Maternity leave budgeting

You found out you are pregnant? Congratulations! Exciting times are ahead of you! Now is also a good time to do some financial planning.

Canadians can take up to a year off between maternity and parental leaves. In British Columbia, the mat leave is 17 weeks, parental being 35 weeks.

Maternity leave benefits are administered by Service Canada, under the Employment Insurance Act. To qualify, you need to have worked a minimum of 600 hours in the 52 previous weeks and your employer needs to have paid the applicable EI premium.

The maximum amount you can receive in 2015 in $ 524 gross per week. You will pay income tax on the payments. The benefit is usually 55% of your salary.

This will not get you very far, unfortunately, as babies come with additional expenses. The cost of both formula and diapers can really add-up.

Here are a few tips to be financially ready:

  • If you are not already doing so, start tracking both your income and expenses. You need to know how much money you will need during your mat leave. If you make $ 3 000 a month, spend $ 2 500 and your benefits will be $ 1 500 per month, you have a shortfall of $ 500.
  •  If both your partner and yourself are working, you are receiving 4 paychecks per month. Try to live on 3 and save the 4th one.
  • Buy second-hand clothes and furniture. Babies outgrow their clothes very fast. They also can’t read labels so you don’t need to spend a fortune on designer clothes.
  • Have a baby shower. Any item received from family, friends and co-workers is one you won’t have to purchase.
  • Postpone any major purchase or home renovations. Because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you need a brand new car!
  • Buy formula, diapers and other items while still working. It is easier to stock-pile when you are still receiving your full income.
  • Don’t forget about other benefits. Check if your employer offers a top-up plan. Don’t forget to apply for other government benefits, such as the universal childcare benefit (UCCB) or the Canada child tax benefit (CCTB).

It may well be you can’t afford to take a full year of mat leave. But with a little planning, you will definitely be able to take more time off, without the added financial stress.