We know that pets cost money – the ASPCA notes that first year costs can run up to $1,843 for a large dog and $1,035 for a cat (a fish, not surprisingly, is the cheapest option, closely followed by a small bird).

But I also know – from experience, with my family’s beloved dog Teddy – that they bring a lot of joy.  Any cost-benefit analysis is likely to land squarely on the pet’s side.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t save a few bucks.  The easiest ways to cut costs:

Get a discount on care.  A lot of veterinarians and veterinary hospitals will give a senior citizen discount, so that’s a great place to start.  If you have two pets, bring in both at the same time and see if they’ll cut you a break – the same goes for boarding facilities, by the way – and you may be able to get cheaper rates on routine procedures like shots by going to your local pet store.  Animal control also often offers low cost vaccines.

Go with generic prescriptions.  Just like with your medications, this is cheaper.  While a some animal medications don’t have generic forms, a large portion of the medicine prescribed for your pet was originally developed for a human, meaning you can ask your vet for a human equivalent and then pick up the generic option.  You can also – again, just like with your own doctor – ask for samples (this goes for food, too).

Look for deals.  If you’re not loyal to one vet, you can find coupons for new operations that are looking to build up their practice or even deals from group buying sites like Groupon or LivingSocial.  Just make sure you give the clinic a through vetting (ha!), particularly before a major procedure.

Go bare basics.  Your cat does not need three scratching posts, and your dog only needs one ball.  Pets are much like toddlers – they’ll play with anything that’s available.  That means your old tennis balls, a rope and sticks, all of which are free or very cheap.

Shop around for home or renters insurance.  If you have what may be considered an aggressive breed of dog, an insurer may shy away from covering you or offer you higher rates.  But that doesn’t mean every insurer has the same policy, so shop to see if you can get a better deal.

Try a vet school.  Many operate a reduced cost clinic so the students can train.  That means someone with little experience will be treating your dog, but they are under the careful watch of an experienced teacher.