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Finding out you are pregnant should be a happy moment. It was for us. But that didn’t mean that we weren’t then later hit by the “oh my goodness! How are we going to cope financially on maternity leave?” moment.
I was absolutely determined to take a full year off work to spend with my eldest. To me, I needed to build the foundations of family life. Plus, I really fancied a year-long break away from the stresses of working life.
First time around, we didn’t find money that bad. We were both working full time so we could put a fair amount aside each week. Second time around required a bit more thought.
Luckily for me, money is my thing! Luckily for you, I kept a list. Here are 17 tips and ideas to ensure you are coping financially on maternity leave:
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Save in advance
I’ve put this one at the top. Possibly because it seems the most obvious. However, it isn’t always the easiest.
If like us, you and your partner are both working full time then take the time to try and carve out some more space for savings. Perhaps pregnancy means that you aren’t needing your membership to the Skydiving Club any more. Put that money in a savings account.
Any money that you save ahead of time will make a difference. If you need more help with this, check out my post on how to save money fast.
Now is the perfect time to get your budget in order. Have a good look through at your spending habits. See where your money is going and plan what you can do about it.
A good place to start is to track your expenditure over a few weeks. Record everything you spend. This will show up any bad habits that you didn’t know you had.
From there you can start to be more active about where you want your money to go. Decide how much you are happy to spend on each area and stick to it.
You can then look at creating a mock budget for when you start on maternity leave. Speak to friends with babies already about their costs and remember to leave some money for fun. You’ll want to do some of the old things you enjoy and new things as a family.
Get your bills reduced in advance
As a result of your budgeting, you might find that there are some bills that you could reduce. If you can reduce your monthly outgoings now, you’ll save month after month. Plus, if you get any cashback for switching, you can put that in the savings pot too.
I’ve got a great post on exactly how you can save money month after month. Give it a look and see if you can save some money.
Don’t go crazy on the baby stuff
One thing that I went into a major panic about was buying all the stuff we needed for the baby. How were we going to afford everything? You type one baby-related search into Google and suddenly every advert on the internet is telling you more stuff you need.
Turns out that it is all a lie. Babies don’t need a lot of stuff. I’ve written about this before, but you certainly do not need to worry about buying everything suggested to you.
If you wanted to spend absolutely no money at all on baby stuff, then I am convinced you could do it. In this world of consumerism, we are surrounded by more baby stuff than there are babies to use the stuff.
Ask your friends and family if they have the essentials you need. My friends and I have passed babies’ items around as we take it in turns to have babies. As my children have grown out of things, I have offered them to my mates with younger babies.
Even if you did want to buy these items, check out the second-hand market. Most baby stuff I see listed on Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Gumtree is practically new. This is because babies use things for such brief periods of time, before they outgrow them.
Declutter and sell stuff
You might find that you are doing this naturally anyway. You might need to clear out a spare bedroom to make a nursery or just find space in the corner of your bedroom for them to sleep.
As you declutter, sell some of your old things or find a way for them to make you money. You don’t need to throw your precious belongings straight into the bin. Someone will want to buy your stuff and you get to keep their money.
If you get in this mindset now you can carry it through the rest of your mat leave. Selling items as your child outgrows them will free up cash to pay for the next thing they need. Whether that is swimming lessons or a new coat.
Spread out your maternity pay
When I found out I was pregnant with my second, I decided to read the maternity leave policy in full detail. This was to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on anything.
I discovered a line in it that said that I could request that part of my maternity pay (occupational maternity pay) could be spread out in equal amounts over the first 9 months of my leave.
Spreading out your maternity pay is a great way to ensure that you don’t spend it all too quickly. Typically, maternity pay starts of pretty good and dwindles down to nothing. By spreading it out it is much easier to budget.
If your employer doesn’t offer this, you have two options: 1) write to them and ask them to do it. A friend of mine did this and they were more than happy to do it. 2) Do it yourself. You can work out how much you will get and put some aside on the months when you get more. This will give you a bit extra when the pay starts dropping off.
Take your KIT days
You are entitled to take 10 keep-in-touch days without ending your maternity leave. These days are intended to allow you to stay in the loop and prepare you to come back to work.
The type of work you do and the pay you receive needs to be discussed with your employer. But my employer pays me my normal rate of pay AND even if I only work for 20 minutes, they pay me a full day’s pay.
Using these strategies can really help in the last three months when you get paid nothing. I recommend waiting until your Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) ends then working a couple of hours a week until you go back properly.
Watch out! If you take your KIT days whilst still on SMP then you will only get paid the extra above SMP. For example, SMP is currently £145.18 a week. If you work a KIT day that week and your pay for the day is £160. Then you will get paid the £145.18 + £14.82 to make it up to the amount you should’ve been paid.
Therefore, as I have said already, wait until you are not being paid SMP anymore. Then you get maximum value out of these days.
