The U.S still does not mandate maternity leave, which leaves many women forced to take unpaid maternity leave when they have a child. Here is how I am planning on mitigating the “damage” of my unpaid maternity leave.
As I am getting closer to giving birth, I am doing my best to prepare for when the baby comes and for when I will eventually have to go back to work postpartum.
I do not get paid maternity leave, so money is and will be tight for the next few weeks as I save as much as I can and then survive without my paycheck. I am not totally sure how long of a maternity leave I will take (I am lucky enough to have a lot of flexibility for my work, and since I do work from home, I can technically go back to work a lot earlier than many moms. So a lot to be grateful for!)
(No, that is not what my “nursery” looks like. My “nursery” is a bassinet that takes up all the space between my bed and the wall. Nothing like 3 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment to really make you pare down on all the baby gear that is advertised!)
However, since I pay for my flexibility in the lack of benefits afforded to me, I have to do my best to make this maternity leave as budget-friendly as I can! I originally wanted to “cash-flow” this maternity leave by saving up a separate “maternity fund.” But I may have to not only deep into our emergency fund but also possibly go into credit card debt as well. This is the reality for many, many families, especially in the U.S, where non-paid maternity leave is all too common. I am one of many mothers trying to balance my own needs with my financial circumstances when it comes to maternity and motherhood.
We were hoping to have a lot more money saved for this baby, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
We had a lot of unexpected expenses come up (read here about my oven saga), and unfortunately this pregnancy really knocked me off my feet! So all that overtime I planned on working and stocking away was really a very little amount of overtime that I managed to work. Note to self: Do not plan on overtime hours to pay for something. You never know if it will pan out!
Since this is my third kid, I did not need to buy any major baby purchases. I already have a stroller, crib, and car seat. So hurray for that! I also have a plethora of baby toys, cloth diapers, blankets, clothes, etc so my baby expenses will be very low.
There are still a lot of expenses that come with a baby and expenses that come with me being out of commission while on leave. My husband more than pulls his weight but.., he is one person, so there is a limit to what he can do.
So this is our plan of action for my unpaid maternity leave:
- make as much extra money as we can
- spend as little as we can
This is plan of action for everything, really.
How does this translate into real life actions?
We have been putting away as much as we can to save so at least we will have a small amount put away. Unfortunately, like I said its not nearly what we were hoping for. You never know! Maybe my affiliate links will do really well between now and then! (If you want you can use my Amazon and Target links to make a purchase and I will get some money! You can also use these links to sign up for Rakuten and a Capital One Bank account- both of which I use myself and highly suggest to save money)
We may have to severely dip into our emergency fund to pay for this baby and possibly go into some debt. Even if that happens, we are trying to limit that amount as much as possible.
Its a struggle to balance the fact that we don’t want to go into debt but I also need to take care of myself and make sure that my postpartum period and back-to-work time doesn’t take too much of a toll physically and emotionally. After all, I am only human and money is not everything. This has caused me to make some funny financial decisions that I would not ordinarily make.
Here are some ways that I am working on minimizing expenses while on my unpaid maternity leave:
- Stocking my freezer- I am spending more on my grocery budget now to buy ingredients to stock my freezer with ready made meals. This will allow me to eat properly and healthy and minimize or eradicate the need for take-out or restaurant meals for my family. Although I would not ordinarily spend more that I don’t necessarily have to save in the future I think in this case it would help.
- Buying ready-made and processed foods- Next week I am planning on going to the store and buying a lot of ready-made (and usually more expensive) foods. Examples include hot dogs, frozen pizza, cans of sauce, tuna etc. I am planning on using these to feed my kids and myself. Although, I usually do my best to make most things from scratch (for health and finances) I will rely on these instead of having to resort to take-out. Since we only keep kosher, take-out food is extremely expensive and will very, very quickly make our expenses rise exponentially if we fall into that trap too often. No $1 McDonalds meals for us! We really can’t afford pizza etc too often so I hope that having these foods ready to go will help us from having to rely on them.
- Stocking up on Paper Good and other non-perishables- I do my best to reduce the amount pf paper goods, paper towels, and plastics that I use both for the environments sake and because of the cost. However, when it comes to having a baby I have decided to throw that out the window. I will be buying disposable dishes, silverware, paper towels to have in the house. I don’t have a dishwasher so having to wash dishes is something that is a struggle for me. So at this point in my life I have decided to put my sanity before the environment and money and allow myself to buy these things. Flame away!
- Buying things on Black Friday and Cyber Monday– yup! I did that. Especially at Target. At one point in that week of deals, Target had a 15% off deal on many baby things. I decided to by some basics that I know I will needs to make sure that I took full advantage of the deal. I didn’t go overboard but I definitely bought all the things I thought I would need.
- Freebies- I signed up for every single freebie available to me. I set up a Baby Registry at Target and Walmart to get the free welcome bag. I signed up for all the other baby sites that offer any sort of freebies. Although these freebies aren’t going to make me rich or even make a huge dent in my needs I did get some nice things. Target was the best as I got 2 bottles and a pacifier besides for a coupon that I used to buy some nursing bras. Every little bit counts!
- Giveaways- I spent a few minutes every day (OK, a little more than that but I wasn’t doing anything else) entering giveaway on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what I can win. I didn’t win the lottery but I did win $25 to Amazon and $35 to Target plus a kids book. I count this as a win because I did this all during “down time” that would have ordinarily been wasted like waiting for the kids bus, sitting on the floor outside my kids room waiting for them to fall asleep, at appointments etc. Maybe I’ll even win some more!
Despite all these things, there is nothing that will make this work besides for making a lot of money so I am doing my best to work as many overtime hours as I can in the next few weeks. My husband is also working on his side hustle trying to get as much as he can. Ultimately, it will be what will be. Sometimes there I not much that we can do besides for mitigate the damage and hope that we are able to squeak through without too much credit card debt.
We are lucky and grateful to be in this position for something good and happy and not for something sad or tragic. While I spend a lot of time focused on our finances and our money (which is super, super important) there is a lot more to life than money and savings. This is one of those times.
Wish us luck!