Cheapest Low-Maintenance Pets to Own

Want to add a pet to your family, but worried that the cost of food, supplies and vet visits will leave you broke? Protect your finances (without giving up your dream of pet ownership) by choosing one of these cheap, low-maintenance pets.

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Hamster. Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia/Moment/Getty Images

If you want a bit of furry cuteness in your life, but you don't have much space in your home, consider getting a hamster. You'll pay about $15-20 for the hamster, another $20-50 for a cage, $7-8 for an exercise ball, $10 for the first bag of food and another $10 for the first bag of shavings. To cut your start-up costs, adopt a rescue hamster and pick up a second-hand cage on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Lifespan: Hamsters usually live two to three years, so they aren't a huge time commitment. Just keep them fed, clean their cage once a week and give them a wheel to run in, and they'll be happy.

Downsides: Hamsters are nocturnal, so you probably won't want to put their cage in a bedroom. And it's important to note that hamsters sometimes bite when they're scared. If you're thinking of getting a hamster for your kids, make sure you show them how to handle a hamster properly, so they don't get bitten.

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Gerbil. Blend Images/DreamPictures/Vanessa Gavalya/Brand X Images/Getty Images

Similar in size to hamsters, gerbils are social creatures, who don't mind being held and aren't prone to biting. This makes them ideal pets for kids. And since they require minimal care and cost, you're likely to consider them ideal, too. You'll need to buy two gerbils, since they need a companion. Figure on $5-10 each, plus the cost of a cage ($30+), shavings ($10) and food ($10). A $7-8 exercise ball will give you a place to put your gerbil, while you clean the cage.

Lifespan: Expect your gerbils to live three to five years.

Downsides: Gerbils love to burrow in their shavings, which often results in spillover onto the floor. If you don't want to have to vacuum daily, consider putting them in an aquarium. Be sure to purchase two gerbils of the same sex, or the population will grow quickly.

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Betta Fish

Betta Fish
Betta Fish. Sarayut Thaneerat/EyeEm/Getty Images

Working with a crazy tight budget? Then, consider getting a pet betta fish. All you need is $10 for everything you need to get started. That's $5 for a betta, $2-3 for food and another $3 for water conditioner. Bettas don't require much space, so you probably already have a bowl or container that you can use as a fish bowl.

Lifespan: If you keep your betta fish fed, and change the water once a week, it should live three to five years.

Downsides: Betta fish will attack each other, if you put them in the same bowl. So, you can only have one per bowl.

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Father and daughter feeding chickens
Father and daughter feeding chickens.  Morsa Images/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Have a backyard? Then, consider raising chickens. After the initial start-up costs for chicks ($3+) and a coop, you'll just need to pick up a bag of feed ($22) and pine shavings ($20) every few months. In return you'll receive eggs, manure for your garden and countless hours of entertainment. Chickens love to be held and pet, just like a dog or cat. Pick a laid back breed like Buff Orphingtons or Brahmas, and they'll even do well around kids.

Lifespan: Keep your chickens protected from predators, and they should live 8-10 years.

Downsides: If you let them free-range, you'll need to find a way to protect plants that you don't want them to eat. Since chickens are outdoor pets, you'll also have to be willing to go out in the cold to care for them in the winter.

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Rabbit. Sophie Hermbusche/EyeEm/Getty Images

While rabbits are as large as some cat and dog breeds, they have a much smaller appetite. Pair that with the fact that they can be potty trained, and live happily indoors or out, and you have another good contender for a cheap and low-maintenance pet. Figure on around $25 for a non-pedigreed rabbit, plus another $20 for a large bag of food (which should last several months). Shop Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for a good deal on a used rabbit hutch, or build one yourself. Check with the Humane Society or ASPCA for a rescue.

Lifespan: A well-cared for rabbit will live 7-10 years.

Downsides: Rabbits will chew on electric wires and furniture legs, if you allow them to run loose in your house. If low-maintenance is your goal, avoid angora rabbits and other breeds that require grooming.