Saving money can be hard with two incomes, let alone one, if you don’t take the right steps.
When I found out I was pregnant, my husband had just left the military with college plans and I was the sole breadwinner. Clearly, he wasn’t going to have the baby for me, but I knew I was going to take the maximum maternity leave allowed and it was going to be *mostly unpaid.
Having said that, going back to work only 12 weeks after having my baby was already stressing me out, so I knew there was absolutely no way that I would rush back before that. Even if we needed the money.
You’re probably thinking that it would’ve been smart to throw him into a job, and you’d be right! I’m not even going to try to negotiate with myself from 3 years ago. We were set on the one-income life at that point in time.
We weren’t entirely living paycheck to paycheck, but we weren’t living large either. I’m not extravagant, but I like to enjoy the fruits of my labor and spend the money I earn.
But having a baby on the way and unpaid maternity leave rearing its ugly head, saving is unavoidable.
But I was the only one making money, so I had few choices (or so I thought):
- Save at least enough money for 3 months of expenses, or
- Rush back to work
I’ll let you guess which one I chose.
Creating a maternity leave savings plan
Our baby fund was the first organized budget in my adult life. I had a mortgage, student debt, and a gigantic list of home projects to take on. As much as I wanted to take care of all of those things FIRST, they didn’t have a deadline as demanding as my pregnancy.
We had 9 months (actually 8, since you don’t even know it’s there for at least the first 4 weeks!), but we did it on my lonely, barely middle class income. And it was so worth it.
Creating a baby fund was the best thing we did as parents-to-be. It allowed my husband and me to:
- Stay home together for my full maternity leave (12 weeks)
- Keep our bills paid and our regular spending habits covered
- Not worry about ordering take-out (like everyday)
- Learn our limits (and essentials)
- Adjust to the newborn phase with as little stress as possible
- Purchase any surprise baby essentials
Here are the steps I took to save $9,000 in 9 months on one income
1. Set a timeline
If it was for a vacation, I might have given myself 6 months? And it would’ve been a sweet vacay. But with baby, we had the 8-9 month mark pretty much set in stone.
Knowing how long I was going to be out of work is another timeline to keep in mind. Not only do you need to have your deadline to save the money, but you need a deadline to spend the money.
Of course you don’t need to spend it all, but it’s essential to know how long it needs to last.
With a [couple] timelines in place, it was easier to adjust my frivolous spending. One of my favorite mantras is “Everything is temporary”.
Saving gets a whole lot easier when I see myself on a timeline.
2. Set a goal
Pick an amount to save! I don’t like to crunch the numbers before deciding what to save. It’s easier to work around a definite plan. Otherwise I get lost in the planning part and start making excuses for unnecessary purchases….
Knowing how long I needed to make it last (12 weeks), I decided to save $10,000 before baby came. I came up $1k short, but she graced us 10 days before her due date…! <3 I still consider it a win.
With a definite goal in place, I was able to break it down by paycheck. Since I was getting paid on the 1st and 15th, I knew I would need to save $500 or more from every paycheck.
That might sound steep, but stick with me!
Although we are frugal, like, to the core, there are sooo many things we would’ve rather done with that money. I mean, we had just bought a fixer-upper and STILL need a new kitchen, but that’s beside the point.
Instead of spending that money on all the exciting projects, I knew that it belonged elsewhere.
Thanks to my set-in-stone GOAL.
3. Open a separate bank account, with no card
Call your bank and ask what you need to do to open a savings account.
It might call for a minimum deposit, but the most important thing is the limitations.
You need an account that will allow you take money out of it, and a lot of savings accounts will place limits on how much or how often you do that.
With ours, we are limited to 10 withdrawals a month. That’s a lot, but you need to know where yours will stand. Basically, you don’t want to cut yourself off from your own money when you need it most!
4. Start Tracking your income/expenses/savings
Keeping track of your money isn’t a drag like it used to be. You don’t need to constantly balance your checkbook anymore.
Instead, sign up for something awesome like free like Personal Capital and track it all in one place. I love them because this handy thing doesn’t just track where you spend your money, it tracks you net worth. Once you set it up, you can see all of your debts and investments in one place alongside your spending habits.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but once the baby is here you’ll be thinking about college savings and much more so #thankAmillennial and get your free Personal Capital account here.
5. Pay yourself first, and last
We treat saving like a bill. Of course it isn’t the most important bill, but it does not get put off until the end of the month. After our big bills are paid, we pay the pig.
And again at the end of the month. Whatever is left over got thrown towards the baby fund.
Once you make saving non-negotiable, it actually gets saved! Who knew?!
I used to save only after I had my fun, and I’ve even dipped into my savings on a monthly basis for things like…. shoes…. God it hurts to admit that to current-me.
6. Adopt easy frugal habits
Becoming a parent is a huge lifestyle change on its own. I know it can be hard to sacrifice things that make life worth living, but it’s time to reevaluate the way we live and spend.
Once I saw myself struggling to maintain my lifestyle, I started looking for any and every way to save on the things that I didn’t really care for.
The best frugal habits aren’t about clipping coupons or avoiding self-care. They make every day less expensive and allow you to save for the things worth splurging on (like 12 unpaid weeks of maternity leave).
It’s about being savvy. Making your money work right and stop wasting it in the lousiest places.
- 10 Tips to Frugal Living for Financial Independence
- 30+ Things Frugal People Always Buy in Bulk
- 20+ Interesting Ways to Make an Extra $100 Everyday
The best part about saving for maternity leave
This hard-pressed project was all about the baby, but it did much more than I thought it would. Not only did we have enough money to live comfortably during my entire maternity leave, we got a whole new perspective on our finances.
We realized how easy it was for us to live and save on one income. Even though I ran back to work at the 12 week mark, I have since left my job (almost a year ago now, omg) to stay home with my daughter. I don’t think I could’ve done it without this experience.
It’s about more than just having enough money for maternity leave. It’s about setting the goals and putting them into action, the discipline and motivation. But even better was the realization that we could save on one income and adapt our lifestyles to what mattered most.
It was surprising in so many ways. My husband couldn’t believe it lol but I saved $9,000 in 9 months while I was the pregnant wife, new homeowner, and sugar mama. And it was pretty damn easy.
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