A pregnancy guide to recession downscaling
As your pregnant tummy grows during this lean economy, get used to the words “downscale” and “hand-me-downs”...they’ll get you through the tough times ahead. Here is some expert info to help you out

A large percentage of the global population is taking extreme measures to merely make ends meet during one of the biggest recessions ever. Now, imagine all this while you’re pregnant, and it's not surprising if the impending birth of your child begins to make you panic.

Take stock of your financial situation

Pregnancy is a good time to take stock in general so why not do this on a financial level too? Try to remain calm and focused on the little miracle growing inside you – your baby’s health and your wellbeing are even more important during these stressful times.

Coping with the stress of recession

Look for ways to escape your day-to-day financial worries by going for walks – take your MP3 player and get lost in your favourite music, find a quiet place in your home and take an hour off to read a good book, or tap into your creative side and take up a hobby like pottery or painting. Don’t obsess over the negative – “I can’t afford to deck out my baby’s nursery” or “My baby won’t be getting everything it needs”. Instead, think of the positive: your baby will be loved and will love you back unconditionally.     

Surviving the recession while pregnant need not be such an awful experience: prepare yourself, take stock, cut back and hang in there. Most importantly though is to enjoy your pregnancy and look forward to the birth of your little one. It all goes by so fast and you don’t want to look back at what should've been a magical time of your life and realise all you can remember are bad financial times.

Where to find cash quickly:

Claim from UIF

Whether you're claiming for maternity benefits or unemployment benefits, make it the first thing you do when you leave your job. If you take maternity leave, you can claim up to 4 months and the Fund pays up to 58% of what you earned per day.

Sell the things you don't need

Sell unwanted goods and clothing to second-hand shops.

How to shrink the monthly budget

  • Cancel luxury services such as DStv (take out a DVD-hire contract), the garden/pool service (hubby can do these), and so on. 
  • Adopt the cliché “every penny counts”: when it comes to the groceries, buy generic no-name brands. Whereas before you may have shopped blindly, now you should get to know the prices of things and do comparative shopping. See if you can't find items for cheaper at your local butcher or green grocer.
  • Read all the brochures advertising grocery sales and shop there.
  • Buy clothes at end-of-season, clearance sales and second-hand clothing shops: you’ll be surprised at what you’ll pick up for a steal.
  • When you need to start buying maternity wear, ask friends and family for hand-me-downs or purchase drawstring skirts/trousers and loose, comfortable-fitting tops from non-pregnant sections in shops such as Mr Price (they also have great, inexpensive maternity wear), Ackermans, Jet and Pep stores, to name a few.  
  • Organise car pools with co-workers and save on petrol.
  • If you’re a smoker, now’s the time to quit: smoking is damaging to you and your unborn baby, plus quitting is a huge money-saver.
  • While pregnant you’ll need to take specific vitamins that are costly: shop for generic no-name brands from stores such as Clicks and Dischem... even better, look for the 2-for-3 sales and stock up.
  • Don’t eat out and don’t order in: spend your money on buying nutritious food from the grocery stores and spend quality time at home with your family inventing healthy, wholesome, home-cooked meals.
  • Downscale on entertainment: instead of going out to the movies, make popcorn, hire a DVD and enjoy a night in; and stop going to expensive play zones with your kids and visit your local parks instead – take a picnic basket and get some downtime with your hubby while the kids play on jungle gyms for free.

Tips from the experts

Vicky Dyason (CFP), director of Financial Fitness Services, provides some sensible solutions.

Most effective money-savers during the recession:

  • Re-analyse your short-term insurance cover to get competitive quotations. Including household content cover with your vehicle cover will help to reduce the premium. 
  • When last did you check your bank statement?  Do you have debit orders on your account and you have no idea what they’re for? Get hold of the relevant information and re-assess if these are still necessary.
  • Take a look at your bank charges – are you paying more than R150 per month? If so, talk to your bank about their new packages to reduce these costs.
  • Stop the annual increases on your investment-only policies in order to ensure they do not escalate further. This will reduce your budget short term – later they can be changed again.
  • Cut out your entertainment completely, and keep the kids interested in free activities at home. It’s a great time to re-invent games for the family.
  • The nursery for the little one is expensive to kit out. Throw a massive baby shower (with your required item list) and try to get as much as possible from friends. They don’t have to spend a fortune either and you should let them know that you’d be happy to accept all hand-me-downs.

What NOT do while trying to survive the recession:

  • Don’t let your life, disability or dread disease insurance and medical policy premiums lapse due to bad money management, as these are critical at this time of your life.
  • Don’t cancel your investments completely without being properly advised on the implications of penalties. 
  • Don’t change your bond term with your bank from a 20-year to a 30-year plan, just so that your monthly premium is reduced. The effect on long-term interest charged by the bank (which you will pay monthly) will increase by more than 50% on the same loan.
  • Don’t incur any further debts, no matter how important you think the purchase is. This includes taking a loan to settle other debts.
  • Don’t purchase large items such as property or vehicles if you are already concerned about your budget.
  • DO NOT STRESS. It will negatively effect your baby. We have had recessions before and we will have them again. This period will pass – rather learn from it so the next time you are not caught unawares.

How to re-organise your finances in the event of retrenchment during pregnancy:

  • Completely settle as many debts as possible (starting with your smallest) using your retrenchment package in order to reduce your monthly expenses. 
  • Transfer your company pension/provident fund benefits (especially amounts over R50 000) tax-free to a preservation fund rather than cashing them in and paying tax on the amount.
  • Depending on how desperate you are, see if you can trade your current car in for a cheaper (but still reliable) model to bring your debt and payments lower.
  • Ensure that you obtain new medical cover immediately if you belonged to your company’s scheme.

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