Hacking My Unpaid Maternity Leave

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 when I will eventually have to go back to work postpartum.

I do not get paid maternity leave, so money is 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 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. There is nothing like 3 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment to really make you pare down on all the baby gear 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 possible! 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 regarding maternity and motherhood.

We were hoping to have a lot more money saved for this baby, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

We had many 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 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:

  1. Make as much extra money as we can
  2. Spend as little as we can

This is a 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, as I said, it’s 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)

preparing for baby on a budget

We may have to severely dip into our emergency fund to pay for this baby and possibly go into some debt. But, even if that happens, we are trying to limit that amount as much as possible.

It’s 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 don’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:

  1. 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 healthily 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.
  2. Buying ready-made and processed foods- Next week I plan to go to the store and buy a lot of ready-mades (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 quickly make our expenses rise exponentially if we fall into that trap too often. No $1 McDonald’s 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.
  3. Stocking up on Paper Good and other non-perishables- I do my best to reduce the number of paper goods, paper towels, and plastics that I use both for the sake of the environment 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, I have decided to put my sanity before the environment and money and allow myself to buy these things at this point in my life. Flame away!
  4. Buying things on Black Friday and Cyber Monday– yup! I did that, especially at Target. Target had a 15% off deal on many baby things at one point in that week of deals. I decided to buy some basics that I know I will need 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.
  5. 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 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 a coupon that I used to buy some nursing bras. Every little bit counts!
  6. Giveaways- I spent a few minutes every day (OK, a little more than that, but I wasn’t doing anything else) entering giveaways 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 kid’s book. I count this as a win because I did this all during “downtime” that would have ordinarily been wasted, like waiting for the kid’s bus, sitting on the floor outside my kid’s room waiting for them to fall asleep, at appointments, etc. Maybe I’ll even win some more!

Despite all these things, nothing will make this work besides 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 it will be. Sometimes, we cannot do much besides mitigating the damage and hope that we can squeak through without too much credit card debt.

Hacking an Unpaid Maternity Leave

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!

Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.

1 thought on “Hacking My Unpaid Maternity Leave”

  1. Good plan! I think we can be very resourceful when we have to be. Love the freezer meals. They come in very handy when you can’t get out to do groceries. Enjoy this amazing time and the excitement of a new addition 🙂

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