Contemplating becoming a pet parent? There are plenty of things to consider before taking the plunge — like making sure the animal is properly cared for and loved (it’s not all about you, remember). But you also need to account for how much time and money it will cost to make a pet part of your life.
If you’re not ready to make a major commitment with a puppy or a kitten, however, you can still realize the joy of owning a pet with an animal that’s a bit more self-sufficient. Here are a few suggestions that are good for pet-parent beginners, young and old alike. (See also: 6 Money Lessons You Can Learn From Your Pets)
1. Hermit Crab
It’s basically a rite of passage — if you live anywhere near a beach, anyway — to adopt a hermit crab as a kid. I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, and everyone I knew had a hermit crab at one point or another during childhood, mostly because it was much easier to convince our parents to let us have this easy-to-maintain pet opposed to, say, a rabbit or an otter, or the pig I’ve always wanted. Hermit crabs cost about $8.
Providing sustenance for a hermit crab is a cinch, it’s no real fuss to keep a bowl of clean water and food in its habitat to access when necessary. Pelleted hermit crab food can be purchased from a pet store for around $10, but in addition, you also can feed it chopped apples, grapes, bananas, kale, and broccoli.
Hermit crabs are nocturnal and social, so you may want to pick up a friend or two that it can jam out with when you go to bed at night. It’s also recommended that you provide the habitat with a sea sponge that the crab can climb on as well as bigger shells the crab can change into as it grows, and that’ll cost you about $35.
2. Guinea Pig
If you’re considering a small rodent, you have plenty of choices, and the most popular among them is arguably the hamster. Hamsters are cute, for sure, but in terms of ease of care and overall friendliness, a guinea pig could be the better fit for you. For starters, unlike hamsters, which are nocturnal, guinea pigs tend to nap, and are alert and friendly whenever you’re ready to cuddle and play. Another plus — they’re less likely to bite than other rodents, like hamsters and rabbits. Guinea pigs cost around $30.
In terms of care, you should handle your pig regularly (and why wouldn’t you — they’re adorable!), and provide it with about four square feet of habitat filled with creature comforts like soft bedding, store-bought food, fruits, veggies, and water, which will set you back about $100 when all’s said and done.
Some people cringe at the thought of creepy-crawly pets like amphibians and reptiles, but geckos — a type of lizard (and also the Geico mascot) — are cute, quiet, clean, and very affordable at $20.
All a gecko needs to live out its happy life is a terrarium outfitted with a few rocks and logs; a light bulb to keep it warm because it’s cold-blooded (this part is very important so you don’t freeze it to death at room temperature); and its favorite food: mealworms or crickets, which only cost a few cents a serving, and are available at any pet store. A complete equipment kit is $50, plus the cost of the actual homing structure, like an aquarium.
4. Freshwater Fish
Freshwater fish are one of the most, if not the most, inexpensive and low-maintenance pets to own. They’re so cheap, in fact, that you can get goldfish — the reigning king of freshwater pet fish — for pennies. At PetSmart, for instance, goldfish cost about 14–29 cents. Including the bowl, water purification tablets, habitat features (like rocks), and food, you can walk away with the whole setup for less than $15.
Read More: The 6 Least Expensive Dog Breeds to Own
You might notice somewhat of a trend on this list that most of the low-maintenance and low-cost pets are also low energy and make almost zero sound. Case in point, the snake, which for some will send shivers down their spines. But you can pick up a fancy corn snake for around $70, plus a complete habitat kit for $50. You’ll also need a tank in which the snake can live, and that’ll run you about $100 on the low end, but you can probably find one on Craigslist for cheaper. Mice, because the snake’s got to eat, run about $13 for four frozen medium specimens, and you’ll feed the snake one to two times a week.
I know, I know, it’s a rat, but hear me out. Male fancy rats (it seems like everything at the pet store is called “fancy,” by the way, and I don’t know why) are highly intelligent, and surprisingly cuddly. They’re also only $11. A starter kit setup, which includes the cage, toys, and food, is $100. The love you’ll have for your new scavenger friend, however, is priceless.
Read More: 6 Money Lessons You Can Learn From Your Pets
You can’t handle or play with ants like you can many of the other animals on the list, but that might work for you, if you prefer to be a more hands-off pet owner. Amazon lists Uncle Milton’s Giant Ant Farm for about $24 all in.
8. Pet Rock
Some people shouldn’t be responsible for the life of another being. You know who you are. If you can’t even keep a houseplant alive, pet ownership probably isn’t for you — at least right now.
In that case, do what a million and a half other suckers did in 1975 and buy a Pet Rock. For about $13, you too can experience the sheer awesomeness of staring at a stone with zero responsibility to it whatsoever. On a side note, if this is up your alley, let’s talk about a bridge I’d like to sell you.