You might be nervous to take 6 to 8 weeks off from work, but there are ways to manage costs on maternity leave. To make it work, you'll need to speak with your partner and come up with a doable plan for the household finances. Money might be tight for the next few weeks, but you can survive. Here are seven simple ways to manage costs on maternity leave.
1. Assess What's Coming in
Creating a budget is one of the best ways to manage costs on maternity leave. Determine how much you'll receive each week. Since your maternity leave income will be less than your regular income, you'll need to make adjustments. Write down all expenses, and compare this with the income you'll receive over the next month or so. With everything on paper, you'll have a clear idea of how much you'll have available to pay expenses.
2. Focus on Main Expenses
Next, you'll need to prioritize expenses. Your mortgage, car payments, utilities and loan payments are important, as are insurances and food. But if there just isn't enough cash to go around, you'll need to focus on the essentials. For example, it's more important to keep a roof over your head, than pay for cable TV. If you realize that you won't have enough income to cover all your bills, don't leave creditors and utility companies in the dark. Call them up, explain your situation, and work out a payment arrangement. If you've had a good payment history in the past, most companies are willing to accommodate you while on maternity leave.
3. Look for Free Childcare
If you have young children, you might be tempted to keep these young ones in childcare during the day as you focus on the newborn while your spouse works. But this adds another monthly expense. If possible, temporarily remove younger children from daycare -- even if it's only a few days a week. Or work out an agreement with a relative or neighbor to save on childcare costs.
4. Unused Vacation or Sick Time
In addition to income you'll receive from disability insurance, talk to your employer about getting paid for unused vacation or sick time. This can bring extra income into your home and help you manage expenses while you're on maternity leave.
5. Temporarily Stop Membership Services
You need to cut as many costs as possible, which might mean temporarily eliminating some membership services. If you have a gym membership, you might be able to suspend services for 1 to 3 months if you're in a contract. You can also cancel services such as cable, and perhaps get rid of your weekly lawn care services to save money.
6. Only Buy What You Need
During this time, it's important to only buy the things you need. This isn't the time to splurge. Also, to help with the cost of diapers, wipes and formula during those first 6 to 8 weeks, include these items on your baby register. The supply received from your baby shower might be enough to get through those weeks when you're not working.
7. Save in Advance
Don't wait until the last minute to prepare for maternity leave. If possible, start saving as soon as you learn you're expecting. This might include skipping a family vacation, entertaining yourself at home, and limiting the items you buy.
Maternity leave is an opportunity to bond with your child and rest before heading back to work. But the stress of a reduced income can weigh heavily on you. In this situation, preparation is key to surviving financially. What other advice can you offer expecting mothers?