This post is part of Women’s Money Week.
In my opinion as soon you decide to have children, (no matter how far into the future that day may seem), you should start setting money aside for the big day. Think of having a child like any other big financial goal in life. You know you need to save to buy a house, a new car or to travel on an exotic vacation, so why not save to expand your family?
The sooner you decide to save the larger that sum will swell. If you don’t earn a lot of money set aside a little bit each paycheck. You’d be surprised how quickly those numbers can add up over time. Set a big goal for yourself. Imagine you don’t know where you’ll work a few years from this point in time and whether or not maternity pay will be offered. You are married and want a family but you aren’t certain when. Start a savings account dedicated to financing your maternity leave.
In general cut back on your spending, clip coupons and stay out of stores. Calculate all of your monthly expenses and see what items you might be able to eliminate. Start making calls to cell phone companies and satellite TV providers to find out how to reduce monthly bills. Think about possible ways to earn extra income by taking on extra hours at work or selling unwanted items on eBay.
Once you conceive keep your ear out for anyone willing to offer hand-me-downs and investigate all the places that sell second-hand baby items. You would be amazed by the number of people who have boxes full of baby related items hiding in their basements. If you live in or near a major city you will probably find second-hand stores and consignment sales that sell items for a fraction of the retail price. Consignment sales are typically held just three or four times a year, so make certain to mark the dates on your calendar. If you are looking for something specific try eBay and Craigslist before buying from an online retailer.
Think carefully about how you register for baby items and avoid letting yourself get into the baby craze. You’ll feel driven to wash everything the minute you receive it, but don’t. Keep tags on just about everything. It’s amazing how quickly children outgrow toys and clothing. Rather than washing everything and folding it neatly into drawers keep the tags on clothes until just before your child will need to wear them. This makes it easier to return or exchange the items for larger sizes. It also makes it easier to sell items if the need arises.
Kids don’t need much in that first year of life other than love and attention, so stick to a very small set of toys. You’ll be amazed at how enamored your child will become with a simple cardboard box or a plastic bucket.
Think strategically about decorating your nursery. Baby stores have notoriously high prices, so make certain to compare prices at traditional furniture stores before buying. Also, try to envision your child’s bedroom five or ten years into the future. You don’t want to purchase all new furniture when your son or daughter gets older.
I mentioned this in the post linked to above, but I think it bears repeating here; keep in mind that some baby sized gear is cute, but certainly not necessary. Full sized towels work better than the hooded versions and extra soft wash cloths will work perfectly fine for a baby. They may not have super cute motifs on them, but they will last long beyond the first year or two.
Before getting pregnant or at the very least as soon as you find out you are pregnant talk to your human resources department and ask for detailed benefit information. You want to know how long you will be paid and what percentage of pay you will receive. Some women get paid 100% for weeks on end, some receive partial pay and others get nothing at all.
I’ve known at least two women who returned to work much earlier than expected because they didn’t understand their benefits. A friend of the family planned to stay home for three months, but found out her pay ran out after just eight weeks. She was informed on a Friday and unexpectedly back at work the following Monday. Had she realized this sooner she could have saved more money to stay home for that period of time or at least better prepared herself for a shorter leave. Instead she felt forced to return to work and unhappy about doing so.
Make certain to ask your employer if you can use sick leave and/or vacation time to pay for your maternity leave and if you can transition back to work with reduced hours or a more flexible work schedule.
Most importantly plan as much as you can before the arrival of your new little bundle of joy. The sooner you plan and the harder you save the easier the transition to parenthood will be.