Pregnant and broke? Here's how to scale down
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 budget for your baby.

We just came out of one of the biggest global recessions ever, but South Africans may have to keep tightening the belt for a little while yet. Now, imagine having to budget for a baby in the midst of this, and it's not surprising the impending birth of your child may be making you panic slightly.

1. Take stock: draw up a budget and start saving up

Pregnancy is a good time to take stock in general so why not do this on a financial level too? You may be drowning in it, but starting to get your head around the costs will help you to prepare.

Try to remain calm and focused on the little miracle growing inside you or your wife – your baby’s health and the mom's wellbeing are even more important during these stressful times.

Read: 11 things to do when finding out you're pregnant

How to plan financially for a baby

What birth really costs in South Africa

5 tips to managing the costs of having a baby

Budgeting tips to save up for baby

New baby? 5 ways to avoid debt

2. Cope with the stress of recession

Look for ways to escape your day-to-day financial worries by going for walks – take your phone 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.

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Find balance with prenatal yoga

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3. 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.

What the law says about maternity leave, UIF and going back to work

All about UIF maternity benefits in South Africa

How to apply for child support grants (SASSA) in South Africa

Sell the things you don't need

Sell unwanted goods and clothing to second-hand shops.

Is pregnancy and parenting a money game?

4. 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.

Also read: What you need for a nursery

Great trimester-by-trimester meal plan

7-day pregnancy meal plan

5. Most effective money-savers during a recession

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

  • 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.

Important: How much does a baby cost in the first year?

6. 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.

Giving birth at a South African government hospital: what to expect

South Africa's government hospitals: The good, the bad and the ugly

7. Got retrenched during pregnancy? How to re-organise your finances:

  • 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.

Must read: Pregnant? We compare 27 medical aid plans for you

Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Email us at and we may publish them.

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