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In the last couple weeks I have seen numerous post about people who can not afford this or that for their ratties.
The reality is, people will get pets that they can not exactly afford. SO instead of being mean and yelling at them for getting them we should just get over the fact, move on, and try to help them out.
Hence :Budget rat care/owning :)
If we could all share some tips and tricks we have learned that are relatively cheep OR FREE just think about all the happy ratties that will be out there.
Some ideas are: toys you have made or household items you have used to decorate cages. Ways to save money on food or bedding.
Really anything you have done to help your ratties have the best possible house and eat like kings and play like tykes.

:p;D:D8)
 

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Although this isn't necessarily a budgeting option; I have some advice I'd like to share about shopping at Petco.

I know a lot of people do not like to support Petco for a multitude of reasons. But I find them to be extremely reasonable when it comes to their pricing. They do not have everything I need but they are great when it comes to ordering cages, hammocks, wheels, plastic igloos, wooden items and treats. And over the past couple of months I have figured out a lot about their online store and customer service that is worth mentioning.

Pros:
They are always having online sales (30-50% off).
When you first sign up for their website they have a 20% off coupon.
Additional coupon codes can be found in your email or on the sites homepage.
Before you make a purchase, visit your account page and activate all the promotions (2x points on departments, etc.)
Reward points translate into cash to be used online or in store (in 5 dollar increments.)
Shipping is extremely fast (ships out next day, arrives at my doorstep the day after.)
There is a huge loophole in their return policy. When you purchase something online and print out the 'return to store' receipt, you may notice that the items are listed with only a fraction of the discount that you actually received. They honor this price at the store and you end up getting more money back then you originally paid. For example, I ordered a play pen for the sale price of about $23 dollars. The return to store receipt listed the item at the original price of $45 dollars with a $3 discount. In the end, I ended up getting $42 back from Petco on an item I basically paid half the price for. Not to say that you should use this against them, it's just something interesting that I've noticed.

Cons:
No price matching. There are a lot of complaints about this since their store policy states that they do price match. However, price matching can only be completed when you find a product at a local competing petstore. They will not price match their own website, Amazon or any other online retailer. They need to fix this.
No price adjustments. If you purchase an item from them and notice a couple days later that they have further reduced the sales price, most stores will return the difference. Petco, however, does not. I have been burned by them on large ticket items for not riding out the sale long enough. Their customer service is great though, they will often give you back some money in the form of rewards points.
 

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Here are a few bits of advice that I utilize all the time:

Meal Plan: This goes for both you and your rat! By taking 10 minutes each week to meal plan for myself, I am able to create a menu that utilizes a lot of the same produce that I am buying for my rats. Thus, nothing is going to waste. So, if I plan on making a rice and broccoli casserole one day, I know that I'll have broccoli for the rats to munch on as well.

Buy in Bulk: Buy vegetables in bulk that you know will freeze well. This way you can give your ratties fresh vegetables and then freeze the leftovers for yourself or for them. Depending on the vegetable, I blanch them in hot water so that they defrost a bit.

Buy Secondhand: Search Craigslist and places like Goodwill for cages or items that you know your rats will love. You may be able to find small items that your rats can climb on or crawl in for a very discounted price. My rule of thumb is that the item needs to be able to be disinfected completely if I am going to buy it.

Re-purpose: Sometimes pet supplies are incredibly expensive just because they are marketed for pets (food bowls are a great example of this). Go to other places in the store to find the same thing but for cheaper. For example, instead of buying pricey bowls for my rats, I found really cute ceramic bowls in Target's kitchen section that were half the price and were way cuter. You can be really creative with this kind of stuff, and I am always surprised by how much I save by re-purposing things for my animals.
 

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I'm a frugal person, but I also spoil my babies to death. With lots of research and brainstorming, I found some great ways to cut costs :)

Food:
It it is possible, but not the BEST idea, to feed rats entirely on human food.
The best choice is to mix the two. Use lab blocks specifically for rats, which will cost you maybe 10 bucks a bag but will last you months if you're supplementing with real food most of the time. Canned foods and frozen vegetables are very cheap and make perfect rat food for mixes. Other foods, like yogurt, last a long time for a small amount. Buy frozen veggies, canned chickpeas, and pasta and freeze it in a container to give your rats for dinner. Top it off with bits of whatever you're eating, if it's not junk! Leave lab blocks in their cage for them to snack on at all times.

Bedding:
This is my experience, but unless you have chewers, paper/carefresh/loose bedding isn't worth it. It gets expensive, easily smelly and burdensome. Use extra fleece blankets or even towels (make sure your babies feet can't get stuck in the loops) to line their cage.

Toys/Hammocks:
If you're good at sewing, make some yourself! If not, there are new-sew hammock tutorials out there. You can buy some cheap fleece on sale or just use old t-shirts! Using old clothing you already have is practically free, and no worries if they ruin it. Toys can be made out of baskets from the dollar store or lying around, paper towel rolls, pillow/blanket forts, huts made out of cardboard boxes, etc. The internet is chock full of DIY cheap/free toys!

