How do people afford to go on maternity leave??

Having recently got married, me and my husband spoke about when we would like to start a family. I'm 33 and he's 37 so it's time to get cracking. We decided to start trying once we got back from our honeymoon. However, I looked at my work's maternity policy and there's no way I could afford to go on maternity leave! I'd get 2 weeks full pay, 4 weeks pay at 90% and then 33 weeks at SMP. With my current outgoings, there's no way my husband could afford to take those outgoings on, pay for food, petrol and a baby! I'm the main earner in the household so to lose the majority of my pay just wouldn't work. I could maybe have 1/2 months off maximum before the drop in pay would be too substantial.

We have a few debts to clear which will be done in 3 years time but to wait 3 years seems too long and I'll be 36 but quickly approaching 37 by that point. Does anyone have any advice, tips etc on how to survive on very little money with a baby??


  • Helen225Helen225 Posts: 861 New bride

    Ouch thats rubbish!! Ours is 19 weeks full pay then SMP  

    Would you consider doing paternity leave instead? 

  • Rosegold017Rosegold017 Posts: 476

    Hi Nikki, I have no tips but I feel your pain. Looking to get started as soon as we get back from honeymoon next month and have no idea how we'll manage our income. We're starting to discuss a change of lifestyle altogether as H2B works for himself and I work for a big company. I currently commute to London and I spend a LOT on travel, lunch, coffee, after work drinks/dinners, birthday collections, leaving collections, baby collections. I'm hoping these small things will be a little saving.

    How would you feel about signing over some maternity leave to your husband? A friend of mine is the main breadwinner in her house and considering doing this, but I think I'd want the full year personally.

    All I can say is what everyone generally tells me: if you plan for a baby, you will probably never have one. You will find a way to cope when it happens :)

  • MrsE2016MrsE2016 Posts: 1,209 New bride

    Our plan is to save as much as we can beforehand & adjust our lifestyle so we save money. Unfortunately meals out, weekends away etc will have to stop for a bit while we save. 

    Do you keep a spreadsheet tracking incomings/outgoings at the moment? This might help you budget & save money! Is there any of your current outgoings you can cut back on?

    SMP is £140 a week which isn't a great deal but plenty of families survive on low incomes with children, you just might have to cut back on the luxuries. 

    Hope that helps - I don't think anyone is ever financially prepared for a baby!

  • You just manage, I know that may sounds obvious but you do. you'll cut your outgoings as you wont be doing as much travelling. my works policy is straight onto SMP its a killer, but we are preparing to do it for a second time only this time with higher expenditure as we have since moved house/have a 2nd car. it will be tight and some months won't be fun. but we are fortunate to have some savings we can use - we didn't need any last time round. but we will be using the car less, planning our meals - to spend wisely on food shopping. not really having take-aways or going for lunch etc. I won't be taking a year off looking at 8-9 months hopefully then back to work. its a short term struggle for a life time of love for my wee ones is my view. if you are the main earner you have the option to split your maternity leave with your hubby so if you feel you have to go back to work then he could be off with your wee one.

    I also don't plan on doing so many baby classes this time, they add up in costs too instead i'll be going along to the local toddlers etc for £1.50 a session instead of the £6/8 a class they can sometimes cost! if you plan you will probably never find the right time to have children as you will always have something else you could be spending the money on but it will always work out in the end.x

  • JulyBride4JulyBride4 Posts: 172

    Our plan is to save after the wedding as if we were saving for the wedding.. so put [X] amount aside each month, to hopefully build up and cover the shortfall of SMP!!  Annoyingly there are no enhanced maternity rights at my work, so if I'm ever lucky enough to fall pregnant, the plan would be that any savings we have made in the 9+ months prior to giving birth will cover the shortfall.  SMP just seems ridiculously low!! 

