Since graduating I have always worked in some capacity or another and while I’ve never earned big bucks, I’m not the worst paid gal either. I’ve always had enough to go on holiday (with a bit of saving and clever use of credit cards) and treat myself to a new pair of Doc Martens every now and then. After bills, my money has been my own to spend as I wish.
So let’s just say the switch to being on Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) hasn’t been the easiest transition to make! I thought I’d share a bit of an insight into what you get and where my money seems to go.
What is SMP?
There’s a .gov website where you can work all of this out, but essentially, when you go on maternity leave, you are entitled to receive SMP. Your work place may well offer additional benefits, which should be detailed in your contract or you will be able to get from HR. Legally, you’re entitled to take 52 weeks away from work from when your maternity leave starts.
You can plan to start this before your due date to get some rest before the baby comes, but once your baby is here, your maternity pay kicks in. I was planning on having three weeks off before our babba arrived but LOL no (you can read about what happened instead here).
When you’re on SMP, the 52 weeks break down into different chunks:
- 6 weeks at 90% of your average weekly pay
You can see the proper legal definitions on the .gov website here.
As you can see, you only get paid for 39 weeks of the 52. So although you’re allowed to take a year, you have to work out whether you can afford to, because if you’re on SMP you won’t be bringing home any moolah for three months.
To make things more complicated (*eye roll*), although the SMP rate is listed as weekly, it’s calculated daily. So for months with 31 days, you will get paid more than months with 28 days in. You also still pay National Insurance and tax on this money. Then there’s also student loan / pension to consider. So a lot of variables on what you actually take home. It goes without saying (surely it does, people aren’t that insane are they?) that I am no expert on this and you have to work it out for you based on your circumstances, but I thought it would be helpful to share my experience because that’s the whole point of a blog, right?
I digress. Onto the juicy stuff.
The husbear and I guesstimated that I’d be bringing in about £600 a month in that 33 week period and so far we’re not far wrong. If anything, I get slightly more, and boy do I need it.
Where does my money go?
Well ain’t that the killer question!
I thought it would be pretty easy to manage because I didn’t think I’d be doing that much once I had a tiny person in tow. And I don’t do a lot, my days pretty easily fill themselves. But what we do do eats into my cash quicker than you’d imagine.
I still have my phone, Spotify subscription and contact lenses to pay for. I cancelled everything else I didn’t need (and before you ask, I consider Spotify a need: can’t be having adverts interrupt my nursery rhyme playlists). I also transfer a chunk into a joint account to pay for food. Once all that is added up, we’re already up to £270 gone. Yikes.
Ok so that leaves about £330 for the month, not bad at all right? Easy, I thought, that’s loads of money. And it is. But you’d be surprised how often my bank card ends up tapping away paying for things. Here’s what…
Baby classes – before entering the world of motherhood, I thought classes would be a pay as you go type thing, but they’re not. Most classes have you sign up for a term, and you pay up front. We go to 2 a week, which isn’t a lot, but is great stimulation for Sebastian and a great place for me to socialise and generally not go out of my mind with lack of adult contact. Signing up for the next term of classes has cost me £79.50 this month. And I don’t get any of that back if for some reason we can’t go one week (illness / doctors appointment for example). We do also go to a weekly drop in class that costs £2.50 a week. So that’s usually another £10 a month.
Baby clothes – when Sebastian was going through a growth spurt, he grew out of his clothes almost before your very eyes. By the time they were washed before wearing, worn once or twice and washed and dried again, they were feeling snug. Luckily we got bought loads of 0-3 size clothes but a lot of it was summer wear as we didn’t expect him to be so small and he’s only fitting into it now, when it’s winter. Cue knitwear and trouser purchases. Plus baby clothes are so damn cute it is impossible not to buy them. Impossible! This month I’ve spent about £50 on Sebastian clothes.
Lunch / cake / coffee – I said above that my days are quite easily filled and this is true, but they are quite often filled with coffee, cake and lunch dates with friends and other Mums. Yes we try and do free things like going for walks in the park, but there’s only so long that is entertaining. For my own sanity, I need to spend time with other people, and sometimes cake is the best way to do that. Plus, I’m breastfeeding so I need the extra calories. This month I’ve spent about £75 on eating out (and that doesn’t include the money my lovely parents have spent on treating me to lunch out when they come, thank you Mum and Dad!)
Travel – I cancelled my rip off bus pass as soon as I could and the husbear takes the car to work so I don’t have to spend on petrol, but I do venture a bit further afield now my confidence with Sebastian has grown. I’ve spent about £20 on bus tickets this month.
Mummy clothes – I’ve always been a lover of buying clothes and a sucker for a sale. I’ve definitely curbed this habit since becoming a Mummy, although in reality I think I’ve just transferred my love of buying clothes for myself across to buying clothes for my baby… ahem. I’m trying to wear my usual clothes with nursing vests underneath so I can adapt what I already have. But I am a good size-and-a-bit bigger than I was pre-pregnancy, so some things I have had to buy, like jeans. This month I’ve spent £35 on clothes for me.
General life expenses – I never really clocked before how much money I spend on little bits here and there. With this I’m talking about birthday presents, cards, stamps, nail files, hair bobbles, that kind of thing. It all adds up!
All of the spends above add up to almost £300.
I know there are things I can and should cut down on – buying clothes for him and me is one easy thing to knock on the head (although I won’t be able to completely stop buying clothes for him as he will continue to grow). I’m not going to cut back on classes because I don’t have that big outlay for them every month, they’re enjoyable and stimulating for Sebastian and they get us out of the house and into a routine. I’m also not going to cut back on going out with other Mums and friends for food. But I will commit to being less greedy when I do and maybe skipping dessert sometimes to save my pennies (and my waistline).
I also appreciate that I am married and you might be thinking that the husbear can contribute to expenses for Sebastian but we’ve worked that out between ourselves and we’re continuing to do so. We’re both adjusting to the hit in income and what it means we can / can’t do. It’s just taking a few months to get our heads around it!
Is there a chance of getting any other income?
Yes, we claim Child Benefit for Sebastian but this is now means tested, so you’ll have to check whether you’re eligible.
And in the interests of transparency I don’t currently earn anything from my blog, in fact I had to pay for hosting etc. over summer and that cost me nearly £100 so I’m running at a loss.
I hope that’s been an interesting insight into what it’s really like living on Statutory Maternity Pay. Maybe I’ll write a follow up in the New Year once we’ve settled into it a bit more.
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