Maternity Leave For Nurses:  How To Financially Prepare

Maternity Leave For Nurses: How To Financially Prepare

(This post about saving money for maternity leave as a nurse may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

As a new mother, it is your legal right to take a maternity leave.

Maternity leave is so important for a new mother for many reasons:

Unfortunately, many women in the US only get 6 weeks of maternity leave (8 weeks if you have a c-section).  And if you are a per diem employee like me, none of that time off is paid.  For that reason I worked right up until my 9th month of pregnancy while working as an emergency room nurse at a level 1 trauma center (thank God for pregnancy compression stockings!).

Nurses work extremely hard to care for patients like they would care for a family member, yet when they have a baby of their own they often have very little time to bond with their flesh and blood.  Add the financial strain into the mix and it can become very stressful and overwhelming.  So what is a nurse who is also a brand new mom to do?

Well, I have half-glass full mentality.  So for the sake of finding solutions to this conundrum that so many women find themselves in, I compiled a list of ways for mothers to plan financially far in advance of baby’s arrival.  You must take care of yourself first!

Pregnant nurse at work

The average paid maternity leave in the USA is only 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section.  And if you are a per diem RN then chances are that you will not be paid at all while you are on maternity leave.

Saving for maternity leave is crucial for moms so they can spend more time baby bonding and less time worrying about money!

Unpaid maternity leave for nurses: you need to save up in advance!

After my daughter was born in 2015 I went back to work as a per diem nurse (higher hourly rate and more flexibility, but no benefits – including disability or paid maternity leave).   Therefore, eighteen months later when I went on maternity leave with my second baby I had a completely unpaid maternity leave.  It made the whole situation much more stressful for me.  Thankfully I planned well in advance to minimize the financial burden.

Here is how I managed to save up an additional 20K for my second maternity leave:

#1.  Open a new savings account dedicated to maternity leave.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to pay yourself first. When you set up direct deposit for each paycheck you make saving much easier. That way you don’t even see the money hitting your checking account. Liquid money is good so you can use it when you need it.

Suzie Orman (one of my all-time favorite financial gurus) says that you want to have as much money saved up for as many months as you plan to take off, as well as an 8 month emergency plan. You never know when an emergency can strike, for example, a medical emergency, a job loss or worse. The faster you can start saving into an account dedicated to maternity leave, the more prepared you will be when it comes.

#2.  Make a budget and stick to it.

I prefer more of a no budget, budget strategy. Basically, I decide how much I want to save each paycheck and immediately transfer it into an online savings account as soon as payday comes.

I am aware of everything I purchase and review it each month by using a program called Mint to track my expenses. If you aren’t using this, you should be. Since I have started using Mint I have watched my savings rate take off farther than ever. It is amazing how much you can save when you know exactly where your money is going!

I’m always surprised how many people I talk to who have no idea what they really spend in a month. Needless to say, this is a poor strategy for preparing for an unpaid maternity leave. You’ve got to have a plan.

#3.  Make more money now or take on extra work.

If you are currently pregnant or even just thinking about it, now is a good time to take on extra hours at work. Especially if you are able to get overtime pay.

As a nurse, anything over 40 hours of work a week is considered overtime at my hospital.  I don’t work overtime anymore now that I have small children, but I did it during my pregnancies just to add a little more to my savings.

In addition, some holidays pay time-and-a-half rates. Therefore, I have been known to pick up shifts on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving or even Christmas. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but my family handles it by celebrating these holidays on the day before or the day after the actual holiday. When children are young, they don’t know what day it is anyway, so this strategy has worked particularly well. It adds up quite a bit when you are saving to be out for a few months.

Maternity leave savings plan for nurses

Nurse maternity leave: how to save up in advance

#4.  Cut all recurring expenses that you aren’t really using or don’t need.

Look at your monthly expenses and see if there is anywhere that you can reasonably make a cut. Are you really using the 100$ a month gym membership? Or does it make more sense to take daily walks and do online yoga classes at home?

My husband and I talk about money often and try to be responsible about our spending. Saving money is all about establishing priorities and having set goals. This has kept us in good financial health and kept us on the same page with our spending habits.

#5.  Look at the easy ways to cut back.

