Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Pregnancy & Maternity Leave Finances | Lifestyle & My Motherhood Diary

I've never blogged about the financial side of having a baby before and I think although you are aware of the fact that children do cost a fair amount, you never really can tell how much until they come along.

When I first found out I was pregnant I was in a stable full-time job, and the main financial worry for me at the time was how I would pay for full-time (or at least reduced hours) childcare so I could return to work after Dexter was born. I knew had to take into account reducing my hours and ultimately thinking about sufficient childcare that would cover not only my hours at work but my travelling time too as I don't drive and have a lengthy commute. This was proving to be a problem and I hadn't thought everything through. I could only think of trying to reduce my hours at work to around 20 hours but unfortunately due to the instability of the NHS at the time I wasn't even sure I would be able to return to my job after my maternity leave. I didn't know this before I was pregnant, but the NHS (or at least where I worked) didn't have to give you your old job back, they could redeploy you to another hospital site and job but for the same pay, and that on it's own was another worry as it was difficult for me to get to one site as it was, the other was definitely much more difficult.

Yet another problem for me to face was maternity leave itself as I didn't know there were several maternity leave packages available to me. I say that, but ultimately I felt lucky to even be employed and in a semi-stable job role at the time with maternity options, I know a lot of women don't have options and struggle a lot more than this. There were three packages for different lengths of maternity leave and payment. At the time I decided to take the six months package which from memory (I left 2 years ago!) would be three months at full wage and three months at Statutory Maternity Pay plus three months half pay of my wage. Overall I think it worked out that I would be bringing the same income in over the six months. There were a lot of options to pick from and it was hard going, working out what would be the best for my family, how much time to take off work, and ultimately whether I would return at all.

Unfortunately I had to leave before my maternity payment was due, a whole month before I would be entitled to anything, due to medical reasons. And I would receive nothing from work. Zilch. Nada. Not a single penny. I had absolutely no idea what to do because I wasn't even entitled to claim Maternity Allowance from the government as I was only a few months pregnant. I couldn't claim Job Seeker's Allowance as I would have to look for a job but unfortunately I was too ill to do so. My only other option was to claim ESA until my Maternity Allowance was due. Luckily that was only a few weeks however, when you go from a significantly well paid job to state benefits, that's when you notice the change.

From thinking all I really had to worry about were nappies, milk, baby clothes on my full time (or slightly reduced but better than Maternity Allowance) wage, I had to consider a major drop in my income and how I would deal with this.

Firstly, I made sure I had checked out all my options. You are entitled to Child Benefit when your baby is born, and then Working Tax Credit/Child Tax Credit too, so it's definitely worth looking at what you will be entitled to as well as what help you can get towards childcare as a mum. There are some pretty good websites out there that help parents find their entitlement and ways in which to claim.

Once I had that sorted out, I had to look at how I would manage on my Maternity Allowance (which is the same rate as Standard Maternity Pay). I had to take into account my initial baby shopping list, income and expenditure; along with the little things that you totally forget about. Here is an initial list of the 'big things' you will need to think about, and ways to reduce the cost.

Nappies - it could be cost saving to use reusable nappies, there is the initial cost but they will prove cheaper in the long run.
Baby formula - I had anticipated that I would breast feed but he was settled on formula feeding before I managed to see him on the neonatal ward and I didn't want to mess around so to speak.
Medicines - yep children get ill! However, I think there is now a scheme where if you take your child to the pharmacy rather than to the GP surgery you can receive treatment for free - so that's a huge saving on paracetamol and ibuprofen solutions.
Baby clothes: I had already bought Dexter loads of clothes in a size 0-3 but as he was a super-preemie baby even premature clothing was too big! Always try and eBay baby clothes or look for preloved ones in a charity shop, they will be significantly cheaper and babies grow so quickly! Same for selling, try eBay or bundles on Gumtree etc, or donate to charity.
Baby furniture: I only really needed a Moses basket initially, although I could have avoided this step altogether as we had a small space-saving cot that he was happy to sleep in, yet again, buy second hand!
Pram/car seat: although I recommend second hand on plenty of other things initially I bought my pram brand new and that cost a fortune but I did manage to sell this on eBay which paid for the stroller I currently have. I bought my car seat from eBay and it was in beautiful condition, it came with the base to fit in the car too making it easier to slide in and out.

There are so many other essentials that you need to buy, and quite frankly this blog post is definitely too long to add more to, but there are several really handy websites out there to have a look at if you're a first time mum.

And finally to think about when you've had your little one, is a Will and life insurance. I worked for several years in Wills & Probate law so I definitely know the importance there, but you really do need to be covered with life insurance. If anything happened, who would cover your outstanding bills? Would there be any money left over for your child? These are things that no mother likes to think about, but should be such a priority in case of anything happening. Legal & General have great life insurance packages from women starting as low as £15.01 per month. In real terms, that's a couple week's worth of nappies, but you will know there is financial stability there for you in case anything happens.

This blog post has been written in collaboration with Legal & General but all content contained within is my own.

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