… and still have a life
Recently a pregnant friend asked me how I felt in the lead-up to going on maternity leave. I thought about it for a few moments, before describing it as a combination of slight panic and nervous excitement at the looming unknown, and a whole lot of glee at switching on my out-of-office for the foreseeable future. But on the downside, there was also the realisation that my most recent payslip was the last one I’d be receiving for a little while, and that my husband and I would soon be down to one income.
Looking back now those thoughts did little to dampen my enthusiasm at the prospect of weekly…cough…daily coffee and breakfast dates, and the occasional manicure/pedicure session. However, once I had my daughter I did quickly come to realise that those little outings—whilst crucial to my well-being and an opportunity to get out and about with my baby—didn’t come cheap. In fact, they were downright expensive.
So, with 10 months still ahead of me, I realised it was time to lay some ground rules. This one is for all of you Mama’s out there waiting to head on your own maternity leave, or perhaps it’s already well underway—I asked financial advisor and founder of Sugar Mamma TV Canna Campbell for her top tips on how to save money on maternity leave and keep on track, whether or not you plan to slip back into your office chair.
Sugar Mamma’s tips for financial success during Maternity Leave.
1. ENSURE YOU PLAN AHEAD:
“Preparation is key,” says Campbell. Not only do you really take into account how long you can afford to stay off work both before and after your baby is born, it’s important to “save up throughout your gestation period, and also do as much research as you can into any upcoming expenses.” This is the time to take stock of those big-ticket baby items such as furniture, car seats, prams, and cribs, in addition to medical bills. Where possible, see if you are able to borrow items from friends or family members—your baby will likely only be in a bassinet or basket for the first few months, and ditto for the car capsule. It’s also wise to use this time to research ideas that will help to make life easier for you and won’t cost a fortune, she says. For example, if child minding will have to come into play at any stage throughout your leave period, “think about sharing a nanny, or even taking turns looking after a friend’s baby instead of paying childcare or hiring a babysitter.”
2. GET BUDGETING:
How are your Excel skills nowadays? Regardless, it’s important to have a budget, urges Campbell. “You’ll then know the true cost of living for your family and the items that are considered a necessity versus a luxury. Remember budgets aren’t a way of controlling you, they just provide boundaries to work around and keep you in the drivers seat when it comes to your financial future so that you can achieve your financial goals.” Consider this: If you don’t do a budget, how do you know if you are spending your money and directing your cash flow to the best of your needs and wants? “When you budget properly and honestly—and see money leftover in your savings account and yourself achieving your goals—it will feel great. Budgeting then becomes empowering,” says Campbell.
3. DO A TRIAL RUN:
While it might seem like an added stress, Campbell recommends that you practice what your cash flow will be like. “If you are going down to one income, experiment by placing the equivalent of the reduction in income—per fortnight or month—of the person going on leave into a separate savings account, and then see how you go.” If you find within a few weeks that money is tight, Campbell suggests revisiting your budget and looking at what items can be removed or adjusted. The good news? In the meantime you’ll be growing a nice stash of savings to put into an emergency account—but more on that soon.
4. TREAT YO’SELF—OCCASIONALLY:
Once you have modified your budget, it will reveal what you can afford to spend on luxury items. Campbell says to consider the activities you enjoy that will maximise your happiness and wellbeing—it might be shopping for a new wardrobe, booking in a beauty treatment, or eating out at your favourite restaurant. “If for you that’s a relaxing facial, think about ways you can save on that, such as making an at-home treatment from products you already own, putting on some relaxing music and lighting a candle, rather than outsourcing it to an expensive beautician.” And make sure you get someone to watch the baby for you, too!
5. TRY SOMETHING NEW:
Catching up with friends doesn’t necessarily have to be a costly exercise. Instead of sitting down to a breakfast a few times a week, consider going for a walk with your baby and a friend, picking up a takeaway coffee to drink on the go. That way, not only are you getting some fresh air and exercise, you’re seriously cutting down on your dining-out bill. Or, if you belong to a mother’s group, consider taking turns to catch up at a local park, and have each mum bring a plate or something to drink—a simple yet cost-effective way to still enjoy each other’s company without blowing upwards of $30 on avocado on toast.
6. DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU:
You may be given the choice for your maternity leave to be paid in a lump sum or in instalments, and it’s important to do what suits you and your financial situation, says Campbell. While it’s a good idea to ask friends and family for advice, “everyone is different, so you need to decide what will suit your financial situation—a large lump sum may be tempting and require too much self control, and you may feel like you would be better at rationing the money across your time away from work. However, if you have a mortgage, using the lump sum to offset a loan may help you save some valuable time and interest, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.”
7. PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED:
It’s important to keep some funds set aside in case of emergencies—you can instantly set some money aside by rounding items up on your budget, having a buffer, and a lump sum of money set aside in a separate account, says Campbell. That way, you can’t accidentally spend it! “If you do tap into this account, you need to quickly rebuild it when you can—either through regular re-payments or lump sums—so that you always have that piece of mind.”