Working Moms

How did you plan financially for mat leave?

I was looking through our employee handbook and my company only provides 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. We can also tack on or substitute part of that with any accrued vacation days, but no matter which way you slice it, if I wanted to take a standard 3-4 months of mat leave, I'm looking at 2-3 months unpaid. Unfortunately, I make quite a bit more money than DH, so we'd be looking at a serious income loss during a time when we'll probably really need it most (babies are expensive!!).

What did you do to financially prepare? Did you try to live on just one income leading up to the birth and save some money? Admittedly, we have never been very diligent about saving money before, so it's not like we can just live off savings for a while, as we'd blow through that pretty quickly...

BFP #1 10/6/11 | EDD 6/15/12 | MMC 11/7/11 @ 8w3d | D&C 11/14/11

BFP #2 8/22/12 | EDD 5/5/13 | DS1 born 5/9/13

BFP #3 4/25/15 | EDD 1/7/16 | MMC 7/2/15 @ 13w1d | D&E 7/8/15

BFP #4 12/9/15 | EDD 8/22/16 | DS2 born 5/18/16 at 26w2d

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Re: How did you plan financially for mat leave?

  • I bet you'll be surprised how inexpensive newborns are. If you breast feed, you really only have to pay for diapers. And all the perks (crib, window treatments, bumbos, etc) aren't really necessary. Buy off Craigs List or yard sales what you don't get at your shower. You won't be going out to lunch, paying for dry cleaning, or getting manicures on leave. Won't be paying for your commute.

    In the meantime, keep track of every penny you are spending and figure out where you can cut. Until I see those numbers, I can't tell you exactly what you can cut back on. Check on the Money Matters board for ways to save. Even if you don't have kids, you should have a budget.

    A lot of women don't take the full time off for their leave since they can't afford it. Maybe you can go back part time at the beginning.

    Good luck and enjoy your last days of quiet!

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  • I don't really think that 3-4 months is standard.  Unfortunately, my leave is much like yours... we get up to 12 weeks unpaid. 

    I'll likely take off 6 weeks vag / 8 weeks c-section.  My first 2 weeks will be paid with vacation/sick time... in fact, my work forces me to take all my paid leave before they will pay out any maternity benefits.  The next 4 or 6 weeks will be short term disability, but it's only $250/week.... not even CLOSE to my salary.

    I knew my benefits weren't great, so I purchased an additional policy through AFLAC.  This means I'll be paid 70% of my income total for 4 weeks vag / 6 weeks c-section.  

    If I want to take any additional time off, I just have to save up.  If you've never been very diligent about saving money, then start now!  You will probably be surprised by how much you can save, and maybe you can take some additional time off.

     

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  • I took 15 weeks, 12 of it unpaid.  We saved extra leading up to her birth and then pulled some money out of savings for the weeks I didn't get paid.  We have a good amount in our savings, so it didn't hurt too bad to have to take a little of it out.  Are you planning to BF?  Not having to buy formula will save you a lot.  And I don't think I had to buy diapers until DD was 4 or 5 months old...we got a lot at showers and as gifts when she was born.  There were extra medical costs for her doctor's appointments, but that really wasn't that much added on.  Good luck!
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  • I had $200 every paycheck (bi-weekly) sent to an ING online savings account when we started TTC.  If it was never in my account I didn't miss it and I have acually continued it on for the past three years.  It also helps to start saving now to see how you will manage daycare expenses once you go back to work.
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  • imageAsOctoberFalls:

    I don't really think that 3-4 months is standard.  Unfortunately, my leave is much like yours... we get up to 12 weeks unpaid. 

    I'll likely take off 6 weeks vag / 8 weeks c-section.  My first 2 weeks will be paid with vacation/sick time... in fact, my work forces me to take all my paid leave before they will pay out any maternity benefits.  The next 4 or 6 weeks will be short term disability, but it's only $250/week.... not even CLOSE to my salary.

    I knew my benefits weren't great, so I purchased an additional policy through AFLAC.  This means I'll be paid 70% of my income total for 4 weeks vag / 6 weeks c-section.  

    If I want to take any additional time off, I just have to save up.  If you've never been very diligent about saving money, then start now!  You will probably be surprised by how much you can save, and maybe you can take some additional time off.

     

    This!  I know that, from my experience (especially for FT working moms), 6wks for vag and 8wks for c-sec is "standard".  I took 10 weeks and have had so many women telling me how "lucky" I am and how nice it must be and I do feel very fortunate that we were able to work out the amt of time off that we did.  My salary is also the majority of our income, so I was only able to take the time b/c (for my position) my employer pays me my full salary for 6wks, then I had several weeks of saved vacation time to use.  I did end up taking 2 wks unpaid time, but it hasn't been much of a stretch, as it hasn't been as expensive as we anticipated and DH and I are just supplementing where needed with savings.