  • MrsJ2017MrsJ2017 Posts: 3,017

    I didnt get maternity pay at all due to timings, we didnt have a lavish lifestyle or anything but we cut back to the essentials for a few years. H2b was on about 22k back then and I became a sahm, its very possible but you obviously cant do it if you have loads of contracted outgoings. We didnt have any debts, we had a crappy car that cost about £500, we didnt spend money on luxuries, and we havent been on holiday abroad in 8 years.

    h2b earns nearly double that now so we are a lot more comfortable. But if we were to look at it now wed wonder how we could afford to lose money because we have more stuff, big tvs, sky contracts, a new car etc. We would struggle to go back to living how we used to!

    As Ive been a sahm Im not the most clued up on maternity leave but havent they changed it so the men can now take half of the leave instead of the woman?

    Is there really now way you can cut back on expenses, even if it means sacrificing a bit of lifestyle?

    Newborns are not all that expensive imo, its all the accessories (many of which are unneccassary), especially if you would plan to breastfeed, but that might be a struggle if youd have to go back to work early.

    Its a tough one but people manage it and rubbish incomes (we did!), so take a look and be critical. look at each bill and think is it essential? Coulf you live without it? You dont have to get tid of things but its an eye opener to see how much money goes on luxuries and how much money we could have if we didnt enjoy spending so much 😂

  • MrsJ2017MrsJ2017 Posts: 3,017

    Sorry for all the typos im having a convo with a toddler about planes and typing at the same time!

  • Wow I'm lucky! I get 6 weeks full pay + SMP, then 8 weeks full pay - SMP (they make it up to your normal pay), then onto SMP only. So I get a good 3 months at normal pay. And they won't let you come back to work for 2 weeks after birth, because you need to look after you & baby.

    I would definitely recommend sharing leave with your husband if you're the main earner. And save up to the baby. Just think of it like saving for the wedding - you've got 9 months AFTER you get pregnant, so it could be up to a year of additional saving to make it through the maternity leave.

  • Lauren147Lauren147 Posts: 185

    It really is terrible how much SMP is. If you are on minimum wage at a full time job (37.5 hours) you would be earning £280. How is looking after your family worth less than minimum wage? 

    I can only confirm what the previous ladies have said. One of my male colleagues has just gone on 6 months paternity leave as his wife was the higher earner so its not unheard of if you need to do it 

  • HailsHails Posts: 2,455

    It sounds like it would definitely be worth looking into the shared leave scheme if you're the higher earner.

  • bella2015bella2015 Posts: 1,903 New bride

    You could just try and save as much as you can before then.

    Lots of women manage on smp as there really is no alternative.I have lots of friends who've said it's hard but they've got through it.

    I'm currently pregnant and planning on having 9 months off. If you can manage 12 months then that's great but the reality is that lots of people cant  afford to. 


  • LeeLawLeeLaw Posts: 107 New bride

    This absolutely terrifies me! I am the main earner as well. My work has a pretty great maternity structure though where it is full pay for 6 months, 3 months half, then 3 months statutory. However I'm looking to change job so who knows what I would get somewhere else!

  • I'm 32 weeks pregnant now- we have been saving since we found out which makes me relax a little x x 

  • We will continue to save after the wedding to build up some money to cover the shortfall as J will have to take the paternity leave as I'm a self employed dance teacher - if I took 6 months out I'd not have a school to go back too 

  • Jenni8Jenni8 Posts: 3,201

    Would you be eligible for the maternity grant?

    I don't know much but as a midwife I strongly advocate that babies don't need to cost much at all. It is unethical and frankly disgusting how big companies use marketing to target new mothers and fathers who, of course, only want the best for their baby therefore they sell their product as an essential product for parents who wish to give their baby nothing but the best. In reality, all a baby needs is its mother!! Breastfeeding is an obvious way to save money, but also re-usable nappies.

