If you’re going on maternity leave soon, brace yourself for a lean year, because no matter how generous your employer is, there’s going to be a lot less money around than usual. I’m no money saving expert, however, there are a few things I can suggest to help you maximise the cash you do get.
Here are my top five ways to stretch your maternity leave pay
1. Use your annual leave wisely
Pregnancy is knackering and we all need a break, but save up as much of your paid annual leave as possible to take just before your due date. You could take as much as four weeks off on full pay at the end of your pregnancy, when – believe me – you REALLY need it. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to use your annual leave to attend antenatal appointments, you are entitled to take that time off although I think it’s nice to fit it in around your work if possible. Did you know that you also accrue annual leave while you are on mat leave? You can tag this on the end of your mat leave and have a nice bit of paid leave to round up your time off.
2. Don’t get sucked into all the expensive baby classes
There are endless mother and baby classes out there, some of which are more useful than others. Why sign up for weekly swimming classes at £15 a pop when you can go to the local pool for a fraction of the cost? If you feel you will get something out of it (mum friends, anyone?) then sure, give it a try, but you can easily splurge £30 a week on classes and frankly, your newborn is just happy to be with you wherever you are. Over the course of 6 months or a year, that money really adds up – I didn’t do any of them and used the money I saved to have an extra month at home with my baby. Check out your local NCT for coffee mornings, find a birth group on Facebook so you can meet mums in your area who are due at the same time, chat to folks at the baby clinic, or find the local playgroup which asks for just a small contribution.
3. Budget, budget, budget
It’s easy to start off maternity leave on full pay, or something resembling it, and think you’re in the money. Then a couple of months later, it’s a BIG reality check when you’re on Statutory Maternity Pay and if you choose to stay off for the full year, there are a few months when you will be paid absolutely nothing at all. Even out those bumps by sitting down before your leave starts to calculate how much you can expect to earn over the whole period you’re having off, then divide it by however many months. That way you have the same amount every month you’re off, and it’s not such a shock to your personal budget or the household bills.
4. Do I really need this…?
It’s amazing how little money you really need for yourself when you’re off. I started off my mat leave by giving myself £X for my personal expenses – mobile, make-up, clothes, magazines, gym membership. For me it was worth sacrificing new clothes (rediscovering your pre-pregnancy clothes can be like getting a whole new wardrobe, albeit one a size too small), or a new mobile phone (I got 5 years out of mine in the end!) so I could delay my return to work.
5. Keep In Touch.
Does your workplace offer KIT days (Keep In Touch days)? If so, grab them with both hands. Get your other half to take a day’s leave to look after the baby and head in to do the day job. You can take up to ten of them while you’re on mat leave (remember to take them before you take any accrued annual leave at the end of your time off) and you could find that instead of earning sweet FA in the your penultimate month off, you actually have half your usual salary. Which will feel like a LOT. Believe me. There is also a huge benefit in that you will return to work feeling much better prepared – and you might even enjoy having that bit of time as a proper grown up.
Image credit: Alison McGarragh-Murphy/Katie Collins