Families dropping from a dual income to a single income usually need to trim expenses somewhere. Make a list of everything you are spending money on, and be honest with yourself about what is an actual need. Here are a few ideas to throw on the table:

  • Nix the coffee cart habit = save $4 a day
  • Pack your lunches = save $12 a day
  • Cancel the cable you are barely using anyway = save $80 a month
  • Cook your meals at home instead of ordering take out = potentially $100’s in savings per month (if you eat out a lot)
  • Go on a 3-6 month spending freeze on things that are not an actual “need” =  $$$

Do you see my point here? There is A LOT of money to be saved if you just pay more attention to what you are spending money on.

I do consider myself somewhat of an expert on “trimming the fat” on my own spending habits since paying off a large amount of student loan debt in a short amount of time.  Saving money for maternity leave as a nurse was a very similar experience.

#6.  Don’t fall for the baby registry trap.

There are so many items that I was told I had to have for baby #1. Many of them are “nice to have items” that I barely even used (I’m looking at you grocery cart baby cover I only used 3 times!). Many of these supposed “must have items” from my baby registry are currently being stored away in my garage and will, at best, find a new home in our local Goodwill.

I remember looking through Pinterest at lists of “must haves” for the new mom. They are long and mostly unnecessary. Stay away from those lists!

For example, I was told that I “needed” the newborn insert for our stroller. But for the first few months I was using her car seat in her stroller. By the time I actually went to use the insert she has already grown out of it.   Same went for the ergo baby newborn insert- I didn’t even need it until she was too big to fit in it anyway.

If you actually need something, then go ahead and get it. These are just my thoughts as a second time mom with a lot of baby registry regret. With the exception of a double stroller and a crib, I can’t think of any other BIG items I will actually need for our new baby.

#7.  Consider the extra expenses that come with a new baby.

There will be some extra expenses after the baby is born. Some of the big ones for us are diapers, wipes, food, and additional childcare.  None of these things are cheap, so it’s good to be prepared for the expenses in advance.

You could always decide to go the cloth diaper route. I know people who have done this and it does save quite a bit of money. That, however, was not in our savings plan. There are some things of convenience that really are worth the money, and that was one for us.

Other big expenses include childcare enrichment classes (MyGym, recreation classes, music classes, etc.) if that is something you are interested in.

Childcare is our single biggest expense besides housing.  In fact, if I didn’t have the higher hourly rate that I get from being a per diem nurse, it might not even make financial sense for me to work as an RN.   We have a nanny that comes every Monday and Wednesday so those are the days that I work at the hospital (plus one day on the weekend when my husband is home to watch the kids).  If you have family that can help on days you work that would be a huge financial savings.

I have read that the average baby costs their parents $300,000 from the time they are born until the time they turn 18. And that doesn’t even include a college education! I don’t know about you, but that really makes me think about how we budget our money. (We have college funds set up for both of our kids which started the day they were born, but we are still going to encourage them to achieve scholarships!)

#8.  Think about the big picture.

Having a baby is one of the most amazing human experiences I have ever had. I absolutely love being a Mom. However, it can also be stressful at times, even with the most thoughtful preparation.

At the end of the day you can only do the best you can. Saving for unpaid maternity leave is just one of the things I did to try and ease the financial loss that comes with having a baby.  It is wise to try and eliminate as much stress as you can so you can joyfully relish in the awesomeness that comes with having a new baby.

Now, if only I could invent a healthy way to live on increments of 2 hours of sleep or less, I would be golden!  Best wishes to you and your growing family.

Are there any other tips on saving money for maternity leave as a nurse you would add to this list?  Leave a comment!

P.S.  HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up to receive your FREE E-BOOK “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care”  in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading:


The Single Best Financial Advice For Nurses

The Single Best Financial Advice For Nurses

*This post about financial planning for nurses contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here

Nurses work hard for the money. But they need to be saving more of it.  Unquestionably, this is the best financial advice for nurses today.

During my first few tumultuous weeks as a new grad nurse, a mentor with over 20 years of nursing experience gave me some invaluable advice,  “Save your money now,” she said.  “Pay off your school loans and automate your savings so you don’t even see it. “As a second career nurse I already had a decent 401k from a prior career selling medical equipment, but it was great advice that I needed to be reminded of now that I was beginning my new career as an RN. 

