About 10 years ago I rescued a little tabby that quickly became a well-loved member of our family. Little did I now that she came into our home with ears full of mites and a urinary tract infection. The cost of those vet bills bit such a chunk out of our budget that we briefly considered pet insurance. We soon realized it wouldn't be the best option for us, and it might not be for you either.

A pet care insurance plan may not cover all the expenses related to healing your ill pet. For instance, depending on the type of plan you have, only some services are covered. Other services, such as an annual physical or care related to an ongoing condition may be included only in the very expensive plans. Also, most plans cover only a percentage of the vet's fees.

And what happens if your furry friend suffers only minor ailments that you can afford to pay for out of pocket? The insurance company still collects your money while your bank balance continues to dip. If that thought irks you, consider these alternatives instead.

Create a Pet Care Savings Account

Invest money at the beginning of each month into a savings account dedicated to pet care expenses. Better still, make it a money market savings account, which typically offers higher interest rates. To figure out how much to save monthly, get quotes for different pet insurance plans online at sites such as the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance or PetPlan. Invest the amount of money you would pay for the insurance plan of your choice. For instance, if a basic plan costs $69 monthly and suits your budget, then put $69 into your money market savings account.

Go to a Veterinary College

If you live near a veterinary college, you might also be able to save money on pet care, as some of them provide clinics for people living on a small income. To find a college near you, search the Ameican Veterinary Medical Association's website.

Negotiate a Payment Plan

If your pet is a long-time client of your vet's, you may be able to work out a payment plan so you can pay your bills weekly or monthly. To make the negotiation go more smoothly, offer to make a larger first payment, say 30 percent of the bill, and the rest payable in installments. However, don't try this approach with a vet you're visiting for the first time.

Offer Your Services

Fortunately, the days of bartering aren't over, although many of us don't take advantage of it as often as we should. If you're in a pinch to pay your vet, ask if you can pay in-kind with services such as cleaning out kennels or washing or walking dogs. If you have a particular skill, such as website design, you can offer to create a website for your vet if they don't already have one. Think outside the box.

Contact a Local Shelter

Some animal shelters hold clinics that allow you to get veterinary care for your pet for a reduced fee. In some cases, they may also provide loans or grants or be able to recommend vets who charge less for their services.

Apply for CareCredit

This is a great service that allows both humans and pets to apply for a CareCredit credit card, which is just for health expenses. It's easy to figure out if you qualify, and the company offers extended payment plans with low monthly payments, so it's suitable for just about any budget.

This has been a guest post by Andrea from Ontario, Canada
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