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Making the money work on maternity leave

7 September 2016 No Comment

IMG_5001_1Whether you’re an employee or am employer or self employed, maternity pay can seem like a headache. In fact, once you look into it it’s much less complex than you might think. Here are some tips on what you might be entitled to and how to make your maternity pay stretch too!

Here’s the best place to start: the Gov.uk site’s page on maternity. It links you to all sorts of calculators. There is statutory maternity pay, which is different to maternity allowance, and a calculator for statutory maternity leave too. For the current tax year, Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks, and £139.58 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. If you’re not entitled to SMP, perhaps because your earnings are too low, or you’re not employed, check out the information on Maternity Allowance on the same page. There are more tips about maternity pay and leave on this page.

Once you’ve got the facts, you might be worried about making your budget stretch when your income is less, but you’ve got the baby to buy for. Take a deep breath, and repeat after me, ‘Babies don’t need lots of gear!’ I don’t know if it is a reflection of the consumerist society we live in, or simply nesting instinct, but throughout pregnancy I was bombarded with lists of things to buy for baby. In fact, the best advice that anyone can give to a new mum is to avoid buying too much. You will receive lots of babywear as gifts, and friends who have completed their family may well be keen to pass on equipment. Ask mums and dads what they really couldn’t do without. You’ll probably find the list boils down to nappies, vests, babygrows and muslins for wiping up. It took me about three different buggies to find that, living in London and using public transport, I was much better off with a sling! Similarly, purpose built changing tables are nice to have, but a change mat on the floor works well too.

Maternity leave is a good time to take a general look at your finances as well as baby related costs. Do you have a number of subscriptions that just roll on month after month? Assess them in the cold light of day and cancel ones you can do without. Reassess all your utility bills too: it sounds dull, but shopping around now could save you money every month on gas, water, electricity and phone bills, and I guarantee you won’t have time when the baby comes. I’ve been clearing out papers recently, and it’s easy to see that the years in which I had a new baby I just ‘filed’ all the bills in a box, and didn’t look at them twice! One more tip for if you have some maternity leave before the baby, spend some time cooking. Simply making double portions of your usual food for a week will give you a week of meals in the freezer that you’ll welcome when the baby comes, and it will save on take out or ready meals too.

Good luck with your new baby, and do share your money saving tips in the comments.


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