Using your credit card when you are on maternity leave

A guest post from Sara Williams, a money saving blogger from Debt Camel, on the importance of keeping tabs on your spending during maternity leave

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The is a guest post by Sara Williams, who blogs about debt and credit ratings at Debt Camel, covering everything from payday loans refunds to mortgage applications.

Most people are short of money with a small baby and not short of things they want to buy!

The combination of lack of sleep and too many emotions makes maternity leave a special, exhausting and in many ways strange year. First-time mums can flip-flop between bliss and anxiety several times a day, or even an hour! The minutes with no adult company can feel as though they drag on for ever, but the weeks seem to rush past way too fast.

Adding money to this mix

Money is probably the last thing you want to think about. And anyway, this is just a short time, you hope you’ll soon be back at work, with lots of money then and little spare time so you want to be able to enjoy your maternity leave.

For some mums, it’s a surprise how much you dislike asking your partner for more money. You’re used to paying your own way and making your own decisions, you don’t want to have to justify having a coffee and cake with a friend or buying a mobile to hang over the changing mat.

So you may be wondering if a credit card or a catalogue is a sensible way to get through maternity leave, helping through this period where your income has dropped dramatically. Your flexible friend, as the adverts used to say…


The minimum payment trap

The problem is, that flexibility is an illusion. Yes, it let’s you buy what you want right now. However, if you do this more than a few times the balance on the credit card can start to become too large to manage.

The minimum payment may seem affordably low, but if you only pay the minimum, it can take 10, 15 or even 20 years to repay the credit card. You could still be paying for your daughter’s baby music and movement class when she is thinking about her uni application!

And it may not be so easy to pay the card off when you are back at work. Childcare costs can leave you feeling more broke than ever. Time pressures can make you want to go for takeaways or convenience food more often. And children get more expensive as they get older, not less.

Restricting your future choices

Far from being “flexible”, letting credit card debt creep up £10 or £20 at a time for many people sets them on a treadmill of debt.

It takes away your future flexibility. You may want to only work part-time, or be thinking about setting up a little business from home. A second baby may feel like the right thing for you in another year or so, but then you will need to move to somewhere bigger.

It’s not easy juggling work and a young family and seeing chunks of your income disappear on debt repayments every month makes it a lot harder.

Better alternatives

Look for free or very cheap mum and baby groups – Children’s Centres, One o’clock clubs, your GP and health visitor will know what is around in your area. The main aim is for you to have some adult company. Your baby won’t care if she never sees anyone but you for a month, but you will…

Invite another mum or two back to your house for coffee and cake instead of going to a café. They won’t care if your place looks like a tip because theirs does too.

Find some good YouTube channels with baby songs and nursery rhymes. Play your own music as well – dig out those old CDs and listen to them all. Get yourself an exercise DVD and your baby may sit watching you, entranced.

Look for cheap, practical baby clothes than can go in the washing machine, tumble drier and don’t need ironing. Not only will they save you money, but they also mean you can be more cheerful when the baby is sick on them!

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