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You know the saying, “you never miss something until it’s gone?” Well, this is true, especially when it comes to work benefits.
When I had my daughter in 2011, I was working for a big firm with over 1000 employees and pretty good benefits. By the time I was ready to take leave, my 12 week FMLA maternity leave was fully paid. Unfortunately, I was laid off from that company in 2014 so there go my maternity benefits.
Since then, I have moved on to other great things at a new company, a smaller company (only 8 employees). In 2016, while pregnant with baby #2 so I start trying to figure out maternity leave. According to FMLA, a company needs to have at least 50 employees to honor the 12-week family leave given to a mother within 1 year of the birth or adoption of their child (Hopefully I got that information right, check out https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla just to make sure). Although my new company did not have to honor FMLA, my boss (the owner) still gave me 12 weeks of maternity leave (awesome!)…all unpaid (not so awesome).
Can you afford to go almost 3 months with no paycheck? That was my reality and this is what I did to get through it.
I stopped our financial planning and focused all of our extra money to maternity leave. I opened a new savings account strictly for my unpaid maternity leave. This completely different and separate from our emergency fund. My goal was to save 3 months worth of MY income in this savings account.
I didn’t want to use our emergency fund because my unpaid maternity leave was expected. We had 9 months to prepare our finances to be ready before the baby got here. I paid the minimum on our debt (house), stopped saving for luxury items (vacations) and I reduced my contribution to my retirement to the minimum to receive my employer’s match. The extra money from these changes went to the unpaid maternity leave savings account.
This was easier than expected since we needed to make room for baby. My office turned into the baby’s room, so we sold most of our office furniture and replaced it with smaller (and cheaper) furniture to fit is the new office “corner”, I know what you are thinking and that’s not in the baby’s room. The money left over went straight to the unpaid maternity leave savings account.
I was due with my son in December so traveling for the holidays was not on my radar…AT ALL! Usually, for a few days between Thanksgiving and the New Year, we will travel to meet the in-laws somewhere. Each trip can cost us up to $1,000 depending on the hotel, food, and activities.
Instead, they decided to visit us. It was a win-win! Even with the bigger food bill for having house guests, we still saved a lot of money by them coming down to our neck of the woods. The extra money saved was transferred over to our unpaid maternity leave savings account.
I will admit, I don’t want people going out of there way to get me anything but my Aunt told me that “doing something out of the kindness of your heart is a gift from God and the giver will be blessed.” She told me I was blocking people’s blessings. I immediately felt guilty so I learned to say “thank you.”
Kids are expensive and every little bit helps. With all the generosity of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, we didn’t have to buy much for the baby. So you know what that meant, more money for the unpaid maternity leave savings account. Cha-ching! (I know that was cheesy, bare with me.)
A few other ways to save for your unpaid maternity leave:
So how did we do? By the time my unpaid maternity leave started, we were short almost $1,000. Lol. After taking another look at our expenses, I was able to cut our grocery bill by having more time to cook big meals (leftovers are awesome) and dine out less. I ended up saving on fuel for my car since all the driving I was doing was in a 5-mile radius: grocery store, daughter’s school, and Dunkin Donuts.
In the end, we didn’t have to touch our emergency fund. That was a major victory because I thought we would be dipping into our emergency fund. After maternity leave, we continued focusing on our financial goals, as usual. It was like we never missed a beat!
Are you planning or did you have to take unpaid maternity leave?