Over the years I have found that nurses are very good at worrying about the health and well-being of others, before their own.  Our financial health needs to be given as much attention as we devote to our patients.

Everything in nursing is evidence-based.  Are nurses ignoring the evidence that compounding interest is the secret to growing wealth slowly and ensuring their financial health into their golden years.

Piggy Bank sitting on pile of cash

The best financial advice for nurses is to start start saving more money for retirement at a younger age.

Are nurses making what they are worth?

Many nurses choose the profession because they are passionate about patient care and they want to make a positive impact in the world – not because they are trying to become millionaires.  But nurses still deserve to make a decent living and have the ability to afford a decent retirement savings by the time 70 rolls around. Unfortunately, many nurses are deferring retirement because they simply cannot afford it.

Recently, someone said to me that they thought nurses made too much money.  My jaw practically hit the floor.  “Too much?”  I must have heard that wrong.  Is it possible that what he actually meant was “too little?”  Nope. I heard it right the first time.

So I asked “how much is your life worth?”  As an emergency room nurse I work with the most kick-ass, life-saving nurses out there.  In fact, all the nurses at my hospital are breaking their backs to help people.  Yet despite our sacrifices we are increasingly underappreciated for the hard work we do.  (By the way, he never told me how much he thought his life was worth.  He just kept insisting that we are so overpaid for the work we do).

What is the future of nursing going to look like?

I live in California where we still are fortunate enough to have this thing called “safe patient ratios.”  And we still have a nursing union, so I consider myself luckier than many nurses.  I hear the nursing conditions in some states are deplorable.  (Although due to a recent vote in the Supreme Court, both our union and safe patient ratios may be in jeopardy of going away here some day as well).

In light of this and other new developments, I foresee a few changes within my workplace and the nursing field that may negatively effect my working conditions.  Healthcare is a business in the United States.  Nurses are in the business of saving human lives while our hospitals are in the business of saving money.  What profession do you think will be the first to take a pay cut?

Is the wear-and-tear of nursing worth it?

Not to keep harping on the bad, but while I’m at it there’s this: I worry about how long I can physically be a hospital nurse before I hurt myself.  I have been a nurse for 7 years and I am already experiencing chronic back pain. 

Many hospitals are failing to protect nursing staff from becoming patientsAnd studies are showing that proper technique when moving patients still exposes nurses spines to dangerous forces.  In light of these concerns, I am exploring other ways I can continue to practice nursing outside of the hospital setting.

Nurse, save your money now.

I am saving and investing as much money as I can with each paycheck.  It is the wise thing to do and, frankly, who knows how long I will be able to work.  Besides, there will always be employers out there who want to pay nurses less than we deserve.  We cant just keep taking care of everybody else’s needs at the detriment of our own financial well-being.

If you are not already, save as much as you can now and make your savings automatic.  This is singularly the best financial advice for nurses. Your future self will thank you for it.  

Please leave a comment below.  We love hearing from our readers!

Additional Recommend Reading:

Nurse Money: How To Pay Off Nursing School Loans Fast

Nurse Money: How To Pay Off Nursing School Loans Fast

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here).

Are you struggling with how to pay off nursing school loans fast?

The last thing any busy, hard-working nurse wants to think about is how to pay off student loan debt from nursing school.  Unfortunately, you can’t wish it away no matter how hard you try. (Trust me, I’ve tried!)

Nursing school student loan debt will remain right where it is until you get aggressive and attack it. Don’t be the sucker who spends their entire life paying off student loans. They will NEVER go away if you don’t make them, even if you file for bankruptcy.

Becoming a mom changed my financial priorities.

After I became a mother I realized that I needed to get smarter about where my hard-earned money was going.  My nursing school debt needed to go.  Years of making the minimum payment just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

Motherhood also taught me something very valuable:  being debt free AND having money in my bank account was way more important than spending money on stuff I didn’t need.  

So I did everything I could think of to motivate myself to get rid of the almost $30,000 in student loan debt that I had. I began by listening to financial podcasts specifically focused on paying off debt.  Then I took everything I had learned from those podcasts and formed my own simple yet aggressive payment plan.

My plan was easy to follow, yet aggressive:  don’t spend any money on anything that is not an actual need.  At that time, my true needs included grocery shopping, housing, pet food, and childcare. That’s it!