Cage:
It's hard to get around the cost of a good cage. I'd say a good cage is essential to your rats well-being, so if you're gonna splurge, this would be the area. However, it's very easy to scope the internet for sales (I got my DCN online at Petco.com for $140 just by taking advantage of their sales and some online coupon codes I found), go on craigslist and buy them used or even DIY it (which I don't recommend.) Do your research! Everyones situation is different.

Vet/Medical:
These are costs that can't be avoided. All you can do for this one is take necessary precautions to help lessen the need for frequent vet visits. Always be aware of your rats health status, feed them a good diet and keep their cage well cleaned. All these things can play in to the amount of vet bills you might have in the future. That being said, **** happens. Always make sure you have enough money to give them the proper vet care they need.
 

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I would recommend anyone who has a problem spending $200+ at the vet at once to just save $10/month for each rat they have for future vet expenses. That would be the minimum, saving $15-20/month/rat would be much better. Also I would advise people to apply for CareCredit. It is a credit card but only for medical related expenses. There is no interest rates if paid in full within a certain time frame. Rats are much more expensive than most people believe.
 

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I agree with the tips above. My biggest savings comes in the form of buying food and bedding in bulk. I buy from petfooddirect or pet360 when they are having sales (or free shipping) I buy Native earth (harlan teklad) in 40lb bags and store it in air tight food grade containers taking out only enough for a week or so at a time (and storing that in air tight containers). I get my shredded aspen from the same source and get a 4cuft. bag for about $10. I use horse stall pellets for litter box bedding and to go under the aspen and get those at tractor supply. They also sell cheap ceramic food bowls there for about $3 each.

For veggies, I mostly use table scraps when I prep veggies for salad or dinner. (i.e. carrot ends, potato trimmings, etc.) I also grew my own greens... kale and collards. If you start from seed, then you can save some money that way.

Other than that, buying used items will save a lot of money.. I haven't been able to find anything locally, but know a lot of people that have found good deals on CL.
 

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Thrift stores can be your best friend. You can turn 25 cent shirts into hammocks and bedding and plastic toys can be disinfected easily. There is no limit to what you can use from thrift stores. Dollar stores are also a treasure chest. You can get dog ropes, bowls, cat toys, and other random things that can be turned into toys. The only limit is your imagination as long as there are materials that are safe for rats. Also I don't know if your shelter does this but my local shelter will resell items that are donated but they can't use themselves and the proceeds are counted as monetary donations. I have found a ton of useful things for dirt cheap there as well but just like a thrift store it is very hit and miss. You have to be willing to just walk in from time to time when you're nearby and see if they have anything. There's a thrift store next door to one of my usual restaurants so I go see what they have every time I eat there. I have turned a plastic Christmas ornament into a puzzle treat toy for my little ones. That was a flash of inspiration when someone left an ornament in with the bird toys at my local Walmart. XD

Also, I agree that Care Credit is a great idea for people worried about vet bills. My card has served me well with all of my pets.
 

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Make priorities when money's tight. I personally think that a good feed and a good cage is the number one thing to spend money on. Everything else can be fixed with some creativity.

Food: I suppose most of you live in a ratty culture where lab blocks are the one and only choice. But mixing your own rat food is cheap and widely accepted as the best hoice in many countries - thus I believe that can be a way to go if your wallet is thin. It's definetly better than buying cheap labblocks filled only with soy and alfalfa..
When cooking for yourself, make a small portion unspiced food for the rats. Avoid blue cheese or stuff (I have another ''moldy'' cheese in my salads, I remove the ratty portion before adding that.)

Cage - this is a one-time cost. Get it before you get rats. Check yard sales and second hand. Or build your own - many people around here use wooden cabinets or closets to make great rat cages that can last several years. Ideally with plexiglass sealed to the bottom and shelves, but several layers of non-toxic paint can work well too.

Vet care: ok, not much short cuts hare. Save up for a buffert. It should at least cover a vet visit + prescription of lice/mite killing meds, and the meds. Because it's sad to put a rat down because it got mites and you had no money.

Toys: Milk jugs, ropes, worn out clothes, empty flower pots.. pretty much anything can make a rat toy. Just be creative and make sure it can't harm them.

Bedding: fleece. Or get a document shredder and shred newspapers (make sure it's non toxic. I believe in sweden ink is soy based). Pretty much anything that's absorbeent and not harmful can work. Doormats works well for me, and my rats arn't big on chewing so they've lasted a year.

Litter: probably want to be consistent with this. Check out horse supply stores, you might find a huge bale of suitable bedding or litter pretty cheap. (paper based or hemp based)

Outside time : cardboard for pens where you can supervise them.. or to cover places they should bot get into (under the couch perhaps etc).
 

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If you have access to tools and wood or even willow branches or something like it, you can make nice toys too.

Basket: Take willow branches, soak in boiling water for a while, then braid a basket. (check youtube or google.. or do like me and just try). Boiling water kills bugs and makes it pliable.
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Ladder: Get a plank. Saw it to pieces. Drill holes in it (through the cut ends). Pull a piece of wire through on each side. (you can see it on the bottom pieces).

