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With so much focus on bad news we thought we'd try and cheer you up by focusing on the good stuff. See our articles below and we hope to cheer up your day.

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The LV= Mummy Blog, part 1

Thursday 7 January 2016

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Babies, budgets and the best things in life are free

Over the next year, our ‘mummy blogger’ Shannon Kyle, who is pregnant with her second child, will share her story with us as she prepares to welcome the new member of her family. In part one, Shannon reveals some of the challenges she has faced as a mum-to-be and how she has overcome them.

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  • Yay, we're pregnant! Now, what next?
  • Taking the B*-word out of Budgets (*boring)
  • The best things in life are free

Hello and welcome to my blog where I’ll be sharing my journey as mum to a teenager and a new baby, due in January 2016. Since having my daughter in 2001, times have definitely changed along with a huge rise in cost of living. But although extra baby costs and sleepless nights are inevitable, we’re looking forward to a happy healthy baby AND bank balance. So, here’s the first chapter in my new story.

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Yay we're pregnant! Now what next?

Falling pregnant aged 38 was an amazing surprise for my fiancé and I, but it didn’t leave us much time to plan financially.. I’ve always been a saver, but also love to treat myself (who doesn’t?), with online clothes impulse buys being a weakness.

As a freelance writer my income fluctuates and my fiancé, who runs his own design company, isn’t eligible for paternity leave because he is classed as self-employed. So we needed to research what’s out there and, thanks to fabulous advice, I’ve unearthed tons of savvy hints and helpful tips.


Money, money, money: Entitlements

Almost as soon as that little blue line is visible it seems as if pregnancy costs money. In excitement, I shelled out on pricey vitamin tablets, an extra private scan (the 12-week scan seemed so long to wait!), and even gimmicky baby apps for my iPhone; something that definitely wasn’t available in 2001. These treats are fine when you’re working, but I needed to know what I’m entitled to when I take time off.

Maternity pay varies. If you work for a big company you can expect up to a year’s full pay, or Statutory Maternity pay but if you’re self- employed, like I am, it’s Maternity Allowance. I’ve been awarded around £139 a week, for a max of 39 weeks, I might have to miss my splurges online clothes shopping, but it will help us out hugely.

Check out the government website: https://www.gov.uk/employers-maternity-pay-leave/entitlement

For dads, paternity pay is available, often one or two weeks depending on your company, plus up to 26 weeks additional leave if your partner returns to work. Shared parental leave also started last year, but is down to your employers discretion. Again, the gov.uk website explains all.

Child benefits have undergone huge changes in past years, check out what you’re entitled to; but more on this once the baby arrives.

Tip: Check out check- ups!

A trip to the dentist opened my eyes to the additional benefits mums-to-be can claim. I had no idea that pregnant women are eligible for free prescriptions and dental treatment on the NHS, saving around £45; these benefits also continue for a year after birth.


Taking the bore out of budgets

‘Budgeting’ is not a word I use often, * cough* ever, unless I have to. Having a teenager who views me as a walking/ talking cash machine doesn’t help! But as financial advice blogger Miss Lolly explained to me, budgeting = peace of mind.

She said: ‘It’s really easy to bury your head in the sand regarding finances and budgets after having a baby because of other stresses involved but with just a little prep up front you can make a realistic budget and then spend guilt-free'.

Now ‘guilt-free shopping’ is a phrase I can get behind. The Money Advice Service has a useful calculator to estimate new baby costs based on the material items and supplies you will have to buy, while the LV= Cost of a Child calculator could help you plan for the future. Just seeing my in-goings and outgoings in black and white told me what I’d have left each month for the fun stuff.


Free stuff

Talking of fun stuff, baby stuff is even more fun if it’s free! A Guardian and NetMums survey revealed mums can spend up to £2k before the baby is even born, eeeeek! But what I learned from last time is most new- fangled ‘must- haves’ you don’t really need. There are baby basics of course, but thanks to social media, bagging free stuff has never been easier.

Sites like Freecycle, ilovefreegle, and Facebook are awash with parents desperate to get rid of their out-grown baby bits. So far we’ve bagged a free cot from a local Facebook group, a changing table from Freecycle and bags of good quality baby clothes from eBay. Remember, as long as you check freebies are safe, your newborn won’t mind a jot if she’s rocking a second-hand life style.

Also, check out special baby club discount groups that all major supermarkets and online retailers run. You can adjust your emails so you don’t get tons of spam, but do hear about cut price events and flash sales. Zulily is worth a look, or for baby luxuries try Achica.

Aside from learning the best things in life are free, it’s reassuring to know there’s so much online advice these days. I’m also secretly hoping my 14-year-old might offer a free babysitting service.. I guess I’ll find out very soon. Until next time!


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