Finance 101: I Need a Puppy

by Erin Dresch

I’ve wanted a dog forever, and I just can’t stand it any longer. I found a breeder with corgi puppies ready for adoption within the next couple months. The dog itself isn’t what I’m worried about (the adoption will cost about $1,000 — and I’ve been saving). It’s the vet/dog walker/dog supplies I’m more worried about. I’ve never had a dog before, so I don’t really know what to expect in terms of long-term cost. The worst thing that could happen is that I take this dog and realize down the road I really can’t afford it, because if I had to give it up I would die. Please tell me I can afford my puppy!

HONEY! I totally hear you. I’m writing this while my friend’s awesome dog sits at my feet, because I’m dog sitting him for the night, and I don’t ever want him to leave. Dogs, especially in the first year of getting them, are expensive. And it’s not expensive like a pricey one-time purchase. You never know how a pet is going to hit your wallet once you get the little guy.

The ASPCA very kindly put some stats up on its site breaking down the first-year cost of a dog. For a medium-sized dog, like a corgi, it totals $1,580 the first year. Again, there are a LOT of variables. What I worry about the most are healthcare costs. Medical bills for pets can be seriously eye-popping. You can buy dog health insurance. However, insurers can refuse to cover certain procedures for your dog if they have a pre-existing condition. (One of the most depressing sentences I’ve ever written, for the record.)

There is a bigger point I do want to make with you. Why oh why are you going through a breeder? Adopt! That same ASPCA has a bunch of info to point you in the right way. I doubt you can read their “Happy Tails” section without coming to the conclusion that adoption is the way to go. They even have a “Happy Tail” about a rescue corgi! You can pocket the money going to a breeder and cover expenses for your rescue dog. Win win.

I have some money that I would like to invest. I have the money in my savings account right now, but I know there is more I could be doing. It is not a huge amount, still more than I make in a year, so I should probably just go through Fidelity or something like that (as my friends and the professional money person I talked to said), but I was wondering if you could go through some of my other options.

Because I am a nervous person and I worry that if the stock market remains so volatile I will always be freaked out. Adding to my general nervousness/crazy: I got this money from my grandpa who was always so good with money and I don’t want to disappoint his memory ? Or face the wrath of my noisy relatives if they hear I did something stupid and lost a chunk of it. Also I want to be good with my money because I think it is a cool thing to be. So I would like to put it somewhere where it has the opportunity to grow but also where I can take it out or borrow against it in 3–5 years when I want to buy a house? But generally where I only have to think about it once or twice a year. Does this magical place exist? Just so you know I have no debt to pay off first.

If you do think I should invest it in stocks do you know anything about socially responsible investing? I hear this is a thing.

First, good job saving and paying off your debt. Pat yourself on the back! Now that you do have money saved up you should start putting some of it to work. Just remember: These choices need to be your own. Family can help guide you, but you need to make the final decision. I know it’s scary to think about the risk, but long term those equities can help boost your portfolio. Just hop on in, the water’s fine!

Here’s the magic phrase to help you risk some funds without losing it all: asset allocation. It’s a pretty common term but just in case you aren’t in the know, asset allocation is a investment strategy that weighs how much risk you should take, and it usually divides up to equities (super risky), bonds (less risky), and cash. I don’t know your age, income, etc., so I can’t give you a fancy pie chart laying it out for you. However, here’s a place you can plug in the numbers and see for yourself.

As for a safer investment option, I think CDs could be a good choice. A CD is an investment that has a specific maturity date (up to 5 years) on a fixed interest. You can borrow against your CD for a home loan. Fair warning: Interest rates are super low and will be staying there for awhile, so you aren’t really going to see big yields from this. Rates do range a bit, so shop around.

Finally, there are socially conscious mutual funds, but you have to do your research. Read up! In more than one place, please. Good sources to start are Morningstar and Lipper. Check out info like fund ratings, top holdings, fees, and returns compared to general market indexes, like the S&P 500. Keep in mind, these funds usually have restrictions on what it can buy and may have specific intentions that may not jive with your beliefs.

My friends are planning a trip to Europe next summer and I really want to go, but I’m not sure I can afford it. I’ve worked hard to get rid of my credit card debt so I’m in good shape in that regard, but I just don’t have a lot of disposable income. since we’re still in early planning stages I’m not sure of the exact cost yet, but I think it will be somewhere in the $2,000-$3,000 range for flights and hotels… and that’s not including whatever money we spend once we get there. I REALLY want to go because I don’t want to miss out. Plus it’s embarrassing to say I can’t go because I don’t make enough. What should I do?

Again, gold star for paying off your debt, but $3,000 for a trip to Europe! Not including day-to-day expenses! WHERE are you staying? Sorry, I shouldn’t be so tough on you. First, don’t be embarrassed if you really can’t afford the trip. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s a slippery slope not being honest with yourself about money and trying to keep up with appearances. No one is going to drop you from your social circle if you can’t afford a fancy-pants trip to Europe every year.

Try to broach the topic with your friends about spending less on the trip. First off Europe in the summer is known as “peak season.” Total travel agent talk here. Might I suggest you guys go next fall? When it costs less and is less hot and filled with tourists everywhere you turn? It also gives you more time to save up. If you are a student and can only go in the summer, then hit up all the student discounts you can find. Do it up classic student-backpacker style.

There are plenty of other ways to save cash on a trip like this that will save you money, while still giving you a fulfilling experience. Do your research. Go outside your comfort zone. Travel isn’t supposed to just be for the rich.

Previously: Debit Cards, Weddings, and Peaceful New Careers.

Erin Dresch is the producer of business news at NY1, a local news station in New York City. Do you have a question for her?