  • wed172Bwed172B Posts: 1,258

    Cut down your outgoings now. If you don't have a spreadsheet get one started so you can see exactly what you spend! We've gone down to one income and trust me there are always ways to save that you just don't see until you need to! Also if you can start putting some money away now to cover the months you with be on stat pay. Hard to give specific advice without knowing your circumstances but if you start living on less now rather than once baby is nearly here that will help loads! It can definitely be done :)

  • Carly57Carly57 Posts: 682

    Find out what your work policy is on annual leave too, some people are made to take theirs before their official mat leave starts whereas I was allowed to carry mine all to the end. I took minimal leave while pregnant, had about 3 weeks left, plus the leave accrued while I was off, I also was paid bank holidays extra and the days the office was closed at xmas, which meant a good chunk of full pay to add on at the end. It was a great boost after some lean months! 

  • MrsC2014MrsC2014 Posts: 822

    If you are the main wage earner - as am I it doesn't really matter what you cut back on or how cheap you do things when you have a baby (such as no meals out no baby classes, buy cheap stuff etc). If you have commitments already you can cut back on some but that still leaves things like mortgage, car, phone, utilities etc which we simply couldn't afford without my full income.

    Like someone said above - saving is the best way to do it. I'm saving bits here and there so that I can afford to take an extra few months off and if we really need to - we may have to borrow a bit off the mortgage (we are remortgaging anyway). We might have to do this in order to afford the childcare when I go back to work (which is an even more scary scenario!

    Not the most responsible but if we know we can afford to do it long term then that's the compromise we have to make now. Not the choice for everyone though I'm sure but agree with another poster - there is never a right time to do it, you just do and make it work for you however best you agree to! x

  • MrsNH17MrsNH17 Posts: 643 New bride

    l'm planning to save like I did for the wedding, if not better because I'm totally in the habit of it now! im on a good salary and to lose that will be quite shocking but I've started taking cash out and only spending that and only letting my fixed debits come off my account - amazing how much more less you spend when you physically use cash for it rather than swiping the card! I try stuff on in the shops and I'm like nope, I want that money to last til next week or whatever! It makes a huge difference! 

  • Lady LuckLady Luck Posts: 29

    I don't know how much your husband earns but it might be worth while checking if you would be entitled to tax credits whilst on Mat leave. They ignore £100 per week of your SMP and of course you would receive child benefit of approx £80 a month

    Check out your company policy re annual leave, many companies let you carry forward your leave whilst on mat leave and this can include all the bank holidays. If you timed it right (easier said than done!) that could give you an extra month or so. 

    Save, save, save before hand (you're used to this right!!)

    I sold my car for a cheaper one (more necessity as needed a bigger one) but the money came in handy

    As someone else has said part from the essential outgoings (house, car etc) I really didn't need much money whilst on Mat leave. I breastfed, my mum bought nappies every week when I was pregnant ,  went to local classses, parks etc 

    Where there is a will there is a way- this is coming from someone who waited until I was financially able, and then found out I was having twins!!!

  • elsyelsy Posts: 533

    This is something that I've been thinking about a lot too recently Nikki. My work go straight into SMP which is pants, especially given that I'm a nursery manager (although to be honest, given that it's a nursery that might go some way in explaining why it's only SMP!)
    I have no idea how we'll be able to afford for me to go on maternity leave and part of me sees me as only taken the bare minimum amount of time off, but then I'd have to factor in childcare costs too. We left all our family behind down south when we moved up to Lincoln so can't use them to help us out, and although I work in a nursery, we only get 20% staff discount which is nothing when I'm there for 9.5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    As other people have said though, I don't think there's ever a right time in terms of being financially stable as there is always likely to be something that comes along that the money could be spent on instead. And there's always the 9 months of pregnancy to save as much as possible.

  • Sara50Sara50 Posts: 196

    Me and my husband are having the exact same discussions. Even though he earns more than I do I am still concerned about how we will manage on SMP for 6 months when I currently pay more towards just our jointly monthly outgoings than I will be getting on SMP!! And then there is potentially a part time wage and childcare to factor in when I do go back to work! 

