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Having had three babies, I definitely appreciate how lucky we are in the UK compared to some other countries to be able to take as much as a years maternity leave, and to be able to receive maternity pay for up to 39 weeks of that.
The downside is that often maternity pay leads to less money coming in than we’re used to, which means we have to adjust our budget and spending to align with our new financial situation.
Even if you’ve had time to plan and think you’re in a good financial position, having that maternity leave pay drop can make things tricky, so here are some ideas for coping financially during maternity leave, along with some top tips from money bloggers who’ve been there.
12 Ways To Survive Financially While On Maternity Leave
Make Sure You Know What Your Pay Will Be
The first thing you’ll need to do to prepare for maternity leave financially is to work out exactly what maternity pay you’ll be entitled to. Different companies offer varying levels of maternity pay at different stages so you need to see what is offered by your specific employer.
There is a statutory maternity pay, but whether you qualify or not will depend on factors such as how long you’ve been working for the company for. If not, or if you’re self employed you may have to apply for Maternity Allowance instead, which is what I had to do for my mat leave, as I had only been working for the company for just over a year.
Statutory Maternity Pay for eligible employees can be paid for up to 39 weeks, usually as follows:
- the first 6 weeks: 90% of their average weekly earnings (AWE) before tax
- the remaining 33 weeks: £148.68 or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower)
Tax and National Insurance need to be deducted.
Knowing what you’ll be receiving means you can make an accurate budget for the money you’ll have coming in. Try and be organised and sort out your maternity dates with your employer, or make sure you apply for Maternity Allowance in plenty of time.
Apply for Maternity Allowance as early as you possibly can! My application got ‘lost’ despite sending recorded delivery and they won’t even talk to you about your application until 5 weeks after you’ve sent it. I had to reapply, fill out the 38 pages of forms again, pray I had enough wage slips since 13 had now been lost and persuade my midwife to give me another Mat B form which she clearly thought was dodgy and took over a month to sort. It was so stressful and obviously baby ended being born during that time. Maternity Allowance was back dated but all of the above took so long I didn’t get any money until my daughter was almost 4 months old.
Save Up Beforehand
If you can, saving up a little extra while you still have two full incomes coming in is a good way to have a bit more to fall back on during maternity leave.
Towards the end of one of our maternity leaves, we really ran out of money and things got very tight! My husband was able to speak to his HR department and they stopped his pension payments for the last couple of months which really helped us out and saw us through. So my advice would be to save as much as possible and even more than you might first think, but if things are tight then see if you can make any cut backs anywhere else. As a last resort, get your partner to speak to their employer to see if anything can be arranged, especially if it’s only for a couple of months before you go back to work.
Use Leave At The Beginning
If you are able to, saving up your annual leave and using more of it at the beginning of your maternity leave can both give you a little longer off work and mean that the first few weeks you still get your full wage. When I was having my second daughter, I was able to finish work four weeks earlier than she was due, giving me a that little bit longer to prepare!
Whilst pregnant and still at work, try to take as little holiday as possible. You will then have a few weeks stored up when you want to start maternity leave. You can take your holiday first, get paid full pay, then start your maternity leave after that has run out. You maternity leave must start by the day your baby is born.
Adapt Your Budget
To keep on top of your maternity leave finances, budgeting is probably one of the most important things you can do. Start by taking your existing budget, adjusting it based on the changes you’re expecting and see what the difference is. (If you don’t have a budget, this is a good time to get one drawn up!)
Add up your expected income, and pull together your outgoings. Once you’ve done this you can see how much money you’ll have available throughout your maternity leave, and you can see if and where you might need to try and make adjustments.
If you maternity pay is likely to vary – for example in some jobs you’re paid full pay for 3 months, then a lower rate for the following months, or if you’re planning to take the maximum of 52 weeks leave but will receive only 39 weeks statutory maternity pay it’s a good idea to make your budget to cover the whole time.
Live A Bit More Frugally
You might find that your budget isn’t looking so good and you need to try and make some savings in some areas. A good place to start is to perhaps think about living a bit more frugally. There are lots of simple ways to lower expenses, cut back on unnecessary purchases and save money around the house.
Some good examples are:
- Buying less takeaways/eating out less
- Switching your utilities/contracts to cheaper providers (if you do this don’t forget to check for a good cashback deal too!)
