A Yorkshire based lifestyle & parenting blog written by Claire Chircop.

SURVIVING ON A MATERNITY WAGE.

Although we’re lucky to receive maternity pay in the UK, there’s absolutely no secret that the amount of money us new parents receive is pants & I can hand on heart say that I’ve found adjusting to my new lower wage pretty flipping tough.


Let me start by saying in no way at all would I class myself as rich. Let’s be clear about that. This post isn’t a brag about my pre-baby life, or a feel sorry for my diminishing bank balance post, after all it was us that chose to have a child & for me to take so much time off work looking after her – I’m writing this for other new parents to say we’re all in this together & we’re all as pretty much as skint as each other!

How much time am I taking off?
My last day at work was the 24th November 2018 which feels like a lifetime ago now, and I won’t be returning to my position until 30th December 2019 which means in total I’ll have 57 weeks off. This is made up of twelve months of which I’m entitled too as well as an extra few weeks holiday.
I decided to take the full 12 month allowance for two reasons, one being that our nearest family is 60 miles away from us meaning help with childcare is quite difficult and secondly (and rather selfishly) so I could have Christmas 2019 off - I work in retail you see & Christmas is the busiest time of year, so having the opportunity to take the time off to relax and enjoy it as a family was a no-brainer for me. And because she was born on the 23rd December it also means we’ll get to celebrate Amelia’s 1st birthday as a family too which I’m so looking forward to!

How much money do I actually get?
Let’s be real, this is why you’re all here isn’t it – And I don’t blame you. People don’t talk about money as it’s a bit of a taboo subject, but I really think we should start opening up about it a bit more.
For the first six weeks after leaving work I received 90% of my wage which luckily because of the way the dates landed I managed to spread across three monthly pay packets.
I then went down to statutory maternity pay which at £148.68 per week equates to £594.72 a month and this is what I’ll receive for the following 33 weeks, or in my case up until the middle of August.
After then and up until mid November I won’t receive a penny until my holiday pay kicks in where I should be back receiving a full wage.

What does my wage usually looks like?
Pre-baby I worked part time earning less than £16k a year and even though I never lived beyond my means, my life was comfortable. I lived month by month but managed to save bits of money here and there in preparation for the baby… And let me tell you that preparation is key!
I’m a worrier when it comes to money (as you’ll find out reading this post) I always have been and I’m pretty darn sure that I always will be, so my husband & I made sure that any extra money we had at the end of the month went into savings so I could take the full 12 months off & be able to look after our child.


Tips for surviving on a maternity wage.

Use your annual leave wisely.
Although I’ve taken advantage of cleverly used annual leave, I could definitely have been a bit more savvy when it came to optimising my pay packet.
My holiday pay works out to around double my maternity pay so what I’ve done is blocked my holidays of which I’ll accrue over the coming year together & popped them in over the Christmas period meaning I’ll be receiving a full wage over the 2019 festive season… Hallelujah! Clever me right?
What I should have done however is blocked some holidays together last year before my maternity wage kicked in so I could have kept my full wage for that little while longer. That being said last year was a busy one for us, I had a couple of weeks off for the wedding and a further two weeks off for our honeymoon, so I’m not sure how we could have pulled it off .
If you don’t decide to cram everything in, in such a short space of time like we did, then I’d definitely recommend utilising your annual leave to make sure you get paid as much as possible for as long as possible.

Child benefit.
We’ve never needed to claim for benefits so have never dealt with HMRC or Universal Credit & if I’m totally honest I don’t know a great deal about what we can & can’t claim for. I definitely need to educate myself into what we’re entitled too, because let’s be real, if we’re entitled to any form of extra money, we should definitely be claiming for it.
We’re currently claiming child benefit which works out as an extra £20.70 a week, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s better than nothing & we’re using the money properly to buy nappies, milk & anything else Amelia may need.