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  • We had enough money in savings to cover our bills. And like others said, you won't be spending nearly as much. I know I didn't if I stayed away from the mall. And with a new baby, I know we weren't (and still aren't) going out to eat as much, so that saves us a big chunk of money right there!

    How much is daycare going to cost you each month? I don't know when you are due, but I would try putting that amount in savings each month and don't touch it until you need it. Babies aren't that expensive if you make the right choices. Breastfeeding is much cheaper (and healthier) than formula. Clip coupons and shop sales for diapers and wipes. Don't worry about buying all the "extras" for baby right now. Clothes are super cheap at second hand stores. Big things you will need will be a car seat and someplace for the baby to sleep. Everything else is just nice to have but not necessary.

    I would highly suggest you come up with a budget. GL

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  • My company offers 6 weeks paid or 12 weeks at half pay (and they maintain your benefits while you're on leave). However, our pre-baby budget was already tight so we were very concerned about my leave time. We worked out the bare minimum budget we could live on, figured out how much short of that we were and then tried to save that amount before I went on leave. It didn't end up working out great because the baby came early so we hadn't quite saved enough. However, there are very few expenses while on leave, especially if you breastfeed and use cloth diapers like we do. We got lucky and towards the end of my leave was when family visited us and they contributed to food costs etc so it worked out. We also deferred hospital bills until I went back to work.
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  • imageMMNelly:
    imageAsOctoberFalls:

    I don't really think that 3-4 months is standard.  Unfortunately, my leave is much like yours... we get up to 12 weeks unpaid. 

    I'll likely take off 6 weeks vag / 8 weeks c-section.  My first 2 weeks will be paid with vacation/sick time... in fact, my work forces me to take all my paid leave before they will pay out any maternity benefits.  The next 4 or 6 weeks will be short term disability, but it's only $250/week.... not even CLOSE to my salary.

    I knew my benefits weren't great, so I purchased an additional policy through AFLAC.  This means I'll be paid 70% of my income total for 4 weeks vag / 6 weeks c-section.  

    If I want to take any additional time off, I just have to save up.  If you've never been very diligent about saving money, then start now!  You will probably be surprised by how much you can save, and maybe you can take some additional time off.

     

    This!  I know that, from my experience (especially for FT working moms), 6wks for vag and 8wks for c-sec is "standard".  I took 10 weeks and have had so many women telling me how "lucky" I am and how nice it must be and I do feel very fortunate that we were able to work out the amt of time off that we did.  My salary is also the majority of our income, so I was only able to take the time b/c (for my position) my employer pays me my full salary for 6wks, then I had several weeks of saved vacation time to use.  I did end up taking 2 wks unpaid time, but it hasn't been much of a stretch, as it hasn't been as expensive as we anticipated and DH and I are just supplementing where needed with savings.

    Exactly.  After one year of accruing PTO, I now have enough for 5 weeks paid, assuming I don't use any of it for vacation or sick days.  I am also now covered by FMLA and could take 12 weeks and have job protection but it is completely unpaid. 

    If I get pregnant, I plan to save for time without a paycheck but I likely wouldn't take more than 8 weeks in my current job.

    With DS, I had a section and was back after six weeks.

  • I took 4 mos (17 wks) mat leave; the 1st 6wks was with pay.  I don't remember spending much at all while I was on leave.  Most of the expense was on diapers/wipes.

    How did we prepare financially?  Although we could easily live well on my DH's income alone and have a healthy savings, we decided to pay off our house.  It was great to finally end our $4200/mo payment to the mortgage company. Plus it gave me peace of mind considering all the unemployments news; I felt secured even with the thought of what if DH lose his job too like all the people on the news.

  • I agree that 3-4 months is not necessarily standard.  My work policy was virtually identical to yours, plus we knew I would be transferring and needed a couple of weeks off for the move.  I *hoarded* sick/vaca time....waited to try and get pregnant until some was built up, never took a day off, scheduled all my doctor appointments over lunch or at the end of the day and went in early, etc.  I ended up taking 4 weeks off (paid out of PTO), then teleworked for a couple of weeks.  I did actually have more PTO built up than that, but like I said, needed to save some for the move and kept a cushion of a few days for emergencies.  We actually did have savings built up, but it was important to us to preserve that for other uses.


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  • I worked for a small non-profit when I conceived and had my baby. There was no formal policy in place.

    I had saved about $800/month for several months. Unfortunately, my baby came early. I had only planned to be out of work for about 3 months, but that turned into about 6 months.