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Both items can be boiled to remove smell and bacteria.
 

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Fabric store remnants bins are the bomb for rat goodies. I find fleece bits in my local fabric store all the time for 25 cents and no sew hammocks are super easy to make with fleece (and they are terribly fun to shred for rats). For a simple flat hammock cut two same size pieces of fleece and sit them on top of each other. Cut a fringe around the edge of the fleece layers an inch deep and about half an inch wide then using the fringe tie two layers together making sure you have a way to hang up the corners. If that's unclear I could do picture tutorials on a variety of hammocks. Long strips of scrap material can be braided together into climbing ropes. Short fleece scraps are good for just tossing into the cage for bedding, or used to safely stuff foraging toys, pillows, and other junk.


Dollar store storage baskets (fill with fleece scraps or overturn with filed down cutout holes), shower curtain rings, lanyard clips, beanie caps (probably the best snuggle sacks ever), binder/bulldog clips to hold down fleece liners, heck I've found big fleece pet blankets for $2 before.


For cooling: Instead of expensive marble chill slabs from the pet store buy single ceramic floor tiles from hardware stores (usually $1-2 a tile) or lay terracotta pots from garden centers on their sides (be aware of pesticides used on plants nearby). Terracotta can even be dampened which keeps things even cooler. Also everyone's favourite fishing for peas. Frozen peas in a shallow water tray, add smooth clean river stones to facilitate foraging and prevent someone from snagging all the goods too quickly.


For heating: A 2 litre pop bottle filled with hot tap water is great. Wrap in towels/fleece and put beside the cage (or under heavy supervision, inside the cage near the favourite sleep spot). These last for hours and radiate a lot of heat.


The above are good during power outages too.


Leave the last bit of toilet paper/paper towel/tissue and toss into the cage. Tissue boxes with just two tissues inside are a favourite in my house (I do remove the plastic though). Also fast food restaurant drink trays, paper bags, and those napkins you probably didn't use are great fun.


Paper mache made with just water, flour, and the weekly flyers can create very sturdy and fun rat pinatas. Do three or four layers of paper and let dry for at least 24 hours before adding treats and placing in cage.


Plain cheerios are the staple treat in my house. They keep well (all you need is an airtight container from the dollar store), super cheap, my rats love them, and a lot of bulk stores carry them for just pennies a scoop.


Some people may not be comfortable with this because of potential ink toxicity but I'm putting the idea out there anyway. Some offices will donate or sell their shredded paperwork for cheap. My aunt worked at fed-ex and they gave her the stuff for free which she used as stall bedding for her horses (never were shredded documents so secure as when horses pooped on them, not even cobblepot would put those back together). It may be worth asking around to see if you can get a hold of the stuff for mischief purposes.


Nuts in the shell (I offer them only once a month) filberts/hazelnuts and walnuts are household favourites and very good teeth workouts.


Make your own non-scented laundry detergent. http://www.crunchybetty.com/originality-homemade-laundry-detergent (she uses zote soap which has a smell but mentions Ivory bar soap works too)




Saving money at the vet. Remember your vet is probably willing to work with you, they can't exactly make money off a client that doesn't go in.


Ask if the clinic has a multiple pet discount.


Ask the clinic if you can do a payment plan. Some places will do it for any visit and others only for huge expensive emergency bills. Never hurts to ask.


Talk to the vet about cheaper alternatives on medications. Some clinics have to send you elsewhere for prescriptions so they won't lose money by prescribing you the cheaper versions. I got 2 crushed doxycycline pills in a suspension fluid instead of reconstituted flavoured doxy and it was quite a bit cheaper. Warning! cheaper meds tend to be harder to administer, be prepared for drooling meds back out and open mouth hammock scooting to wipe off the awful stuff.


Take your rats as soon as you can. This should go without saying but the worse the condition gets the more expensive and unlikely it will become to reverse.


Engage in preventative measures. Prevention is the best cure.
 

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Although I've never tried it... might not a glass bottle with a metal cap work as an in cage warmer that the rats can't chew through if filled with warm water instead of plastic?
 

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- Hunt craiglist, and other online sites (castanet is one of my favorites). I got my huge cage, plus a bunch of bedding for $30.00. Only downside is the cage needed a good scrubbing.

- The dollar store is my favorite place to get things for crafts to make toys for the munchkins... and I am not crafty at all! Haha.

- Go through your closet and get "rid" of clothes you don't want anymore - except instead of throwing them out use them to make hammocks and other stuff.

- Food is the one thing I really don't have anything to recommend because I splurge on food. They get oxbow, veggies, and of course berries for treats.

- Vets can be expensive. There's really no way around that. Instead as a bunch of other people have recommended putting away just $10.00 away each month can help offset the cost.
 

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If you know what your rat has and what is needed to treat him/her, sometimes you can avoid a vet bill all together by getting what you need at a feed store. I've done that many, many times.

Also, vets are much more willing to work out payment options with regular clients. If you only show up once in a blue moon or have never used a particular vet before, getting payments will be difficult.
 
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