A Mummys View

Telling it like it is

The Tightening Belt

on April 29, 2012

The current economic climate as we all know is very bleak and depressing frankly, especially for the modern family and working mum.

A recent survey carried out by u-switch.com has found that almost a third of new mothers end up in debt following maternity leave and 1 in 10 end up shortening their planned maternity leave due to financial pressures. This did initially surprise me, but then I realised actually, that is highly plausible.

Having not long returned to work myself following maternity leave I have recently been wondering what I would do should I have another child. I was lucky enough this time to have been able to save in advance of my maternity leave. I had a decent salary which left me with some disposable income each month, so I was able to put money away. It was these savings that got me through my leave and enabled me to take the full year off that I had wanted to take with my little girl. However they only just stretched!

Had I not had this I would have probably ended up with in debt of over £3,000 at least if not more, especially since I unfortunately started a new part time role just before I went on maternity (timing!), meaning I halved my salary and therefore had a less attractive maternity package.

The u-switch.com survey found that 28% of mums had gone into the red during their maternity leave with almost £2,500 in debts and only a quarter of mums felt ready financially for motherhood.

I felt I was prepared for motherhood and maternity, we worked out that although it would be tight I could take the year off and could go part-time. However that was before the UK fell into its current state. With the rising cost of fuel and increase in costs at the supermarket tills, things don’t feel as plain sailing anymore. Don’t get me wrong, we are by no means in dire straits but I miss that little extra cash in my pocket each month. I have wondered whether or not to look for that full time job that will help me bring in more money, but will this just end up going on childcare and extra fuel to travel to and from work each month anyway? (My husband and I do a combined weekly mileage of 620 miles and that’s just travelling to and from work!) At the same time though I love spending time with my little girl and I don’t really want to have to sacrifice the time I have with her. It’s such a hard situation.

If I were to have another baby, which I would like at some point, I feel a little sad to think that I may not be able to have the same time off with them that I had with my little girl. On my part-time salary I can’t afford to save as much in advance and don’t want to end up racking the debt up.

I think it is so hard for us as modern mums, as I have said many times before on my blog, it’s not like when our mum’s had us, most women HAVE to go out to work and many don’t have the option or flexibility of part-time hours or ‘bank / agency’ work like many women used to do. So many of my friends have been declined flexible working or reduced working hours on business grounds, so what choice do mum’s have?

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com said: “It’s heartbreaking that so many mums are being forced into debt or having to cut short their maternity leave just to make ends meet.

“It is clear that more needs to be done by the Government to help families cope with the financial burden of parenthood, but in the meantime families can help their situation by reviewing household budgets and looking at where they can cut costs to save a bit of extra cash.” (Quote taken from u-switch.com press release

Ann has a point (even if it is with a view to directing people to her website), the Government should be doing more, but instead mum’s and the average UK family seem to be a target for this government. Limits on child tax credit allowances and child benefit payments are seeing the average family lose even more money, this combined with huge public sector cuts, UK wide redundancies and rises in fuel and shopping bills as mentioned before spells a very black outlook for the modern hard working family.

An article in the Daily Mirror on 11th April entitled Benefits Trapped highlights the plight. Single mum Rachel Vallender and her two year old son are scraping by despite Rachel working 22 hours a week. She states:

“I’m having to get into debt to try to make ends meet and keep up with rising bills, against a drop in tax credits and frozen child benefit. I’m left with £10 a week to feed the two of us. I worry about the diet I’m giving him and I end up eating just one meal a day – often his leftovers. I was told by the tax office I’d be better off giving up work. I have friends that rely on benefits and they are better off than me. How can that be right?”

An article , also in the Daily Mirror (I pick these up through work!) on 5th April, entitled “We can’t afford to go to work now that we have kids” highlighted the stories of several women who can’t afford to go to work due to rising childcare costs. It states that:

 “new research from the children’s charity Daycare Trust suggests 44,000 fewer families are getting help with childcare costs since the Government introduced changes to tax credits, whilst nursery costs have risen by nearly 6%”

Again, many found they were better off on state benefits. A crazy scenario when the Government is wanting to get people off state benefits!

So even if you have to cut your maternity leave short and head back to work, many are still not any better off due to the current economic climate, rising childcare costs and cuts made by the Government. It seems no matter what way you look at it, it’s a lose lose situation for the average modern family, especially the modern mum.

While we can’t change the current climate, I guess we can take steps to try to help our pockets a little. Just some of the hints and tips I have heard in recent weeks as to how to save money in the current climate include:

Petrol – apparently the AA say you can make significant savings on your fuel costs by adopting simple measures such as these below:

  • Make sure tyres are inflated to the correct level
  • Carry less heavy items in your car / boot if possible and remove roof boxes when not being used
  • Travel at a steady speed, within the limit and don’t brake heavily or accelerate quickly

Shopping:

  • Online sites like My Supermarket can help you compare your weekly shopping costs and ‘check out’ from the cheapest store.
  • Sites like My Voucher Codes can find you discounts to use when shopping, always worth a look first.
  • Sign up to mother and baby clubs to receive discount vouchers such as Tesco’s, Asda’s Sainsbury’s Little Ones, Mothercare’s Gurgle
  • Buy in advance while 2 for 1 offers and sales are on and put items away (ie birthday’s etc)
  • Plan your weekly food ahead and only buy what you need. We plan what we are going to eat each week and make things like Shepherds Pies, Bolognaises, Lasagne’s, Chili’s etc which can be frozen and can give several meals

Insurance, Bills and Utilities:

  • Use sites such as U-Switch, Go Compare or Money Supermarket to see if you can cut your household utility bills.
  • It was recently highlighted that energy companies are soon going to have to make customers aware of their lowest tariffs so make sure you are getting all the information you need

Netmums United Kindmums campaign is this week highlighting ways families can save money and help one another by donating items they no longer need via Nearly New Wanted boards like those on their site, or at charity shops etc. Likewise when donating have a good look and see what purchases can be made via those channels too, it’s amazing what you can find. I am a regular at our local baby sale and buy lots of never worn or practically brand new clothes for my little girl for the year ahead, there’s some great bargains to be found!

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the situation isn’t going to get better any time soon so I guess every little helps. Do you have any additional suggestions, anything you found that’s really helpful? I’d love to hear your views, ideas and suggestions so please leave me a comment below.

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One response to “The Tightening Belt

  1. […] may refuse mothers the extra time or state that it must be taken unpaid, which as my previous post The Tightening Belt already shows that many women are struggling on maternity leave and ending up in debt. By reducing […]

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