Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.
Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.
“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.
But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sureâthe answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.
Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:
1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last
To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.
When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.
Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.
Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.
As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.
Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.
2. Babyproof your budget
When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.
In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).
“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.
As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:
What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.
3. Tighten up the budgetâthen tighten some more
Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.
Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget workâwhich included three months of unpaid leaveâshe and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.
Cut existing costs
As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.
“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”
Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?
Find ways to earn
Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.
Reduce new costs
As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.
4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose
When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.
In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.
As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.
Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.
For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:
Planned baby expenses
Unexpected baby costs or emergencies
Mother and baby healthcare
“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”
Budgeting for maternity leaveâand beyond
Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.
Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.
Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memoriesâinstead of stressing over money.
The post What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Children grow up. Fast. One day you’re buckling them into a car seat, and the next you’re handing them the keys. Like learning to drive or taking on a first job, managing a checking account is a big milestone that teaches responsibility and will help your child learn important financial habits.
Parents often ask: How do I open a checking account for kids? Many checking accounts, including Discover Cashback Debit, are for adults aged 18 and up, so you can help your child set up their own account when they are heading off to college or starting their career. If you’re interested in opening your child’s first checking account when they are younger, you could consider opening a joint checking account that you share with your youngster. Note that for some checking accounts, like Discover Cashback Debit, you have to be at least 18 years old to be added to the account as a joint accountholder.
“Is your teen interested in managing money, saving for different goals and spending on their own?” asks Kimberly Palmer, a banking expert for NerdWallet. If so, a checking account can be a great way to flex those skills and practice money management, she adds.
If you’re interested in setting up a checking account for kidsâwhether it’s a joint account you help manage or a solo account for your older teenâconsider the following four tips:
1. Factor in fees
When opening your child’s first checking account, it’s important to understand all of the fees associated with the account and who is responsible for paying them, says Mia Taylor, an award-winning financial journalist who writes for The Simple Dollar and other finance sites. Your child may think you are covering the fees if you have a joint account, for example, so be clear on the parameters when you open the checking account.
If you’re wondering how to open a checking account for a kid going to college or starting their first job, “look for an account with no minimum balance fees or monthly balance fees,” Palmer says. That way, your child won’t have to worry about being penalized for having a low balance or stress about fees eating into earnings and spending money.
If you’re setting up a checking account for a kid heading off to college or moving to a new city, you’ll also want to consider the fees associated with withdrawing cash from out-of-network ATMs. You can use a bank’s ATM locator to ensure there are no-fee ATMs near their college campus or apartment.
2. Focus on features
Choosing the right checking account for your child’s lifestyle may mean finding an account that has features that support their needs and goals, as well as your preferences.
If you are opening your child’s first checking account and they are younger and sharing the account with you, you may want the ability to set limits on spending and the number of withdrawals. “Parents and teens may have different preferences for each of these features, so it’s important to talk about what you’re looking for ahead of time and compare the different options together,” Palmer says.
If you have a joint account with your child, you could also consider setting up email or text alerts for every transaction or every “large” transaction over a certain dollar amount. This may help you keep better track of your child’s spending habits and could help you have conversations about how to create a budget. Setting up a low balance notification may also be wise when opening your child’s first checking account to help avoid overdraft and insufficient funds fees.
âParents and teens may have different preferences for each of these features, so it’s important to talk about what you’re looking for ahead of time and compare the different options together.â
When choosing a checking account, you may want to find a checking account that offers rewards. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 If your child is 18 or older, you can let them decide how the cashback should fit into their budget and financial goals.
3. Make mobile a priority
It’s no shock that today’s kids are experts at navigating a smartphone. As you make plans to set up a checking account for kids, be sure to consider whether the checking account has a mobile app for making deposits and tracking funds, Taylor says.
“Mobile deposits are a huge convenience factor for teens” since it allows them to deposit funds with the snap of a photo, Taylor says. Be sure to also research the app’s functionality (the easier, the better) and security, Palmer adds.
Tracking spending with a pen and paper may feel tedious to digital natives, so talk with your child about how they can sync their checking account with other budgeting and spending apps. Exchanging money with friends via digital wallet apps may also be of interest to your child, but you may want to consider providing guidelines when opening your child’s first checking account.
“Only send money to people you know, not to strangers,” Palmer suggests.
Even though digital wallets can be convenient for older teens, Taylor says you may not want to overcomplicate a checking account for a younger child. “Keep it simple in the beginning,” she says. “As teens get older, they can add those features on their own.”
4. Use the account as a teaching tool
Good financial habits are learned early and remembered for decades. That’s why the most important thing parents can do when opening your child’s first checking account is to use the account to have discussions about money, Palmer says.
“Ask them what they want to save for, what kinds of items they hope to buy and whatâif anyâmoney they would like to donate to a cause that is important to them,” Palmer says. “A checking account is a useful way to plan for future expenses and savings goalsâall lessons that carry into adulthood.”
âSit them down and show them what you’re doing with your own checking account so that you can pass on good values early on. The earlier you start with kids, the wiser they will be.”
A great way to pass on money management lessons is to show your children how you manage your own account.
“Sit them down and show them what you’re doing with your own checking account so that you can pass on good values early on,” Taylor says. “The earlier you start with kids, the wiser they will be.”
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPalÂ®, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.
The post 4 Considerations for Opening Your Child’s First Checking Account appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.