- Reevaluating subscriptions – do you need cable TV, or that gym membership etc?
- Meal planning and bulk buying to save on your grocery spending
We took a pay cut to a single income after my maternity leave (I only took 39 weeks). I went back to work full-time, but then quit for my mental and physical health. So it was a case of cancelling everything we didn’t need and reducing our outgoings as much as possible. I’d already done this during my maternity leave so I kept a close eye on things. Money was tight, but we managed. We had the essentials and cut our spending right back. Eventually my husband got a pay rise and I looked at other ways to earn income including freelance writing and virtual assistant work to top up our income alongside bringing up our children.
Save Money On Baby Essentials
Having a baby is notoriously expensive, but it doesn’t have to be! Some great ways to save on baby costs are:
- Borrowing – if you have friends and family who’ve already had babies, it’s worth seeing if you can borrow some of their no longer needed baby things.
- Buying second hand – you can get some great baby stuff in good condition pre-loved by using sites like Facebook marketplace, Gumtree, and eBay.
- Signing up to Baby Clubs – lots of companies such as Boots have loyalty schemes and baby clubs which if you sign up will give you freebies and discount vouchers to use on baby products.
Find Cheap Things To Do While On Maternity Leave
Being off work means more opportunity to spend money you might not have done! I’m thinking more coffees out, more temptation to go shopping, wanting to spend nice days out with your new baby.
Finding cheaper ways to fill your days is a good way to keep your finances on track while on maternity. Baby and toddler groups in community centres or churches often only charge a pound or two to get in and will usually give the mums a cuppa and give you a chance to meet some other parents and be a bit more social.
Meeting up with other mums or just popping round a friends house for a cup of tea with the baby gets you out and about without costing anything.
Remember Your Rights
Don’t forget you still have employment rights while on Maternity Leave.
For those who take the full 52 weeks off on Statutory Maternity Pay, you will have accrued a full year of holiday entitlement. You can choose to add your holiday entitlement onto your maternity leave to extend it, or in some instances, employers may even offer a cash replacement for your holiday entitlement if you return on time.
Use Your KIT Days
Whilst on maternity leave, you may have the option to work some Keeping In Touch days at work. Although these are limited, they might help to bring in that little bit of extra money you need. Just be aware that if you use these while on SMP you’ll only be paid the difference, so using them later in your maternity might be more beneficial.
If you’re a freelancer like me, make the most of every keeping in touch day! I make sure it’s as busy as possible and I get as many invoices sent over during those days as I can! Also consider approaching clients and doing extra work and invoicing in advance before you go on maternity leave!
Organise Your Workload In Advance
If you work from home or are self employed it’s worthwhile trying to organise as much in advance to help you manage your workload during maternity leave.
I’m self employed so maternity leave is simply a dream….I had my laptop to work whilst I was still in hospital after having the twins, they were in ICU and I was in my sick bed tending to emails!
If you don’t love to be quite as busy as Claire, you might want to try organising your work so you’ve got a bit of breathing room when your new baby arrives!
Try A Few Ways To Bring In A Little Extra Cash
Although you’ll have your hands full, you might want to try a find a way to earn a little extra money while on maternity just for a little boost.
One of my favourite ways to make money on maternity leave was to do research studies and online surveys. They don’t pay much, but it gave me something to do during those middle of the night feeds, I would just fill in a couple of surveys on my phone while I was up anyway. This just gave me a little money to not feel bad about going out for coffee and cake and things like that.
You might also find you have enough time to make money from a hobby you enjoy, maybe you could sell crafts on Etsy, or pick up a little freelancing work.
This time is such a great opportunity to find your passion and set up your own business! Your baby will be sleeping A LOT during your maternity leave and you can use that time to make money rather than feel you have to cut back on all your outgoings! You just popped a baby out of your lady garden-girl/sunroof you can do anything now! #invincible
Make the most of the £1,000 trading by doing some extra work outside of your day job. I started online tutoring and was able to make £1,000 tax free without having to go back to work.
Lastly, Apply For Child Benefit
As soon as your baby is born, you should be eligible for child benefit (if your income is higher than £50k, you may have to pay a tax charge).
For your first (eldest) child, you’ll receive £20.70 per week, and for subsequent children you’ll get £13.70, paid every four weeks. Child benefit can only be backdated for up to three months, and can take twelve weeks to process, so it’s best to apply as soon as you can.