I’m not what you would call frugal. I’ll admit it here and now…My name is Tiffany, and I’m a shopaholic. So, when J and I were expecting the first time, I knew I couldn’t keep spending like I had been. I needed a plan! And thankfully, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started to save some money from each paycheque, which made life so much more manageable during my one-year parental leave. Here are 8 other ways, I was able to stay on budget while I was off:
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- Create a Budget – First step is to get a full picture of your current expenses. I’ve created a Bills & Expenses Worksheet that can help you with this. You should also get an idea what you could receive from EI. Canadians, click here for more detailed information on what you could receive. For me, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pay for all of the bills I was responsible for while on EI. So, J and I had a conversation about what he would take on for the year, and what I was comfortable paying for. I then did the Bills & Expenses Worksheet again to reflect my expenses while on leave. Anything left over could be rolled over to the next month, or I would budget in a treat for myself now and then. Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
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2. Automate Bills – This seems like a no-brainer to me, and even more important while on mat leave. In those crazy newborn days, I tended to be on autopilot. I did what I needed to do to help our baby survive, while neglecting myself in the process. Sounds about right..right? Because who can remember the last time they took a shower when your baby is waking you up every 2 hours? I found myself forgetting to pay my credit card, hydro and cell phone bills! The last thing I wanted to do was have my credit rating take a nose-dive after I spent years building up. So, I went into each of my creditor accounts and automated payments straight from my bank account. I didn’t have to think about another bill after that.
3. Opt-Out of Retail Email Subscriptions – This was HUUUUGE for me! Every day my inbox was filled with deals of the day from all of my favourite retail stores. There’s no greater temptation than to see a 50% off sale at Ricki’s, or 70% off all clearance items at Carter’s. But you know how the saying goes, ”Out of sight – out of mind.” I went through a month’s worth of emails to see which subscriptions kept coming up, then scrolled to the bottom of each vendor’s emails to look for the slyly hidden “unsubscribe” link. After a few weeks, ALL of them stopped coming. And just like that, I stopped wasting time and money.
4. Subscribe to Essentials – Wait…What? Didn’t I just unsubscribe to a bunch of email subscriptions? Yes, but subscribing to baby essentials and everyday household items is a bit different. For example, if you were an Amazon Prime member and subscribed to receive Huggies diapers like these every month, you can save 20% off the regular price. The more eligible products you auto-deliver through Amazon, the more savings you can potentially unlock. That’s extra money for you to spend however you’d like!
5. Challenge Yourself to Stick to Your Shopping List – This one is a tough one for me. I’m also ultra-competitive though. So, when I set my mind to something, I always follow through. But, not only am I a shopaholic…I’m also an impulse-buyer. You know the checkout line at Winner’s? The one that’s filled with shelf-after-shelf full of different products? Products that pretty much scream for you to look at while you walk past. There’s a reason why the checkout line is designed that way, and it’s another genius marketing ploy by the team at TJX to buy more! Not gonna lie, the checkout line at Sephora always gets me. Who can resist those cute little travel-sized products? Do I need another Nars eye primer? Not right now…but I will! Nope – not when I’ve challenged myself to stick to my shopping list.
6. Set A Long-Term Goal – This could mean, “Save $2,000.00 by the time I return to work”. Or “Buy no clothing for a year”. For me, I challenged myself to have a zero-credit card balance by the time I went back to work. And you know what? This actually worked. I’m not saying I never had a balance. I did, but I made sure it was manageable and was able to pay everything off in the end. Believe me, this accomplishment felt really good.
7. Sell Old Baby Clothes & Toys – Babies grow fast, especially in the beginning. So, all of their newborn onesies will be old news in about two weeks. Children’s consignment stores like Once Upon A Child may buy your used toys and clothing, provided it meets their standards. Facebook Marketplace is also an amazing place to sell all of your unwanted items. This is a win-win! You make some money back and keep your home organized at the same time.
8. Look for Free Baby Classes – It’s so important to get out and about with your baby as much as you can. When you’re on mat leave and living off of one income, it can be hard to decide which activities to join. Luckily, I was able to find quite a few activities that were free! The Vancouver Public Library holds 30-minute Storytime sessions that is instructor led and is jam packed with reading and singing. Click here for more details or here to search for Storytime dates/times/locations closest to you.
Another great program I found was through the Vancouver School Board called Strong Start . There are several schools throughout the VSB that holds Strong Start “classes”, usually in the morning. Here, there are plenty of opportunities to play, read, sing songs and participate in teacher-led activities. You’ll need to register your child, so remember to bring your ID and your child’s birth certificate.
If you wanted to try baby sign language, The Juice Truck in Kitsilano has partnered with Lee Ann Steyns at Signing Babies to offer free 30-40 mini sessions. More details here. I’ve taken Lee Ann’s Baby Sign language classes on Facebook, and she is absolutely wonderful! Plus, the FB classes are pure genius, especially in our current Coronavirus outbreak.
[EDIT]: It goes without saying the above activities are for post-COVID-19. There are a ton of free online resources and classes for you and your little ones right now. Take advantage of those while you can!
So that’s it! These are the ways I managed to survive my first one-year mat leave without going into debt. It’s the same strategies I’m using now on my second mat leave. I hope you found these 8 suggestions helpful! Comment below to let me know what other strategies you’ve used to help keep you on track with your budget.
Before you leave, don’t forget your FREE downloads that includes a cheatsheet on these 8 strategies PLUS a “Bills & Expenses Worksheet” which can help you determine whether you need to make adjustments to your finances before going on mat leave.
Until next time, stay healthy and safe, my friends.
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