So you’re having a baby. Congratulations! Welcome to an exciting time in your life! It can also be an expensive time as you shop for a crib, a carseat, a stroller, and all of those adorable little outfits for your baby.
In the midst of all that prepping for baby, it can be easy to forget that you need to prepare financially for maternity leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and still keep their jobs following the birth of a child. Because the leave is unpaid and many new moms take maternity leaves of 6 weeks or longer, the hit to your wallet can be substantial.
How to Prepare Financially For Maternity Leave
Many women wait until they are in their second trimester before telling their employer they are expecting. But you can start saving for your maternity leave long before that.
Once you know you are pregnant, start saving. Begin setting aside some money from your paycheck. Sell some things you no longer need to raise some extra cash. Cut back on any unnecessary expenses. Save every penny you can.
After you’ve told your employer, investigate your maternity leave options. How long of a leave can you take and still keep your job? Is the leave paid or unpaid? How long of an unpaid leave could your family afford? Can you use sick leave and vacation days to help pay for your maternity leave? The Insider’s Guide to Maternity Leave is an invaluable book that will open your eyes to options you may not have considered previously, or had even been aware of.
If you are planning to return to work after your maternity leave, start the search for daycare now. Many daycare facilities have waiting lists and you don’t want to spend your precious leave time searching for a child care provider. Starting the process early will help you find the best fit for your family and your wallet. Waiting until you are stressed and sleep deprived will not.
Start filling your freezer with home cooked meals. Those early days of parenthood are tough, and the last thing you want to do is think about making dinner. Make large batches of freezer meals (Erin Chase’s The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook is a big help!) so that you won’t resort to ordering over-priced takeout or hitting the drive-thru. Watch the sales and use coupons to start stocking up on pantry staples so you don’t have to do much shopping during your maternity leave.
Determine your health insurance coverage for prenatal care. Make sure you are seeing a doctor and using a hospital that is in your primary care network. Some insurance companies offer special programs that benefit expecting moms. Find out what it will cost to insure your child once he or she is born and how to go about enrolling your child.
Learn ways to save when you have a baby, like reading our posts So You’re Having a Baby? Here’s How to Prepare and Welcoming a Baby To Your Budget. Research all the baby gear to find the best value for your money.
Remember that when it comes to babies, there are a lot of unknowns. Your maternity leave may have to start before your baby is born if you have complications that put you on bed rest. This could mean that you run out of maternity leave soon after your baby is born. Since daycares don’t take babies younger than 6 weeks of age, you’ll need to make sure you have a plan to extend your leave or find a family member who can step in. (This is one reason why you want to explore paternity leave options.) And although it is rare, sometimes babies come early or with complications. And moms can have complications, too. It’s important to have an emergency fund in place to handle the possibility of extra hospital bills, doctor visits, or an extended unpaid leave.
This is a joyous time in your life. And the time you spend with your infant in those early days is precious. When you prepare financially for your maternity leave, you will enjoy that time with your child that much more.
This post is a part of Women’s Money Week 2015. You can learn more about parental leave and your finances, as well as other financial issues that affect women at Women’s Money Week.