"I would like your opinion on owning just one guinea pig. I have lots of time to spend with the little fella, but I don't know if I could afford to have two."
For us humans, the saying goes that two's company but three's a crowd. When it comes to guinea pigs the adage changes - two's company but three's a herd. The short answer is: guinea pigs truly benefit from having a cage mate so I'd certainly encourage you to adopt two cavies instead of one if you can manage it!
Guinea pigs are highly social creatures who flourish in the company of their own kind. They thrive on companionship and enjoy interacting and communicating with one another. Being kept with a companion really allows their personalities to shine - which is why some people have herds of three, four, or even more pigs. The social dynamics that emerge are quite entertaining to see.
The difference in behavior between a single cavy versus one with a cage mate is remarkable. Bonded guineas are generally more confident, relaxed, and well-adjusted to their environment. Not to imply that you'll be excluded from their friendship - quite the contrary! Not only will they derive contentment from each other's company when you're busy, they'll also appreciate the attention you have to share with them.
Aside from the initial costs of ownership (cage, bedding, food bowl, water bottle, pigloos) the cost difference between caring for two critters versus one is minimal. As quite a few guinea pig owners can attest, there are certainly ways to economize. Fleece bedding, a DIY C&C cage, and bulk hay/pellet purchases are great places to start. No need for expensive toys either - you'll find that cavies can be quite satisfied with cardboard boxes, tunnels, makeshift tents... and the friendship of another pig.
Of course, the final decision is entirely up to you. I hope that provided some helpful insight.
Fellow guinea pig slaves, do you have any thoughts or stories to share regarding piggy companionship?
Update from Nikki: "Thank you for getting back to me :) I will be getting two now!"
Thanks to everyone who shared their input!