Here in the UK we’re super lucky that every woman has the right to take 52 weeks maternity leave. However, being able to afford to take it is another matter altogether. Some ultra-supportive employers offer enhanced maternity leave packages, providing as much as six month’s pay whilst you take a break to recover from birth and raise your new baby. But many offer just the Statutory Maternity Pay allowance of
- 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
- £145.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
So can you really cut, squeeze and thrift your way to taking a whole year off? It takes some serious saving, canny shopping and brilliant baby budgeting, but it is possible! Here’s how…
1. Check your company’s maternity policy and pay rate
Start by putting a call in to HR to check your options. Many companies will offer an enhanced maternity package to employees that have been with the organisation for a year or more and it means that you’ll receive a far more generous pay out than Statutory Maternity Pay alone. Check your intranet or contact your HR department in confidence. You might not be as strapped for cash as you think!
2. Find out if you’re entitled to statutory maternity pay
Even if your company doesn’t run an enhanced scheme they are still obliged to pay you Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) as long as you meet the conditions. The gov.uk website is really useful for SMP information. As well as the qualifying conditions and rate of pay you can use the online calculator to work-out how much you might receive.
If you’re self-employed then you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance. To check your eligibility and how much you could be entitled to click here to visit the gov.uk website
3. Budget, budget, budget
Once you know how much you’re going to get, you can work out a ‘year off with baby’ budget. Using your new income as a starting point, write down all your outgoings to see how far your money would stretch. Once you’ve worked out any shortfall then it’s time to start cutting back where you can! Luxuries like takeaway coffees, the gym membership, cinema cards, an all channels cable TV subscription and nights out are a good place to start!
4. Save while you still can!
Hopefully you’ve still got about six months before your income is slashed, so start putting some extra cash away now. Save gradually, and if you can, start cutting your monthly expenditure bit-by-bit until you’re was living as closely as possible on what you’ll be receiving during maternity leave. A gradual cut will give you time to get used to living on less and enable you to save a fair bit too!
5. Buy the basics – you don’t need much more
It’s easy to get carried away when planning for the arrival of a new baby. From designer clothing to the latest gadgets and gizmos (baby wipe warmer anyone?) there’s a whole hoard of products that neither you nor your baby will need. Stick to the basics:
- Somewhere for the baby to sleep (bed-sharing is safe if you are exclusively breastfeeding and observe the safe sleep seven rules)
- baby vests
- a coat and hat for outside
- nappies (washable nappies work out significantly cheaper in the long run, particularly if you go on to have subsequent children)
- a sling/wrap to carry your baby – about 1/10th the cost of many buggies or prams, and much preferred by most babies
- bottles and steriliser if you are going to be formula feeding
and a job-lot of cotton wool will see you through the first few months.
6. Shop a season ahead
Nowadays most mainstream retailers run seasonal reductions and sales throughout the year. Look out for sales throughout the year and you can often snap up most of the equipment and clothing you need at a reduced price. Once you’ve worked out your babies due date, make a list of what you need and then keep watch for the discounts!
7. Use your local children’s centre
There are over 3,600 children’s centres in England, all offering a variety of advice and support for mums-to-be. Instead of signing up for an expensive private antenatal course, attend the class at your local centre. And after the birth of your child you can sign up for a variety of fun activities – all for free! To find your nearest SureStart Centre, ask your midwife or click here to visit the gov.uk website
8. Shop second-hand
Online auction or sales sites like E-bay, Preloved or Gumtree always have a massive amount of baby items for sale as do hundreds of baby groups on Facebook. And because there’s so much choice you can often get high-quality items at rock bottom prices. Children’s charity shops, car boot sales and National Childbirth Trust sales are another potential goldmine of second-hand baby equipment and give you the chance to inspect the items before you buy – just remember to haggle!
9. Learn to love vouchers
are a veritable buffet of discounts, buy one get one frees and special offers. Self-confessed voucher addicts can use discount deals to save money on everything from your weekly shop and monthly hair cut to a romantic Valentines night away. When it comes to allowing yourself the occasional treat – and let’s face it, mums deserve a treat or two – a little discount goes a long way.
Click here to read our blog post on going plastic-free with your new baby.