It took me close to a year to pay off almost $30,000 in debt from nursing school.  I became debt free on November 1st 2016 and my savings has been steadily growing ever since!

piggy bank surrounded by dollars

How to pay off nursing school loans fast and become a debt free nurse:

1.  Understand that student loan debt is NOT good debt.

There is no such thing as good debt. I don’t care if there is a 0% interest rate. Debt is debt. It is still a black cloud handing over your head that never goes away unless you force it to.

2.  Cut your budget way, way down.  Then cut it again.

Take a look at your budget and be honest about what you actually need.  You need clothes to wear, and I bet you probably already have plenty hanging in your closet.  You may still want to shop for more clothes – but that is where the budget cut starts.  If there is something you absolutely think you need, give yourself  a week to think it over.  You may forget you even thought you wanted it in the first place.

An easy way to start cutting your budget is to cook all of your meals at home and packing a lunch for work.  You also may want to wait until you completely pay your loans off before planning any vacations.

Tip:  Want to know a trick to how to pay off nursing school loans fast?  Plan to give yourself a gift you really want after your payoff is complete!

3.  Contribute the maximum possible amount of your paychecks to your loans.

In order to pay off your student loan debt fast you have to get aggressive.  This means that you need to contribute the maximum possible amount that you can towards your nursing school loan debt.

Pick a date that you want to be completely debt free and figure out how much you need to pay each month to make that happen.  You know what they say, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Put your plan in writing and place a copy in several places – on the fridge, on your desk or in your wallet.  Keep it close to you so you are constantly reminded of your payoff goals.

How to pay off nursing school loans fast!

How to pay off nursing school loans fast!

4.  Find your motivation.

I listened to financial podcasts and read a ton of books to motivate myself during my student loan payoff.  Some of the podcasts I listened to included The Money Guys, Stacking Benjamin’s and Dave Ramsey.

What will financially motivate you?  Whatever it is, make sure you think about it everyday.

5.  Work, work, work.

Work no less than 3 shifts a week, but try to work much more if you can.  Overtime is golden if you are able to make time and-a-half or better yet, double time.  It will be hard and you will be tired, but becoming debt free will make it all worthwhile.

6.  Get used to making sacrifices and feeling a little uncomfortable.

Take a look at the things you can reasonably live without.  Brand new clothes and expensive restaurant meals are not necessities. Try going for a run, instead of spending money on a gym.  Learn to cook if you are used to ordering take-out.  Make your coffee at home instead of getting your daily brew at Starbucks.  Making a few sacrifices along your debt-free journey will help speed up your payoff time.

You may even surprise yourself.  In some ways buying less stuff can make your life easier because you don’t have as many things cluttering your home.

7.  Once you are finally debt free keep living on less and keep saving and investing money.

Continue with the same motivation that you had during your payoff and keep saving for the future.  Let your savings gap grow bigger each month.  Lastly, vow not buy unnecessary stuff you don’t actually need that will probably end up in a dump in 5 years anyway.

Are you in the process of paying off your student loans?  Do you have alternative advice regarding how to pay off nursing school loans fast?  We always enjoy hearing from our readers.  Share your tips with other readers.

Additional Recommended Reading:

How I Paid Off 27k In Nursing School Student Loan Debt In 9 Months (And Other Tips For Getting Rid Of Debt)

How I Paid Off 27k In Nursing School Student Loan Debt In 9 Months (And Other Tips For Getting Rid Of Debt)

In March 2013, I graduated from college with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nursing- and a $36,000 tab.

For my first 2 years out of nursing school I made the minimum student loan debt payment of about $420 a month.  But when I finally sat down and looked at how much of that was going towards interest and how long it would take to finally pay off (13 years, yikes!) it made me sick to my stomach.

After the birth of our daughter I decided to get aggressive about paying off my student loans.

By that time I was down to $27,000.  Becoming a Mom made me realize that being debt free AND having money in my bank account was way more important then spending money on stuff I didn’t need.

Prior to starting my BSN, I had a pretty nice savings account set aside.  Because of that, I was able to pay for 1 year of my prerequisite classes and my first few months of my nursing program upfront in cash.    If it wasn’t for that I would have had well over 50K in student loan debt at graduation.