Do I really need it?
Budgeting is something I’ve always been totally pants at! And to be honest, I probably still am to some extent, only now I’ve had such a decrease in wage I’ve had to learn to reign my spending in a bit. I’ve never been a floozie when it comes to money, but something I’m terrible for is picking up a coffee & cake on my way to and from pretty much anywhere… And all those £2.50 latte’s add up over the month! If you could see my online banking (no-one wants to look at that – not even me) pretty much every outgoing, other than bills & important stuff comes from Starbucks, Costa & Greggs. I’m a slave to the coffee chain & I need to change!
What I’ve been asking myself recently however is ‘do I really need it?’ It’s a simple question, which usually comes with a simple answer… No.
It’s probably a bit late in the day for me to start putting this one into practice to really feel the benefit, but you know what they say… Look after the pennies & the pounds will look after themselves, and if I get in the habit of doing it now, when I do start bringing in a full wage again I’ll be saving quite a bit… Hopefully!

KIT days.
Kit days, or keeping in touch days are something which the workplace offers in order to break you back into work, before you finish your maternity leave & fully start back. I’d check with your employer, but in the UK you’ll usually be offered 10 paid kit days in total. I’ve already said to my employer I’ll be making use of all of my kit days, but I’m going to be clever about how & when I use them.
With my job role I have different tasks which need doing on different days, and there are some days which  are busier and more stressful than others. My plan of action is to work 2 Mondays, 2 Tuesdays etc etc etc & use my ten days that way. I’m also planning on starting using my kit days around September/October time as this is when my maternity wage will have finished & I’ll be bringing absolutely nothing to the table – Scary thought right? I hate the idea of not bringing a wage in.

Shopping for baby.
Babies are expensive, there’s absolutely no doubt about it, but something Dan & I pride ourselves on, is knowing what’s a bargain and what definitely isn’t. Before we had Amelia we were quite savvy when it came to spending money on our future spawn of Satan, knowing what were necessity purchases & even managing to secure our pram for £800 cheaper.
I’d class nappies, milk, wipes etc as nesceseties, all of which we pick up from Aldi during our weekly shop. We’re not snobby when it comes to brand names and are very much aware that all products have to comply to safety laws and the likes, so with milk for example whether you’re buying Mamia, SMA or Cow & Gate you’re giving your baby the exact same nutrients, only you may or may not be spending a small fortune. With nappies as well I’ve actually found the Aldi Mamia nappies to be much higher quality than Pampers, so I think it just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good product, but at the end of the day what works for you & your baby is what truly matters.


Check if bills can be cheaper.
This is something we’ve been meaning to do for such a long time now, but I think now that moneys dwindling we’re definitely going to look into how we can save a bit of dollar dollar on our monthly bills.
I’ve recently renewed my car insurance & managed to get that down to £250 which I’ve spread over 12 months to make payments that bit more manageable, but it definitely pays to look around. My original renewal quote was £450, which is a bit of an outrage seeing as though I paid £300 the year before so I’m glad I was able to cut costs quite considerably this way.
Some things we don’t really have a great deal of control over, like our mortgage & council tax bill, but something we can change is our gas & electric bills. They seem to be going up and up & to be honest British Gas have well & truly got us with our pants down, so we definitely need to look into lowering our utilities and saving a bit of money this way.
My phone contract is also up for renewal next month & I’ve decided that instead of opting to change for a brand spanking new handset I’ll be changing to a sim only plan and even though I don’t think it’ll lower my monthly repayment by that much, it’ll still be lower which is what matters.

In conclusion.
Although we’re lucky to receive a maternity wage in the UK I think it’s best to start saving money as soon as those two blue lines appear, in preparation for your little bundle of joy arriving. I think you also need to be smart when it comes to money, and only spend it where it’s really needed. Don’t get me wrong the odd treat is welcome every now and again, but I think being savvy is very important when it comes to surviving on a maternity wage.

What are your best tips for saving money & surviving on a budget?

Claire.X


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