Get your side hustle on
According to the gov.uk website, any self-employed work will not affect your SMP (see point 3.12). This means that it is time to side hustle.
If you were self-employed to start with and are receiving Maternity Allowance (MA) then I’m afraid that this won’t apply to you. But if you are employed then you are good to go.
Your maternity leave is a great time to look at those business ideas you’ve had in the past or to start your first blog. Any money you make like this will mean that you can continue you to receive maternity pay and go back to your job as planned later.
There are so many ways to make money online now, so why not look at my side hustling series to get some ideas and put a few more pennies (or pounds) back in your pocket.
Use your trade allowance
Further to the point above, if you already have a small business or are thinking of starting one, you will be able to use your trade allowance. As outlined on this page, you can earn up to £1,000 on property, goods or services without having to pay tax.
Even better is that you don’t even need to complete a tax return. This will be one less thing on the to do lists and you get to keep on the money.
Therefore this is the perfect time to try selling those crocheted blankets on Etsy or doing some reselling on eBay. Don’t worry if you go over £1,000, you just pay tax on anything over that. But you will have to file a tax return.
Maximise your pay in advance
Your pay is calculated based on your average earnings in the 8 weeks before the qualifying week, which is 15 weeks before your due date. It all sounds a bit complicated, but it is worth finding out when this is.
Once you’ve figured out your dates, I recommend working as much as you can in this period. Working bank holidays, overtime and extra shifts in this time will increase your average earnings. This will lead to an increase in your maternity pay.
Working at all can be hard during pregnancy but this period normally coincides with the better months (the bit after morning sickness bit and before the heavy bit). Therefore, if you feel up to it then get those extra shifts and reap the benefits later.
Claim child benefit and tax credits
Once your child is born you should be able to start claiming child benefit. With this setup, you will receive a regular payment from them. Although not a huge amount it will go some way towards making up the difference.
On top of this it could be that you are entitled to further support. You can use this calculator to see if there is anything else you can claim. Or speak to your health visitor. There are some one-off payments that you might be able to receive depending on your circumstances.
Reduced work subscriptions
If like me, you are a member of a union or another professional organisation you may be able to reduce or freeze the subscriptions on these whilst you are on maternity leave.
My union fees went down to half whilst I was on maternity leave and although this was only £10 a month, £120 over the year makes a big difference.
If you return part-time, you may also be entitled to a reduction, so it is worth taking the time to ask the question.
In the tax year 2018/19 you can transfer up to £1,190 of your tax-free allowance to your partner. This could potentially reduce their annual tax bill by up to £238 for the year.
The time to do this would be if your earnings (owing to you being on maternity leave) are less than the tax-free allowance for the year. This is less than £11,850.
To find out more and set this up, look at this link which explains it in more detail.
Reduce car usage
Cars and kids are just faff. Putting kids in cars is faff. Getting kids out of cars is faff. Therefore, I use our car as little as possible with the kids. If I can walk, I do. The added bonus to this is that I save money.
Maternity leave is a good time to review your car usage. If you have two cars because you were using one to go to work, perhaps you could consider selling it or declaring it off-road for at least part of your leave.
You will save money on fuel costs, tax, insurance and maintenance this way. And you get the added benefits of increased exercises and fresh air.
If eliminating one car is out of the question, then maybe just try to use it less. Babies travel for free on buses and trains, so maybe try using these modes of transport instead. It will save you money on fuel and in parking charges.
Meal planning is a good idea whether you are on maternity leave or not. But if you are looking to make your money go further then meal planning is definitely a good way to go.
I have several posts showing my meal plans and how I make my money go further by doing so. A good place to start is with my Meal Planning: An Introduction post.
Take advantage of your annual leave
As a teacher, I didn’t really get the benefit of this, as my holidays are all planned out for me. However, you can try and time you start and finish to start either side of a school holiday, so you get paid full pay for a week you are off.
If you have a normal job that gives you a holiday allowance though you can use this holiday and tag it on the start and end of your maternity leave. This way you could potentially take a full year with only 9-10 months of it as maternity leave and the rest as paid holiday.
It worth looking at your company’s holiday policy and discussing with your human resources (HR) team about the best way to benefit from this.
Earn extra cash while on maternity leave
There are lots of ways to earn some extra money on the internet that doesn’t involve setting up your own business. Most of these are quick and simple and are a great way to boost your bank balance.
If you need money quickly I have a whole post about how you can make an extra £100 this week. And it has the potential to make you a lot more too. Just be prepared to be on the look for great offers and maximising them
Don’t survive maternity leave, enjoy it!
The time you take off to spend with your new family should be one of the best times of your life. Don’t let money worries tarnish it. A bit of planning and some savvy thinking will mean that coping financially on maternity leave will be a breeze.
And if after that year off, you are thinking that full-time work is not for you then look at my post on How Working Part Time Could Make You Better Off.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.