The United States has some of the least generous maternity leave policies in the developed world.
If you’re lucky enough to work at a company with a great maternity policy (where you continue to earn most or all of your salary while on leave), you probably don’t need to worry about costs quite as much. But, for most women, maternity leave can mean lower pay. At a time when you’re already facing the increased costs of having a baby, it can create added financial stress. Here are my best tips for managing costs while on maternity leave.
1. Embrace Assistance
People love offering help to new mothers. Take them up on their offers for assistance — put them to work doing dishes, throwing in a load of laundry, or even running the vacuum cleaner. It can free up your time to to take care of more important — and valuable tasks. And when maternity leave ends, childcare assistance from friends or family can help reduce the cost of daycare when you’re back at work.
2. Love the Free Meals
There’s a saying that you should never visit a new mom empty handed — and many people in your life will show their support for new moms by bringing them food. After my first child was born, we didn’t cook a meal for nearly six weeks. You may also be able to get on a list through your church or local moms group to bring you meals, saving you a ton of money on groceries. (And while you’ll be appreciative of the money you save, you’ll be more appreciative of the free time — and the fact that it’s a hot meal, not just whatever you can throw together one-handed.)
3. Snag New Mom Offers
A plethora of couponing and parenting websites offer deals and discounts for new moms. Amazon Mom, for example, offers 20% off diaper subscriptions and free two-day shipping. Or sign up for new mom coupon offers. New Parent provides a listing of the best coupon and discount sites for new moms. Baby Cheapskate also offers some terrific deals for newborns.
4. Join New Parent Clubs
New parent clubs in your community are not only a wonderful source of support and camaraderie, but they can also help point you to deals and discounts. Plus, pot luck dinners, carpooling, free play dates, and other shared resources can mean less costly ways to enjoy being a new parent.
5. Maximize Your Benefits
Working moms know to make use of their maternity leave benefits, but in many cases, the father’s company may also offer certain new parent benefits which can help make costs more manageable. Make sure you double check with both employers’ HR departments to be certain you’re accessing all available benefits. HSAs, FSAs, free daycare, new parent helplines, and many other benefits may go unexploited if you don’t ask. And don’t forget about healthcare benefits — contact your insurer to make the most of these, as well.
How did you manage costs while on maternity leave? Please share in comments!