Throughout Australia, a nominated parent is entitled to receive $719.35 per week before tax for up to 18 weeks, as part of the Parental Leave Pay scheme. Money is transferred to your current employer and the parent receives the payment at the time they would normally expect to be paid.
For more information on the Parental Leave Pay scheme, refer to the following: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/parental-leave-pay/payment-rates/how-much-you-can-receive
In addition to the amount provided, some (not all), employers can pay their staff a wage during their parental leave.
I was not one of the fortunate ones to receive any additional income. It would have been lovely, but to me, as I am sure to many others, the additional money wasn’t important. What was important was being able to take time off to bond with my baby.
When I learned I was pregnant, despite having just come to terms with never being able to have another child (a story for another day), I knew that I would desperately want to have the first year off of work with my baby. I knew I would only receive the Parenting Leave Pay, so I saved as much as I possibly could until she was born.
My budget for the year included bills that I had to pay each month. I had to make sure that no matter what, I had enough to cover things I absolutely had to pay. These were the most important items. I then budgeted an allowance each month. I knew I would still want to do things with my girls and to take them places, so I set aside money to be able to do this.
While on leave I had the support of my partner, who was back to work after a short time off. Regardless, I wanted my own independence. Budgeting and having my own money throughout the year was good for my self esteem.
Ways that I managed to stretch my savings further, to allow for more time off, to spend with my girls, included:
Taking out annual memberships to places like zoos or national parks, is a great way to be able to go numerous times throughout the year at a significantly reduced cost.
While on leave, I took out memberships to the Adelaide Zoo and also to Urimbirra, a wildlife park. We have gone to the zoo once, so far this year. I have lost count of the times we have been to the wildlife park.
A lot of annual memberships are free for children under a certain age. In most cases, you only need to purchase memberships for any adults that will likely visit regularly. Usually, just by going twice, the membership has paid for itself! Bargain!
The memberships provided absolutely perfect days out, while on leave. Regardless how many times we visit, it always felt like a grand day out.
Not every place requires money. Two of my daughters favorite places are free to go to; playgrounds and libraries. There are several libraries close by that I could take the girls to. Each offering something special and slightly different from one another.
Libraries often have events like ‘Baby time’, or ‘toddler time’ for example, where many other parents are able to take their children for a free session involving nursery rhymes and stories.
While on leave, I frequented the local libraries regularly. My girls loved going, and I loved socializing with all the other parents and librarians. Libraries also teach children, not only to appreciate books, which is brilliant in its own right, but they teach children to share and to take care of other people’s property.
This probably seems obvious, but, in the course of the 12 months, I really had to decide whether or not I really needed something. I love a good sale, but if it meant spending more time with my girls, I had to first decide whether any item was really needed.
I would love to decorate my house more than it currently is, but it wasn’t necessary. Buying things for the house, I decided, could wait until I was back at work.
I would love new boots and more outfits, but really, I have enough already.
The only items I really needed over the year was mainly clothes for the girls. Unlike in the past, where I would just buy whatever looked cute, I actually worked out what was needed and went from there.
Buy in bulk
Sometimes you do have to buy stuff. I wear contact lenses. As part of my contact lenses, I need to purchase a specific solution. Right before going on leave, I stocked up on the solution, which just happened to be on sale. I didn’t have to buy it again throughout the year. This was a bargain for me and something I was glad to have taken care of from the start.
Approximately a week before delivering my baby, I took my car to a dealership to get a service. The car had always driven well. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that everything was wrong with my car, well, except the tyres. The tyres were still good. The quote was in the thousands! I was so shocked! It was heartbreaking. I hadn’t budgeted for anything that bad while on leave.
Getting a second opinion was the best thing I did. It turned out, I didn’t need half the things I was originally quoted for and what did need to be fixed, could be done significantly cheaper.
Even when I return to work, I will stick with the mechanic that came to my rescue. The dealership definitely lost a customer after that!
Make the most of what I already have
So often, we are lead to believe that we need to continuously consume. If it’s not one thing, it’s another: birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day, Valentines Day, Christmas. It’s never ending.
Sometimes it is good to finally sit down and read that book, or watch that movie that you have never gotten around to.
That is what I did while on leave. I read books that had been gifted to me, but had never had time to read, and watched movies that I had never gotten around to watching.
Sell unused items
Finally, with all the extra time off, it made me aware of certain items in the house that were just getting in the way, and no longer needed. For those items, I was able to sell. The money I made, went straight towards my daughters birthday celebration. She had a fantastic party and it didn’t cost me anything! If anything, I gained space in the house.
What about you? Have you taken time off work? Were you able to stick to a budget? What worked or didn’t work for you?
I learned a lot while on leave. I learned that I don’t need to spend and that the most precious moments in life are free. Time is the most valuable resource.
I hope when I return to work that I remember what I learned while on leave. You never know what your future holds. Being able to budget and to save are good skills to keep hold of.