How to budget for time off with children
She says: "Even if you do work, a baby brings additional financial cost and often-reduced income (you may go part-time, for instance, or not be able to do overtime). It is really important to enjoy your maternity leave however long you have, as these are the most precious of days and it seems such a shame for money to be more of an issue when you want a gorgeous nursery, beautiful clothes, amazing pram, gym classes for you and so on."
Here she gives WorkingMums her three top tips for helping mums enjoy their maternity leave as long as possible and reduce their outgoings at the same time:
1. Becoming part of my community
This has been for me a most wonderful, surprising and rewarding aspect to being off work with my baby. I now use local parks, local libraries, toy libraries, citizens advice centres, mother and toddler playgroups, neighbours homes for a free cup of tea and a change of scene, local church toddler groups and local rather than top salon hairdressers. I shop locally too, which as well as being cheaper, is often fresher and helps sustain my community. Lots of people say hello and know my babies' names. I am on first name terms with the best local washing machine repair man and if I have a parcel delivered, at least one neighbour would be available to collect it. It is cost effective and warm and fuzzy to bring your child up in community that knows their name because you have been a part of it. All these benefits are either free or very budget friendly and are well worth embracing.
Because we have time we hand make cards which saves a fortune and my children adore it. We bake biscuits as gifts or pick flowers we have planted together. We visit out local castles and walk by the river, we make picnics and eat under trees and read stories. We make huge seasonal murals for our kitchen. We are creative because money is tight, but it brings art and nature our way. My husband gives me gifts of a whole day off being a mum rather than jewellery (which is utter bliss) and materialism has massively been reduced in our lives. It may sound a bit hippyish but children do love you to get down and play and to be out in the world with them much more than a bit of plastic or an hour at a soft play centre.
3. Being resourceful
I had to make extra cash but also wanted to develop new skills and time off work with my babies has given me the space to do this. I bought a baby signing franchise which I worked one morning a week with my babies in tow and made a clear £100 for a morning's work. It taught me how to sign and how to engage a noisy group of babies and it was my first shot at running a business and keeping my own accounts. I have sold at car boots and on ebay and NCT sales, I have had to file tax returns and I have written a book. I am on the school's PTA brushing up on my organisational skills too. I feel I will have a pretty packed CV for my years off! My book contains loads of ideas for making money whilst off work. Tonight I will be paid £25 for an hour at a market research group talking about Spandau Ballet! It is well worth networking – it’s amazing what comes up!
I chose to have 6 years off work on a very low income and have survived to tell my tale and it’s been interesting, surprising and full of the new. I think it is very much what you make it. If time off has been forced on you through redundancy or other circumstances try and see it as a chance to spend more time with your child which can be a real blessing. Arm yourself with creativity, resourcefulness and build a supportive community around you. It may be more rewarding than you could ever imagine.
P.S The gym can be replaced with brisk walking or a pram-jog round the park. Fitness DVDs can be picked up for £1 at car boot sales. Nurseries can be white and serene with cheap paint, handprint pictures and a second hand cot and will still be lovely for your baby. Designer baby clothes abound on ebay or charity shops in posh areas and reconditioned Quinnys as good as new, go for less then half price on ebay too. There is often another way to get what you want.
Make sure you get all your benefits too - you may well be entitled to more than you think. See www.direct.gov.uk