Yet, there are some things I never scrimp on: food and vets. You need the best that you can afford and find.
But as far as toys and other things are concerned...well I admit I economize when I can. Especially as we have 2 big dogs and a Marmaduke sized dog.
Step 1: Dog toys
Our three cats are very happy with playing with a cardboard box and a paper bag (or rather the dogs are their toys). But the dogs seem to need more attention? We've spent a lot of money on dog toys and paraphernalia over the years. And I will buy some toys over and over again as they are well made and virtually indestructible.(Kong, Nylabone are some of the best.)
While browsing the pet store, I endlessly feel, squeak and study the toys. There are a lot of great toys out there, especially for small dogs it seems. But our dogs are BIG DOGS with big mouths, i.e. aggressive chewers it appears. And even our 12 year old lab mix can eviscerate a stuffed toy in a matter of minutes. She holds her paws together and does a fast rip-tug. She can peel a tennis ball in a few minutes. (Tennis balls happen to be one of her favorite toys, but we never buy them. See step 4 for tennis balls.)
One of the best toys lately was actually a very cheap toy and you could probably stop this instructable right here with this tip: resale/thrift store stuffed animals for young children. This little pink hippo was made for a baby or very young child under 3 years old. It has a slight rattle. There are no buttons, or anything that could be pulled off and swallowed by a baby (ergo a dog wouldn't swallow it either). It cost me .79 cents? Under a dollar. And my Great Dane: mouthy- teethy- puppy- almost-adult dog loves it-- he throws it up in the air and chomps on it. We've had it for 2 months! It is manufactured by Ty. Right now it is in the washing machine getting all cute and pink again for it's picture. (It is washable too!!)
At the same time at the thrift store I got another toy- this one a duck with a great rattle/squeak. This one, unfortunately had button eyes. So I cut out the eyes and replaced it with some fabric. It cost .49 cents, so this wasn't a big investment, and if I ruined it I'll learn something for my investment of sewing time.
It took about 5minutes for our dogs to completely tear it apart. Partially because this toy had a great sound and then they did tug-a war with the toy and the toy lost. And the fabric, a plush fur was more easily pierced by canine teeth.
The hippo though is still intact. Something about the way this was stuffed makes it chewy, rattle nicely and also not too chewable. This makes my thinking cap tingle.