In an ideal world, I'd be off work until Oliver starts school in five years time. I know how precious this part of his life is, and how quickly he will grow out of the baby and toddler stage and to be honest, I just don't want to miss any part of it. But in reality, I've got bills to pay and statutory maternity pay doesn't do much to cover them. It looks like I'll be going back to work in early August which means I'll have had almost 11 months off on maternity leave.
When I finished work in October, I was treating every day like the weekend. going shopping or out for lunch most days (pre-baby of course). I quickly realised that wasting money like this would take months off my maternity leave. I've reined it in a lot since then, and have come to realise that with just a few lifestyle changes, I can actually get by on very little money during the week.
Here's how I make my maternity pay stretch a little bit further ...
1. Use the Outdoors - Swap afternoon tea and shopping with a friend for a long walk in a country park followed by tea and cake in yours. There's so many good things about walking - it's good exercise, it clears your head, lets baby sleep for a while and above all, it's completely free. Try and avoid temptation to stop for a coffee on the way back and wait until you're home instead.
2. Online Food Shopping - I think everyone has had the experience of getting to the checkout and realising you've spent double the amount you had planned. Most supermarkets allow you to order your shopping on line and if you get to the check out and realise you've overspent, it's only a few clicks to remove those unnecessary items or to switch to cheaper products to stay within budget.
3. Be Creative. It's always great to find something (free!) to focus on when you're not working. Starting a blog or a YouTube channel is a fun way to document this memorable time in your life and can help you connect with other like-minded people too. If that's not your cup of tea, there's so many other creative things you can do to keep busy. I've been working on a scrap book for Oliver's first year and I've really enjoyed organising his photos and writing little stories next to each one.
4. Join the Gym or Leisure Centre - I know you've probably been trying to work out how to reduce your monthly bills but spending £30-£40 on a gym membership can actually be an efficient way of using your money. Most leisure centres give you unlimited access to the gym, classes and swimming for a set fee every month. This means you've always got something to do when funds are low at the end of the month. You've got the gym and classes for when you're baby-free and swimming for days when it's just you and the little one.
5. Monthly Subscriptions - This follows the same principal as no. 4. Setting aside an amount each month for something you enjoy makes it much easier to budget. If you're a beauty addict and find yourself buying the odd little product every time you go into Boots, you'll find you probably spend much more than you think every month. Why not subscribe to a beauty box instead? You'll know exactly what you're spending and still get to try out new products. Here's a review of the Look Fantastic Beauty Box* which has some excellent products and great sample sizes - look out for discount codes for this one through voucherbox.co.uk.
I really hope you found these useful - if you share some of your own tips in the comments!