While I was on maternity leave,  I started listening to financial podcasts specifically focused on paying off debt.  Most of this was done while my daughter and I went out for walks and she was napping.  It motivated me to change my thoughts about my current student loan status.

I took everything I had learned from those podcasts and formed my own simple plan:  Don’t spend any money on anything that is not an actual need.  At that time, my true needs included grocery shopping, pet food, and nanny.  That’s it.

How I Paid Off All My Nursing School Loan Debt In 9 Months!

How I Paid Off All My Nursing School Loan Debt In 9 Months!

My Student Loan Payoff Plan: Pay off $27,000 in student loan debt from February 1 to November 1, 2016.

I am happy to announce that I hit my goal right on target! Here is how I paid off $27,000 off student loan debt in 9 months:

I realized that student loan debt is NOT good debt.

There is no such thing as good debt. I don’t care if there is a 0% interest rate. Debt is debt. It is still a black cloud handing over your head that never goes away unless you force it to.

I trimmed my budget.

Mom and baby Zoe

This photo was taken halfway through my payoff schedule.

So long $5 Starbucks coffee (lucky for me my husband loves to make great coffee at home). Bye bye restaurant meals. Farewell clothing budget.

I also forbade manicures and pedicures (unless done by me). Also, I cooked all of our meals at home, packed all my lunches for work and made all my daughters baby food.

If there was something that I thought I needed but wasn’t sure, I gave myself a week to think it over. Even if it was something small. 99% of the time I ended up deciding that it wasn’t important enough to buy.

When I met with friends, instead of going to lunch, we would go for walks or to the park. Fortunately this is easy when you have babies.

I contributed 90% of my paychecks to my loans.

After taxes, retirement and taking out money to pay the nanny, I took the rest and threw it at my loans. It was anywhere from $1500 to $3500 every 2 weeks depending on how many shifts I worked.
I did the math to figure out my payoff date.

I started on March 1st, 2016 and my goal was to be completely paid in full by November 1, 2016. To make sure I stayed on track I planned a celebratory family trip to Palm Springs for the 2nd week of November.

I listened to financial podcasts to keep me focused and motivated.

As a new mom, it is hard to find time to read books or search the internet for resources on paying off student loans. Listening to financial podcasts was my single most important way to motivate myself during this process. I could multitask by listening to them while out for walks with my daughter.

Some of the podcasts I listened to included Paula Pant at Afford Anything, The Money Guys, Stacking Benjamin’s and Dave Ramsey.

I picked up a few extra shifts at the hospital.

As a per diem float nurse I have the option of working as much or little as I want. For the purpose of paying off my loans as fast as possible I tried to work at least 3 shifts a week. Since I was a new mom I didn’t want to go overboard though. The reason a became a nurse was so I could spend more time at home once we had children.

I made many short term sacrifices and got used to being uncomfortable.

No longer was I spending money on anything that wasn’t a necessity. I did this by taking a look at the things I could reasonably live without. This was the first time in my life I stopped buying clothes and shopping for things I didn’t need. To my own surprise, I’m still alive. In some ways life is actually easier now because I don’t have a ton of extra stuff hanging around cluttering my house. I spend the time I would have spent shopping on doing other things that are more important to me.

After I became debt free I kept my new lifestyle so that I could keep saving and investing at a significantly larger rate.

Baby Zoe playing in ball pit

My motivation for paying off all my nursing school student loan debt.

While this is not a repayment strategy, it does help me find motivation to continue down the right financial pathway now that my loans are gone. Having money in the bank is so much better then having debt. It feels amazing! And my savings gap gets bigger and bigger every month because I focus on growing my assets instead of buying unnecessary stuff that will probably end up in a dump in 5 years anyway.

Advice for anyone going to college:

  • Get the best education you can while spending the least amount of money possible.
  • Don’t take out more loans then you need to.
  • Live as frugally as you can while in school. It’s temporary and you will thank yourself for it in the long run.
  • Make an aggressive plan to pay off you student loans as soon as you graduate.

Don’t be the sucker who spends their entire life paying off student loans. They will NEVER go away if you don’t make them, even if you file for bankruptcy.

Do you have student loan debt? If you work hard and focus on what is actually important in your life, living student loan debt free can be a reality for you too. Now get to it!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love