Once you find out you’re pregnant, there’s (obviously) lots of emotions and thoughts. But if you’re self-employed, elation can turn to panic when you have to think about the realities of having a baby.
- When will I work?
- Who will take care of the baby while I work?
- How much time will I take off when the baby comes?
One benefit of being employed by a company is that they (usually) offer some type of paid leave for expecting mothers. When you’re self-employed, you have more flexibility to take the time, but you have to pay for it yourself (on top of other things like saving for retirement and paying for healthcare.)
I’ve been working for myself (again) since February 2019 and have been planning (and saving) for my maternity leave since I found out we were expecting in August. Here’s how I did it.
Step #1 – Run the numbers
FMLA allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but The Balance reports the average maternity leave lasts about 10 weeks.
Being self-employed, I have the good fortune of having a flexible work schedule, but since this is my first baby, I just don’t know how much time I’ll really need to “settle in” to motherhood and physically recover.
- With this in mind, I’m planning on twelve weeks – 3 months – of maternity leave.
- So, I take the monthly salary that I pay myself ($3,000 after taxes) and multiply it by three to get the total amount I need to save, which is $9,000.
- Then, I divided $9,000 by the number of months I had left in my pregnancy (at the time it was 8!) to come up with the amount I needed to put away each month = $1,125
Step #2 – Automate
With something as important as replacing my income, I didn’t want to leave saving up for self-employed maternity leave to chance or wait until the end of the month to put the money away.
Saving when you have an irregular income can be especially precarious, so this is why I chose to automate the savings from my business checking to a separate savings account.
Step #3 – Find ways to earn more
Looking at my budget and salary, I saw I could save about $875 per month and not decrease my monthly salary. Instead, this meant “paying myself” an additional $875 per month, on top of my salary, money for taxes, and retirement.
It was tight, but normally I give myself a “bonus” at the end of the year.
So, instead, I decided to just save consistently each month for my maternity leave instead of looking forward to a nice year-end bonus.
But that still left me $250 short each month, which meant I’d have to either cut my salary to make up the difference (from $3,000 down to $2750) or figure out ways to earn extra.
If my $8,000 in 90 Day Challenge or any of the other posts on this website have taught you anything about me, I, of course, opted to figure out ways to earn more.
It’s one of my favorite things to do with money, and earning more is a core money belief of mine. Because I’m a freelancer when I “need” more money I typically go and reach out to my contacts and try to pick up an extra article or two here or there, but there are lots of other ways to earn more money. Here’s what I’ve written about before:
Trust me, there's nothing motivates you to side hustle more than the thought of a baby on the way.
Step #4 – Save the extra
I was able to find $250 per month by leveraging my favorite automatic savings apps (and setting my rules to save round ups and when I spent at coffee shops) Qapital and Albert and the ones I primarily use, but I also save up whatever “spare change” I can find to cover the difference: small commissions from my first book, Venmo paybacks, credit card rewards.
For example, whenever I get my Rakuten “Big Fat Check” I put that away in savings. Anytime someone reimburses me in cash for a dinner or I sell something on craigslist, I debit my checking account for the amount so I make sure it goes into savings.
Below is a screenshot of my account balance (I used my Ally savings account for this, but I also like the savings accounts offered through CIT Bank and Chime). This post won’t appear until late January, but as I sit writing it in November, I’m on target (and maybe even a little ahead) since I haven’t put in the money for November yet.
I’m working hard to save this money because I’d rather have it and not use it than go through something as stressful as childbirth and have to worry about how I’ll pay myself in the interim.
The Final TL:DR
If you’re self-employed and planning on maternity leave, it’s completely possible to replace your income while you're not working in those first post-baby months, so long as you get clear on what you need to save and break it up into bite-size chunks.