There are thousands of mothers worldwide who don’t get to enjoy the benefits of a paid maternity leave. I was one of them, and it put me in a difficult financial situation. Rather than stress myself out because I didn't have the luxury of receiving a steady flow of income during my leave, I was determined to work closely with my financial resources and think this "money thing" out. The following five tips helped me during this precious time in my life, and I hope they help you too!
1. Max your tax refund
And I mean, as much as possible. And once you've maxed it out, make a commitment not to spend it. For some parents who don't have special savings for maternity leave, a tax refund can be a big relief. Be sure to calculate the amount of living expenses you'll need with your new addition before putting the money aside—and don't spend it! One pregnant mom I knew stayed at home with her son for half the summer so she didn't have to spend her tax refund on summer camp. This decision might be worth it especially if the tax refund is your only source of savings.
2. Max your Flex Spending Accounts
"FedFlex" or Federal Flexible Spending Accounts are programs adopted by agencies and organizations for unplanned or planned purposes like sick, medical and maternity leaves. Here's the "max" part though: If you're just starting such an account and you're at the beginning of your pregnancy, be sure to check how much you're able to save in a given benefit period and if the money that has accrued is substantial enough for you to live on. Check the enrollment process ASAP.
3. Sell what you no longer use
If you're really strapped for cash, take inventory of things you don't use anymore and hold a garage sale. You’ll be needing more room for baby anyway, so why not sell furniture and items that will just be in the way? A few weeks before my baby was born I held a summer sale on my published books, which went towards a few weeks' worth of diapers.
4. Ask for "Worry-Free Days" on your baby registry
When I finalized my baby registry, I added this subtle note: "It's a girl! We will appreciate all gifts we receive, but if you are a bit stumped, we would like to offer a suggestion. Each precious day we get to spend with baby will cost us $50. [You can add your own amount.] If anyone would like to ‘buy’ us a worry-free day to spend with our precious little one, it would greatly help.” To our surprise, we received a number of "worry-free gifts," which helped a lot during the first few weeks.
5. Apply for as many programs as you can
Before my delivery date, I applied to a governmental food program for pregnant women and a non-governmental program in my community. There's really no shame in asking for help. As Hillary Clinton said, "It takes a village to raise a child," and the same applies when asking for financial support. In both of these programs, I was supplied with diapers, as well as infant formula, a travel sized crib, and the first few weeks of baby clothes.
Here's a bonus savings tip that’s all about coupons! Sign up for free baby classes at your local pediatrician's office, community center, or anywhere that offers them. (You can find a list of classes by going to your insurance carrier’s website.) Depending on the class, you'll be gifted with a ton of samples and coupons. Voila! Instant savings!
This is a guest post by Dorit from Pittsburgh, PA.