Who can resist a warm, fluffy puppy cuddling on your lap or a cute kitten tumbling around the house? Pets add so much joy to life. Joy…and dollar signs!

About a year ago, I adopted a wiggly, happy-go-lucky Labrador puppy and was soon reminded that the first year of pet ownership is so expensive! The ASPCA estimates that the first year of pet ownership costs about $1,100. After that, pets are about $700 a year. Yikes! Determined to cut costs, I soon found some creative ways to cut costs drastically. Here are the fruits of my efforts:

1. Membership and brand rewards

Like "human stores," pet supply stores have rewards programs, too. PetCo Pet Pals offers 5 percent off everything you buy (much like Target's Red Card), exclusive coupons, and $5 reward dollars for every $100 spent. PetSmart's Pet Perks offers email alerts on your pet's favorite products, a free birthday surprise for your pet, members-only coupons, and exclusive everyday savings. Many independently-owned pet stores have rewards programs, too, so if you prefer to shop at a smaller store be sure to ask if they have one.

Combine your store rewards with brand rewards for extra savings. Does your pet love Purina? Sign up for their Purina Difference Rewards Program for product discounts and coupons and educational newsletters. Or, sign up for the Purina Pro Club and document Purina purchases using a claim form to receive points. Cash in your points for rewards like Purina merchandise, veterinary care, or gift cards. Check your favorite brand online to see what programs they offer.

2. Deals and flash sales

Use social saving sites like Groupon, Livingsocial, and a bevy of other deal sites. True, pet care and supplies aren’t the most common type of deal, but at some point they’ll show up. In the past month alone, I have found a deal for Wet Noses dog treats (one of the only kinds my finicky dogs will eat), on-location veterinary care, and even dog clothes! With prices slashed by at least 50 percent, buying multiple deals will save a lot and last a long time.

Also keep an eye out for flash sales at your favorite pet supply stores. Most pet owners are familiar with annual sales at big chain stores like PetCo and PetSmart, but keep an eye out on places like online-exclusive sites (such as Drs. Fosters & Smith) and your independent pet stores. Many stores will have "deal calendars" on hand, which outline sale days and other deal events that you don't want to miss. Get yours, and plan your shopping accordingly.

3. Mobile pet services and clinics at pet stores

The mobile pet service Groupon lead me to another great way to save. Mobile pet care services are offered in many large cities and often cater to the surrounding smaller cities, as well. They offer basic veterinary services such as microchipping, vaccines and boosters, flea preventatives, and even basic illness test packages (such as for internal parasites)—all much cheaper than a local vet. You can also find veterinary clinics at many large pet supply stores. Again, you'll find the basics there for less, and often they'll team up with the store to offer promotional deals, such as $10 off a teeth cleaning or half off your pet's yearly vaccinations.

4. Buy in (manageable) bulk

Club membership stores may not quite be worthwhile for some items that couponing can make almost free anywhere else. But since pet items so rarely have coupons, it may well work out to buy your pet supplies there. Check the prices against pet supply stores, and see which items are worth it. I was able to find extra-large beds much cheaper than anywhere else, although often the food and treats were a little more expensive. You can also buy in bulk–without worrying about storage–by signing up with Amazon's "Subscribe and Save" program, which lets you save 15 percent but control when your items are delivered. Also, now that Amazon offers coupons, you may have a chance to save even more!

5. DIY

A trip to the groomer's can cost, at minimum, $10 per trip. Add that up over a year of baths, nail trimming, and haircuts, and you've found yourself a huge money hole. Invest in a good pair of clippers, buy a bottle of shampoo, and stretch your dollars by doing these tasks at home. It may be a little more time-consuming, but I know everyone will agree that using one $8 bottle of shampoo to last my dog a year is better than taking him in every month for a total of $120 a year (ouch)!

Though it's not as simple as printing off coupons online every morning, these methods can save you a lot of money with a little extra effort. In fact, they may even allow you to give your pets better care and supplies than usual! Show your pets you love them, and give your budget room to breathe–who could ask for more?

 This has been a guest post by Brittany from Sacramento, CA
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5 Ways to Make Pet Care More Affordable