
Two years ago I found myself at the emergency vet clinic with my dog Malarky. My worse fears were realized. She was really sick and needed emergency surgery.
I didn’t have the money.
Many people find themselves in the same predicament. However they got into their financial problems whether through health issues, job loss, or overspending, they are faced with a difficult situation and a difficult decision. It’s a place we never want to be.
Your Financial State Determines Your Decisions
I don’t cry very easily in front of people especially people I don’t know, but when it came to not having the money for Malarky’s vet care I did. Dealing with a sick pet is very emotional. Dealing with a sick pet when you don’t have the money brings out a whole other level of emotions.
You get angry. You get angry at yourself for not having the money, for letting yourself get in this situation, for the stupid thing you bought last week, for the stupider thing you bought last year. You get angry at your family and friends for being in the same financial situation and not able to help you. You get angry at the vet for what they charge you(I won’t argue about vets charging too much. I actually don’t think they do especially for the level of care they give. It was that level of care that diagnosed Malarky with something that dogs used to die to from because the diagnostic tools weren’t available ).
You feel guilty. You feel embarrassed. You feel shame. How could this happen? What kind of pet parent can’t take care of their pet? You think people will feel you don’t deserve your pet. Maybe you’ve thought that about people when you saw them in the same situation.
You get jealous of those who can afford the care and don’t have to think twice about getting the treatment. They must be better pet parents.
You feel despair. You feel fear. You don’t have the money. Where are you supposed to get it from? What if you can’t get it?
Emotions affect your decisions. Bad decisions are often made when emotions are the basis of your decision. I made a bad one in Malarky’s case. I opted for conservative care at the beginning of her treatment and delayed further testing based on the vet’s differential diagnosis(which was not what she ended up being diagnosed with) and not having the money. This delayed testing that would have made her diagnosis obvious and she would have had surgery sooner. It also added over $1500 to her vet costs and made me more stressed and worried about not having the money. Being debt-free keeps those feelings that would cause us to make bad choices out of the picture.
Changing Behavior Requires A Plan
In the end Luck did save Malarky. I was lucky enough to qualify for Care Credit and able to up the credit limit when it was determined surgery was needed. All her treatment was covered with $200 to spare. The total came to about 2 months of my take home pay.
But it was a big wake up call.
My dog could have died because I didn’t have the money to get her the proper prompt treatment. It was time to make getting out of debt and building a savings a priority. My pets deserve it. And after spending decades struggling with money and trying to out earn my spending, I deserve it.
Getting out of debt means you need to change your behavior. Changing behavior means you need to make a plan. If your dog was chewing your furniture you have several options to deal with the problem You could live with it and endure the stress and damage that is caused. You could change the environment by giving the furniture or dog away. It doesn’t change the dog’s behavior but you don’t have to deal with it. Or you might a make a detailed plan and actively work on it knowing each step will bring you closer to your goal of stopping the chewing. It’s the same with debt. It doesn’t just happen on its own. You need to take deliberate steps to reach freedom. You need a plan.
There are many programs you can follow. The plan I am following is a program by Dave Ramsey that is based on 7 Baby Steps to get to financial freedom. I read the book The Total Money Makeover to get the plan. There is also a program called Financial Peace University you can do through a class, homestudy or online. To stay motivated I listen to his radio show which you can listen to on the radio(if there is a station near you), through iHeart radio or a podcast. I like this plan because it is common sense, not complicated and he has been teaching the same plan for 25 years.
It’s not easy. It takes time. It takes self control. There is a lot of FOMO. Sometimes it feels lonely and like no one understands why you are trying to get out of debt or wants you to reach your goal. People will say “you’ll always have debt so why bother” or “you only live once so don’t worry about money”. But here’s the thing. Working on getting out of debt is not forever. It is just a short time. A very short time when you consider you could have a lifetime of worrying about money.
Just a short time so you don’t have to stress about money ever again. Just a short time so you never have to work 2 jobs or a job you hate because you need to make ends meet. Just a short time so you can have enough to give as freely as you want to help animals. Just a short time so you can be sure your pets will always be able to get the care they need.
The peace of mind is worth it.
Do you worry about how your financial situation could affect the care your pet needs?
If you have any questions about the Dave Ramsey program or getting out of debt please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to answer questions or direct you to a resource.
It’s Blog The Change For Animals and I’m joining with co-hosts CindyLu’s Muse, For the Love of a Dog, and Heart Like a Dog to host it. You can learn about more ways to help animals by visiting the sites in the linky below.