Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act, institutions with more than 50 employees are required by federal law to allow eligible women and men up to 12 weeks of medical leave for specified family and medical reasons. Two of these specified reasons are birth of a daughter or son or adoption of a daughter or son. However, these possible 12 weeks are unpaid, so some parents might wonder, “How can I make this work financially?” Thankfully, there are many options to keep costs low when a baby arrives. Below are just a few tips for working parents who may be considering or taking unpaid leave.
Call on your network.
Child care can be expensive. Luckily, for working moms, calling on your network can be very beneficial whenever you need additional help. Being open with your family, friends, house of worship, or other communities when you need assistance with the necessities like bottles, formula, diapers, etc. can lead to many new connections and friendships. If you don’t have any current connections to your local community though, head over to Facebook. There are many mom/parenting groups available to join, and those parents most likely have hand-me-downs that they are willing to share. Babies grow quickly, so many parents are happy to give away clothes that their own child has outgrown. (You can even give back by giving away the clothes you have once your baby has outgrown them, too!)
Coupon, coupon, coupon.
As you may know, you can find coupons for just about anything. This includes the essentials for babies, like diapers! A simple Google search turns up several companies with coupons or special offers on their own websites (here are some coupons for Pampers). Some extreme couponing can get you double dollars off. Check your local grocery stores’ offers to see what will be on sale with local coupons. Compare prices against competing stores, and then stock up on your cheapest option. (You can get the most bang for your buck if you double up on local and company coupons!) Other companies, such as Target and Costco, also offer credit and debit cards that can give additional bonuses off certain items.
Consider fewer out-to-eats.
Working parents, especially with a new baby, tend to be extremely busy, and usually a good option for an on-the-go parent is a quick trip to a favorite fast food chain. However, frequent trips to get “a quick meal” can add up quickly. Instead, try eating in options to help lower costs. For example, pre-cooked rotisserie chickens at Costco are only $4.99 a piece, but one Chicken McNugget meal at McDonald’s costs $6.49 as of 2018. You can get more than double the chicken for less! If heading to the grocery store really does not fit your life though, try to find coupons for your fast food as well. There are many restaurants who include surveys on the bottoms their receipts which when completed result in free meals.
Check with your HR office.
While 12 weeks of unpaid leave is protected under federal law, you may have the ability within your own company to take a type of paid leave. Whether it is paid vacation time, supplemental short-term disability, or another type of out-of-work, there are options for paid parental leave, so check with your Human Resources Office for your best option for your budget. Also, keep in mind that your benefits can change whenever you have a child, so make sure you consider your new options and how they might affect your budget such as tax advantages and credits, like dependent care.
All in all, there are many ways to cut corners on cost when parents are trying to make it work on unpaid leave. It is always useful to plan a budget ahead of time though so that you can start to save before your baby arrives. If you are in an extreme situation though, please look into options such as crisis nurseries like Jeremiah’s Place that can offer free help with emergency child care.