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How to Save Money for Maternity Leave
I had a friend ask me today how to financially survive maternity leave, and thought I'd share the following advice:
If you qualify, apply for assistance
As soon as you become pregnant, the government sees you as two people (unless we're talking taxes - but we're not!). If it is you and your husband, you've been a family of two. But now, if you are pregnant with your first baby, you are a family of three. That makes a huge difference when looking at qualifications for financial assistance.
The first thing I would look at is Medicaid. If you qualify for Medicaid, it will pay 100% of mama's medical care. Once baby is born, it will pay baby's care. If mama has insurance through work, Medicaid will work as a supplemental insurance and pay everything that the regular insurance doesn't pay.
If you qualify for Medicaid, you automatically qualify for WIC (Women, Infants & Children). This program will provide some assistance for your family. While pregnant, it will provide things like cereal, milk, eggs, beans, and cheese. Once baby is born, it will provide formula if you are not nursing. This can be a tremendous savings.
In Iowa, a family of three would make $33,874 or less to qualify. A family of six would have to bring in less than $54,632 to qualify. It is worth checking into.
Depending on how much you will be paid during your maternity leave would determine how much you would need to save. You will need to look at your budget and then adjust accordingly. This is the time when you will need to be cutting out anything that you don't need.
Of course, since you are pregnant, there shouldn't be any more of those $4 coffee drinks, or cigarettes, or once-a-week gal's night out where the bar tab ends up being $50. These are EASY things to cut out when you are pregnant.
Some other things to think about cutting out are a home phone line, the expensive satellite TV service (or cable), and those expensive gym memberships.
Set aside $15 each week
Now, above and beyond making the adjustments in your budget in order to pay for what you will need during those ensuing six-weeks, you should set aside $15 each week for incidentals. My breakdown for that $15 is this:
- $7 to buy a pack of diapers for your stockpile. You have to use a coupon to get this deal, but don't pay over $7/pack. And buy size 2, because more than likely you will get lots of size 1 at your shower (hopefully!).
- $3 to buy a pack of wipes for your stockpile.
- $5 to purchase all the other things baby will need
Sign up everywhere!
Make sure you register on all of the baby formula sites and the diaper sites. Once you get on the mailing lists for all of the baby places, you will start to get some amazing coupons. Babies R Us usually sends out a coupon for a free gift card if you register there, and Target does the same thing. That's $40 or so for baby items. Once you've registered at these places, you will stay on a mailing list for quite a while and garner all kinds of coupons.
It's also nice on your registries to choose inexpensive items that you really need, and always include diapers and wipes on your registries.
So what *do* I need for a new baby?
I'll give a basic list here, but remember that so much of this stuff can be bought used or can be handed down from a friend.
- You'll need a good car seat. This is the place NOT to scrimp. A convertible car seat is one that can be a rear-facing car seat until the baby reaches 20 pounds, then can be turned around to become a forward-facing car seat. Do not buy one of these used as the webbing can weaken during an accident and there is really no way of knowing if it has been in an accident. Also, if some good-hearted person is trying to give you a hand-me-down, make sure to ask them, and also to check the expiration date on it. Weather can also make the webbing break down, so do stick to that expiration date.
- A Crib. You can forgo the bassinet or cradle, and just use a crib. In fact, you will use that crib until the kid is at least two, and after that, you may still use the mattress in the toddler bed.
- Blankets. Get lots of receiving blankets. These can be used for everything from swaddling to burp cloths.
- A few basic clothes. Don't buy too many of anything before that baby gets here. I had a ton of onesies for a newborn, and then my baby had a broken collarbone. We were not able to dress him in anything that pulled over his head for six weeks. Bye bye onesies!
- Diaper bag. Not *really* a necessity, but it's one of those things you probably really will use, at least for a while. And they usually come with that great little mat that is good for changing a baby on.
- Bottles. Even if planning on nursing, I would probably buy a few bottles. If not, register for a ton of them so you can try all the different styles.
- Breast pump. 'Nuff said.
- A stroller.
This is the bare minimum I think. There are other things that baby will need, but he really will not need them before you go back to work.
Breastfeed or bottle feed?
That's a debate I'm not even getting into! I'm all for feeding the baby however the heck you want!
With that said, breastfeeding is cheaper. It ties you down a little bit, but it is very rewarding and sweet. And cheap. Did I mention that?
Bottle feeding is awesome too. If you want to sleep, someone else can do it. It costs quite a lot of money, though. ESPECIALLY if you have to put the baby on a special formula, which seems to happen a lot. If you are planning on formula feeding from a bottle, make double sure you register at all those formula places. Have your mama register. Have your neighbor register. Have your best friend from grade school register. You can get massive amounts of free formula and formula checks that way.
Use coupons. There are loads of mom networks out on the world wide web. That's the place to find all of the great coupon hookups. They can save you a bundle of money.
Try to budget for your maternity leave so you don't have to go into debt. That way you can think about that sweet little baby and not credit card bills!