    It's very easy to say babies are not expensive if you keep it basic. But, sometimes your plans don't turn out as expected. I planned to breastfeed, but when she was born at 32 weeks, I had to give her formula. That was a large outlay of cash each month that I wasn't planning on--for 12 months. Some women like cloth diapers, but there is a time investment to use those (if you don't have a diaper service) and you may find you value your downtime more than washing poopy diapers every couple of days.

    We did save a lot of cash by accepting baby things from friends. Between used items and gifts, we didn't buy anything to outfit the nursery.

    Because of the critical nature of her birth, and her subsequent hospitalization and my recovery from pre-eclampsia, I did put my student loans on deferment and talked with my credit union about suspending installment payments on a car note. That definitely saved cash. But that was temporary, just a stopgap measure to help out. (A lot of women have STD policies that will pay a percentage of their pay--I conceived right after I was hired, so I was not eligible for STD.)

    It could have been worse. We have a great insurance policy, so we weren't paying for co-pays every time a test was needed. And when you have a baby, you stop going out for dinner and stop making random shopping purchases.

    Had I been able to work to 39 weeks like I wanted, and had a trouble free, full-term baby, I'm certain things would have been different. But, you never know.  

    Think about this with your spouse and come up with a plan. It's not that hard, but you do need to talk. And also think about the what-ifs. What if the baby comes early, what if I can't go back to work after 12 weeks (or don't want to). Decide on a childcare arrangement now, and figure out how much it'll cost. Think about major expenses coming up: does the house need new siding? Do you need to buy a new car soon? Think about how those items figure in. Best of luck to you.

  • I also had an unpaid leave and took 12 weeks. We just saved as much as possible for about a year and then used that savings during my leave.
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  • Personally, I would not be taking 12 weeks off unless I had an ample amount of funds in an emergency account not only to cover my income on leave but to have a good amount left in savings after that as well. There are a lot of unplanned expenses having a child in the first year and you can't count on breastfeeding to save money because it doesnt always work out. Kids only get more expensive the older they get as well.

    Cut out all your unnecessary expenses ASAP. Cancel cable and cell phone plans. Get a magic jack to make calls at home and keep a pay as you go phone in your car for emergencies. You and/or DH start carpooling to work if possible. Don't go out to dinner. Save every penny that you can between now and when the baby comes so you not only have money to cover your loss of income on leave but a decent emergency fund as well. Depending on how much money you can save between now and then, you should consider taking a shorter maternity leave as well.

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  • we just figured out how much our expenses are for three months, and subracted my salary from it. Then factored in the disability insurance. That's your number.
  • My company does not qualify for FMLA so I am on my own.  I am taking 2 weeks paid vacation and then 6-8 weeks unpaid leave during which I also have to pay for health benefits.  After that, I will work part-time for a couple of months, which will allow us to just about break even or perhaps only drain savings slightly.

    To budget for maternity leave, we figured out our expenses for two months (we use Mint.com, it's free), subtracted my salary, and then figured out how much we wanted to have left in savings at the end of maternity leave.  That difference is how much we need to save by my due date.

    In the process, we also gave ourselves a safety net to cover purchases of things that we need but may not end up getting from our showers (car seat, crib mattress, breast pump, cloth diapers, nursing tanks/bras for me), plus my health insurance deductible for the birth, plus $1,000 of unforeseen costs.

    We needed to be putting away a little more than we were so I've been planning our meals and cutting down on spending at the grocery store.  Food is basically the only category where we actually had some wiggle room as we already live pretty leanly in every other category.

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  • I have been working a 2nd job.  That cash goes directly into savings for income replacement.  I will use 4 weeks of sick time first so I only have to come up with 8 weeks of salary replacement.

    I also started taking money out for daycare so we are used to living without that cash and that money will pay for medical bills.

    We are not the greatest at saving money but as soon as it comes in it goes directly into savings.

  • I took an adjunct faculty position during my 2nd trimester. The income from that one semester made up for the 4-weeks unpaid portion of my 12-weeks leave. I did this because I didn't want to dip into my saving too much (I have $4K deductible for my insurance).
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  • I signed up for AFLAC coverage before we started TTC. I purchased short term disability insurance that will pay 60% of my salary for the first 6/8 weeks of leave. I also purchased Hospital confinement insurance and a sickness policy; both with additional hospital admission riders. Between my Aflac policies I will have $5900 after I deliver if everything goes without complications; if I have complications of need a c-section this amount will increase. In addition to my AFLAC coverage I am taking 3 weeks of PTO; I have more time available but I didn?t want to use it all up.
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