A money plan is a simple guide for your finances. You create an idea of how you want your money to look, and then you take the necessary steps to reach it – that’s when a budget comes in.
However, what happens when you’re expecting? Things can get a little tricky when you’re planning your maternity leave and aren’t sure what your new bills will look like, what your income will be, and what you’re going to even feel like doing after giving birth. The complications increase when you’re self-employed or have an employer who doesn’t offer maternity leave.
For most of us moms, maternity leave isn’t a dream. It’s hard. Most days are a struggle between taking care of a newborn who needs you constantly (and for a good reason!) and remembering to shower regularly. The last things on your mind are paying a bill and balancing your checkbook.
That’s why you need a money plan for the first few months after your baby arrives. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
One: Find out if your maternity leave is paid or unpaid.
Ask your HR officer or research your company’s policies to determine their stance on maternity leave. Every company might have a different policy, and it’s important to be informed.
If you aren’t satisfied with your company’s maternity leave, be prepared to negotiate. It never hurts to ask your manager or the human resources officer for more time. There is no harm in at least attempting to get more time, especially if you can make a case for why you need additional days or why the policy should be updated.
Two: Research your options for unpaid maternity leave.
Some short-term disability insurance plans cover maternity leave for a period of time. These policies work great for moms who might not get enough maternity leave benefits from their current employer or work part-time and don’t qualify.
These policies also work for anyone who is a contractor, freelancer, or self-employed.
The biggest factor with short-term disability insurance is that you need to have it in place before getting pregnant. There might even be a waiting period, so you will need to do some research or ask your insurance agent for more details.
Three: Create a new budget.
Before the baby arrives, it’s a good idea to take some time to create a new budget. Your new budget should include expenses as if your baby was already born. For instance, if you’re planning to go back to work, you’ll want to include some sort of child care. Ask around to see how much it will cost and start putting the extra money into a savings account.
Here are a few other expenses you might need to consider:
- Childcare expenses
- Formula and baby food costs
- Diapers and wipes
- Life insurance for you and your spouse
- Adding your newborn to your health insurance plan
- Doctor bills and deductibles
- Increase your eating out budget while you’re on maternity leave
Four: Develop a savings plan.
As mentioned before, go ahead and start budgeting for those new expenses. A great tip is to take the money you will be spending in the future and move it to a savings account. Another option is to take the money and put it towards any debt to help lower your monthly payments.
A savings plan most moms don’t think about is vacation and sick time at work. Start saving up your vacation and sick days to help extend your maternity leave or to help cover if your employer doesn’t offer a very long maternity leave option.
Have your spouse save their vacation and sick leave time, too. That way, they can stay home once you’ve returned to work. This trick is great to help postpone when your baby starts childcare, which would lower your expenses.
Five: Set up auto-pay for your bills.
One of the easiest things to do when you’re on maternity leave is to lose track of time. When you’re at home all day taking care of a newborn, it can be hard to remember what day it is. Which means it can be easy to forget to pay your bills. Take a few minutes to set up auto-pay.
You can do most of this online. If a company doesn’t allow auto-pay, then you could easily create an auto-bill feature at your bank. All you have to do is create a reminder on your online banking — you tell the bank who to pay, where to send the check to, what date it needs to be received by, and how much you want to pay. They take care of the rest. This will give you peace of mind during those late-night feedings when you’re wondering if a bill was paid.
Six: Ask about working from home.
If you’re afraid money might be tight, then ask your employer if you could work from home, even if it’s only part-time. They might have a few tasks you could do during the day or evening to help the office and help you make a little extra money.
If your current employer cannot extend any at-home work, don’t be afraid to find a temporary job. There are plenty of opportunities for contract work that you could do from home or for a few hours each weekend. Just take a look around online job boards or freelancing websites to see what you could do to earn a little extra money.
There are plenty of steps you can take from before you’re pregnant up until the baby arrives to help you prepare. Having a money plan for your maternity leave is a great resource to help you stay on track.