    We have been saving since the wedding but also been going crazy booking holidays for this year as a last blow out before TTC towards the end of this year and we both need new cars so I would think by the end of the year we'll be pretty low on savings again! 

    I don't want to give up expensive make up and holidays abroad and that makes me think I am just not ready to have children if I am thinking like that but people say to me all the time that you do manage, everyone manages and when you have children your priorities change and it's amazing how much money you'd spend on stuff that you just don't need!!

    I think it's more to do with how hard it can be to experience such a dramatic drop in monthly income when you have become accustomed to a tidy salary rather than whether it is possible to manage on SMP! If you are earning minimum wage it is not too much of a drop compared to a £40k salary! 

  • NikkiMNikkiM Posts: 1,653 New bride

    Thanks for all the advice ladies. It sounds as though it would be best for me to get as much of my debts paid off this year and then maybe start trying for a baby towards the end of the year. Then the saving can begin. I hadn't thought about saving but you're right if I can do it for 14 months for a wedding, I'm pretty sure I can manage 9 months for a baby!

    The husband is self employed but works from home so he would be around to take over the paternity leave. He could still work whilst looking after a baby. If we can save enough, I might be able to stretch the maternity leave to 6 months before having to go back. If my husband stays self employed we might be lucky enough not to need full time nursery but that's another scary cost!


  • When we found out I was pregnant with my first daughter I was still paying off a loan that was approx £300 a month on top of our mortgage, car, bills etc! I was so worried but we managed to both do loads of over time and pay it off before I had my daughter plus we saved a bit for maternity. We bought most of our stuff second hand or borrowed from friends. It was pretty tough at times, we ate a lot of meals from Iceland (😂). I breast fed as long as poss - I wanted to but also it was free. Aldi nappies & wipes were a godsend. I had 9 months off before I had to go back to work but I only went back 3 days due to lack of childcare.

    I remember thinking we'd be skint forever but we now have 5 & 2 year old, we've both had promotions so our finances are healthy enough to be paying for our wedding.

    You will manage even though it seems impossible  

  • BekhaGBekhaG Posts: 586 New bride

    Hi NikkiM, I feel your pain! I'm the 'breadwinner' in our household but I don't consider myself to be on a massive wedge (£27K, hubby is on £20K)!!

    I'm in a slightly different boat to you in that my company's mat pat is amazing as I've been there 2 years- 6 months full pay, then 3 months SMP. Hubby and I started saving Jan 16 after I came off the pill but- V long story- have only been able to start actually TTC in late Jan this year :( So our little nest egg has grown very well and we're not even pregnant yet, plus we're debt free.

    My prob is I work in a very stressful job with the nastiest vilest bunch of colleagues ever :( I'd love to leave (the stress is probably stiffling my chances of getting pregnant. It has been making me very ill) but the MAT pay is too good to walk away from. It will enable me to comfortably have a full year off with our new baby despite hubby's modest wage. If I leave now (really hoping to get pregnant soon!!) then will only get basic SMP elsewhere and just wouldn't be able to cope for more than 6 months- tops- on that and hubbys wage with increased outgoings of a baby.

    Its a bummer!

    Most people say the same to me as other posters- you just manage, because you have to. Kids are worth it :)

    Wishing you all the best and, as other posters say, don't forget to apply for all state benefits and Tax Credits you can- worth trying for it all while you need it :)

  • MrsStobe4MrsStobe4 Posts: 282

    I agree with what a PP said, babies don't cost much at all if you don't want them too!! I think our outgoings were less when I was on mat leave, no commute or lunch costs or all those other things people have mentioned which comes with working in an office. If you go to classes and make friends with others, you'll find yourselves going to each other's houses/parks for play dates which don't cost anything. I did breastfeed though and I know formula costs a fortune.

    I also wouldn't bank on your DP being able yo do childcare because he works from home. My DP works from home and and I work from home two days a week and there is absolutely no way I could do childcare and work at the same time, even between us, it is impossible.

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