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Excellent question!!! Things not to skimp on…the heat lamp and bulb. However, go on Craigslist or any of your local classifieds or facebook to look for a used 20-gallon tank. These are a very costly item that many folks end up hugely discounting or even giving away. If you are in a rural area, this may be tricky, because of travel distances involved, but do give it a shot. Same thing for a heating pad. These often go along with the tank. If there is a reptile rescue in your area, check with them. Sometimes people who are relocating donate their entire setup and pets to a rescue. They will of course charge something, but often it is less than half the price of buying everything new, which can add up to a bunch of dough by the end. For plants, buy small pothos in plastic pots and transplant them to small clay pots. For substrate, no sand, no sand, no sand. You can use inexpensive potting soil, but do bake it in the oven at 165 degrees for 30 minutes to be certain of sterility. For natural hides, spend some time collecting some awesome flat rocks of various sizes. Spritz them lightly with a little bleach on all sides and bake along with the substrate.

There is little chance of getting all of these items for free, but with time spent in advance in searching and researching, you may be able to keep your initial expenditures under $40. Be sure to acquire a healthy animal from a breeder. Vet bills can blow your budget clean out of the water, so don’t skimp on that.

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