Prior to training as a GP, I used to work in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. It was common to see women plan every aspect of their pregnancies – right down to the vitamins they took and the delivery they wanted.
The hardest deliveries to plan were among those women who were overweight, had other health conditions like diabetes or depression, or those with problems with the lie of the baby or the location of the placenta.
Women generally attended every scan and every midwife appointment without fail. They prepped their bag for the time of going into labour and meticulously planned every detail.
It wasn’t always possible to see them through in exactly the way they had planned, but I did my best alongside an excellent team of doctors and midwives.
To be honest, despite all the medical intervention and planning, I don’t know if finances were ever at the forefront of this process.
And with 50% of pregnancies thought to be unplanned, this is even more worrying.
Preparing Your Money For What Is About To Come
When working women have children, they are often taking maternity leave to do so. Some choose to go back to work quickly, but on the whole, maternity leave is universally enjoyed by all employed women.
Have you looked at how your finances might fare during this time?
Maternity leave payments vary hugely between employers. In my field of operation, the NHS, women receive different rates depending on how much service they have provided.
You must know what you might be entitled to because this changes everything. Try out this UK government calculator to find out for yourself.
Another tip is to ask your work HR department before getting pregnant so you can find out what is possible.
Being forewarned with how much pay you’re entitled to while on leave can be the difference of more precious weeks at full or half pay vs. £145 a week only!
This will get your prepared for what will change for you in the months ahead and also will help you check your employer is paying you properly.
So Now You Know How Much You’ll Receive, What Next?
The next step depends on your plans. When would you ideally like to go back to work? If you think it will be within the time you receive full pay, and you have childcare covered, then there’s no issue.
However if you want to have a whole year off, then you’ll need to sort your cash flow out ASAP.
How are you going to fund the gap in pay when it drops? If you have a partner who is earning well, and can accommodate this, then that’s brilliant!
But what if your partner can’t?
Please don’t underestimate this, because I know of women who have had to resort to foodbanks to feed themselves while on maternity leave because they can’t afford to buy food.
This is heartbreaking and shocking. I absolutely do not want this to be you.
Remember also that medical conditions may require you to start your maternity leave earlier than planned, and your finances will then need to adapt accordingly. Having a plan gives you the flexibility you need to be able to cope financially with your new baby.
Things You Can Do Before Getting Pregnant
1. Pay off Debt
Firstly pay off as much debt as you possibly can. Ideally before you even plan to have kids, but I admit that life doesn’t always work like this. Use the snowball method to do this quickly.
The other thing you need to be doing at the same time as paying off debt is to build an emergency fund.
2. Start An Emergency Fund
This is generally a sum of money that will cover you financially for when things go wrong. If you have time and enough additional income, aim for an amount that plugs the gaps when your pay drops while on maternity leave.
The emergency fund is MY MOST FAVOURITE SAVINGS GOAL because it helps to stop the build up of debt. If something goes wrong, the buffer is there is cushion you and (in theory) stop you from using debt to dig your way out of a problem.
In order to build up this money, you need to start with a decent budget that increases the gap between the money you bring in, and the money you spend.
Sometimes it takes some drastic measures like getting rid of extra cars and changing where you live. Maybe moving outside of an expensive city and commuting in to work makes more sense financially, but ultimately do what’s right for you and your growing family.
Write out a list of everything you think the baby will need, then run it by someone who can tell you what is needed from experience so that you don’t end up wasting money!
What Else Can You Do?
Many women start doing extra shifts or take on a second job to build up their savings, so if you’re well enough to do this, get this started!
Look up ways to earn money online. Matched betting, decluttering and selling stuff, online surveys and becoming a virtual assistant are all ways you can bring in more income.
When buying things for the baby, recycle, reuse and buy second hand wherever safe and possible. Be wise though, a second hand car seat might not be a good idea if you don’t know whether it’s integrity has been compromised by an accident, but a whole pile of neutral baby clothes may be exactly what you need!
Look for specialised market places like little pickles and check out eBay or shpock. You can easily look for this using google. You’ll be surprised at what you can find second hand!
What Happens After Your Baby Has Arrived?
Congratulations! If your baby is already here (or maybe you have more than one?!), your mind will not be on your finances. Among nappy changes and trying to figure out if you’re “doing it right” or not, you’ll be working to a budget that (hopefully) you sorted out before the baby arrived.
If you didn’t, don’t panic. Sit down with your partner in those brief windows of opportunity when the baby is asleep and sort out what you’re going to do. Can you cut your expenses somewhere? Will you be comfortable on your partner’s salary? Have you claimed all the benefits that you are entitled to?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from debt charities if this is an issue for you.
What About My Baby’s Future?
Have you thought about starting a pension or a saving/investing account for your baby? Yes! Even babies can have a pension and can invest from birth!
I have written a post about this, so check it out when you have a chance. It is well worth knowing what you can do for your child because it will give them an absolutely amazing start in their adult life!
The bottom line is, you need to plan for more than just physically getting through the pregnancy. Your money needs just as much attention because this means the difference between shaving precious time from your maternity leave or going into debt, and having more time to be with your baby without the stress and worry of your finances.
Good Luck and I hope you have the best time as a new mum! Come and join my free and private Facebook group so you can join with all the conversation and tips!
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