Figuring out how to live on maternity pay can be a challenge. Discover 8 ways to save for maternity leave now while you’re working to make the most of your time!
I had what was a pretty typical maternity leave with my first pregnancy: half of it was fully paid while the other half was partially paid. Even with a reduced income in the second half, I’d be able to make the most of my maternity leave.
But being pregnant with twins made maternity leave more complicated. I found myself on bed rest a month before the twins arrived. Further complications extended my maternity leave once they were born. And, perhaps knowing they were my last children, I opted for more baby bonding time, even if it was unpaid.
How to save for maternity leave
Knowing how much to save for paid leave can feel unpredictable. Maybe you’ve been trying to put extra cash away, but each month, something seems to come up. The money you thought you’d stash into savings ends up being used for car repairs or utilities.
You may not even get any time fully paid and are wondering how in the world you’ll manage your mortgage or rent during those several weeks and months.
I wanted to feel financially prepared for parental leave and spend as much time with the twins as possible. My sister reminded me that, while I can always replace the money I’d lose during maternity leave, I wouldn’t be able to replace the time spent with my babies.
I’m frugal as it is and had savings, so I knew I’d be okay even in the worst-case scenario. But I wanted to set aside money specifically to tap into during maternity leave. I relied on tried-and-true tactics without feeling deprived, knowing this would be a temporary situation.
Here’s how I was able to save for maternity leave, and how you can, too:
1. Review your recurring monthly bills
I’m a fan of paying bills on autopilot—I’m less likely to miss a payment, and it’s one less thing for me to do each month.
The trouble with automatic payments, however, is that we forget to ask ourselves whether we need those services in the first place. We also assume we can’t negotiate a better deal, or customize our plans to pay less.
Think about any bills or plans you can review, downgrade, or outright cancel. Maybe you realize you’ve only gone to the gym twice this month and can better put that money into savings. Shop for new car insurance quotes to see if other providers offer a better rate.
Review your monthly subscriptions, from delivery boxes to television, and pause them until your maternity leave ends. Only keep what you truly must or can’t change, and pause, negotiate, or cancel those you don’t need anymore.
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2. Reduce your food spending
One of the easiest ways to save for maternity leave is to track and reduce how much you spend on food.
More than any other regular expense in our budgets, food is one of the most malleable and easily changed. A few tweaks can help you cut your food budget and apply those savings to your maternity leave instead. Here are a few effective ideas:
- Reduce restaurant outings. As enjoyable as restaurant meals may be, they add up, especially when they become a regular habit for how you eat your daily meals.
- Bring lunch to work every day. Work lunches at restaurants can eat up your budget as well. Instead, bring lunch and eat it at work. Invite a few coworkers so you don’t lose out on the social aspect of lunchtime.
- Plan your meals. Meal planning helps you avoid last-minute shopping trips, impulse purchases, and restaurant meals.
3. Work up to your due date
Depending on your health and your doctor’s recommendations, you may be able to work up to your due date as a way to stash more of your income. By postponing maternity leave, you’re extending your earning time by working for a longer period before giving birth.
Delaying the time you’re off work also helps postpone other expenses like childcare. For instance, you’d be able to hire a nanny or enroll in daycare when your baby is three-months-old versus two.
4. Use your vacation time
One of the ways I was able to extend my maternity leave was by using the vacation time I had saved up.
Try not to take too much time off leading up to the baby’s arrival so you can save it for after he’s born. Reserve time off for doctor’s appointments or when you need a break while saving the rest as a way to extend your maternity leave.
By using vacation time after the baby arrives, you can continue to earn your regular income on top of your scheduled maternity leave.
5. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is a fantastic way to reduce household costs and save the difference instead. You can still buy items in bulk even if your family is small. Simply store these items for when you need them down the line.
A few tips when buying in bulk:
- Avoid buying food items that will go bad. Olive oil can be a good purchase, while ten loaves of bread may not.
- Only buy what you actually use. Just because you see an item at a low price doesn’t mean you’ll use it. Stick to items you use regularly.
- Buy items you use frequently. Have you ever bought a 24-pack of razor blades, forgot all about it, and bought another set? Buying in bulk is best for items you use often.
Besides saving money, buying in bulk now before the baby arrives can help you save time as well. No one wants to scramble upon realizing you’ve run out of necessities like toilet paper and have to go to the store while holding a newborn.
6. Use second-hand items
Don’t be shy about using second-hand items, whether they’re hand-me-downs from family members and friends or used gear at the consignment store. The extra savings you get from buying used can go toward your maternity leave savings.
I didn’t buy everything used—there were several items I wanted to buy new. So how do you find a balance?
Make a list of the items you need, then mark which ones should be bought new. This can differ from person to person. One mom might prefer a new mattress but skip new onesies, while another will take her sister’s used mattress but shop for new clothes.
The important thing is to decide for yourself which items you want to buy new, and which ones you can find used.
Another tip? Have a practical baby registry. Skip the cute outfits and expensive wooden toys. Instead, choose the basic baby supplies, like diapers, burp cloths, and even a car seat that people can get as gifts for your baby shower.
7. Hold a month-long spending freeze
Saving for maternity leave feels more doable since it’s finite: we only need to save enough to last us through our time at home, before we return to work. That reminder is enough to motivate us to up the ante and aggressively save.
How? By holding a month-long spending freeze.
Challenge yourself to not spend on anything you don’t need to for one full month. Avoid luxury spending like clothes and movies. Be mindful of less-obvious purchases like new pillowcases or office supplies (go through your junk drawer for forgotten pens!).
Even necessities like groceries can be culled if you’re intentional about buying the best deals. A limited-time spending freeze can be just what you need not only to save extra money but to make you aware of how you spend.
8. Work a side hustle
Saving can only get you so far. Once you’ve tapped into all you can save for maternity leave, consider making more money as well. One of the best ways to do so is to work a side hustle before you give birth.
We’re not talking full-fledged businesses here, but little ways to increase your income. The possibilities truly are endless, so start with what you already do well. Some of the things I’ve done in the past include:
- Writing calligraphy for people’s wedding invitations
- Freelancing as a graphic designer
- Creating handmade cards for special events
- Selling items on eBay, Craigslist, and consignment stores
Your skill sets will be different, but switching from saving to earning mode can give you extra income to pad your maternity leave.
The benefit of saving for maternity leave is that this period is temporary. You’re more likely to stick to a spending freeze, bring lunch to work every day, and pause subscription services when you know you have an end date.
With these tips, I was able to be with my twins as long as possible without dipping into my emergency savings. I watched how much I spent on food and used vacation time to extend my leave. I bought in bulk and welcomed hand-me-downs that came my way.
Because it turns out, my sister was right—I’ve been able to replace any money I may have lost during maternity leave. I’m so glad I made that choice, especially since I can never replace the time I spent with my babies.
Get more tips:
- Frugal Tips for New Moms That Can Save You Money
- What Are the Signs to Stop Working During Pregnancy?
- What Maternity Leave REALLY Looks Like
- The Third Trimester To Do List: What to Do Before the Baby Comes
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