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Wednesday Lunch Club Q+A With MoneySavingExpert’s Editor

Missed our Wednesday Lunch Club with MoneySavingExpert’s editor Dan Plant? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice he shared here

Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your parenting questions from a top expert. This week, MoneySavingExpert’s editor Dan Plant was on standby to answer questions.

Dan is responsible for creating and managing the consumer-focused information on credit, banking, insurance, mortgage, household bills and helping the website’s users save money in almost all areas of life.

And, as Dan’s a dad to nine-month-old Leo, he has first-hand experience of budgeting for a new baby and getting the best deal on baby essentials.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…

My parents have kindly given us £1,000 and we want to put it away for a rainy day. What are my best savings options (especially as interest rates are so low)?

Dan Plant: The best thing to do is open a 'Cash ISA'. Though it may sound a bit tricky, this is actually a normal savings account but the interest you earn isn't taxed, so you keep all of it. This is really crucial at the moment with savings rates being so pitiful.

The best one at the moment pays 1.8 per cent if you want 'easy-access'  i.e., the ability to withdraw money whenever you want – or you can get slightly more if you lock it away for 1-3 years - though then you won't be able to touch the cash for that time. Full info here:

Each UK adult can save £5,760 in a cash ISA each tax year – so if you did happen to save up more, be aware of these limits.

I’m pregnant and need to start thinking about buying everything for my baby as I'm really worried about how much it will all cost as I don't earn much for maternity pay. Is there a best way to figure out how much everything will cost and to save money?

Dan Plant: First thing to do is make a comprehensive list of everything you think you'll need during pregnancy and your baby's first year. Then take another look at it, and really interrogate if you absolutely need everything, if some items could be borrowed from friends or family, and maybe whether others could be requested as gifts (that may feel cheeky, but from my experience loads of people will be desperate to buy you things, so may as well make sure it's something you need).

To benchmark the cost of bigger ticket items use online shopping comparisons. We've built one you can try. After that, consider whether buying from specific places can bag you a bargain.

Routes worth considering are eBay, Amazon Local, antenatal groups, which often have second hand sales, using special baby discount vouchers at Amazon, Tesco, Asda, Boots, Sainsburys and more.

Lastly, to help cash flow, spread out when you buy stuff during the next year. We focused on stuff we absolutely had to have sorted before my son's arrival – cot, buggy and steriliser. Then we moved on to items you can cope without for a bit longer, like baby walkers and bigger clothes.

Having nine months off for maternity leave isn’t putting me in a good position financially. How can I make the most out of my maternity pay as it's quickly running out!

Dan Plant: This is a tough challenge that faces many new families. The place to start is a proper budget, taking into account your lower pay – we have built a tool – then cutting as many bills as possible.

I am 13 weeks pregnant and my partner started his job a week after we conceived (10 weeks ago). He isn’t entitled to paternity leave and pay but he is desperate to spend even a week with our baby as it is his first child. It’s worrying me that we will not have any money that week. Is he going to be entitled to anything?

Dan Plant: To qualify for paternity leave, your partner must have worked for his employer for 26 weeks by the time the baby's due-date is 15 weeks away. So, by some rough mental maths, it sounds like he is RIGHT on the border of being eligible. If it were me, I would push it a bit with my boss – maybe try to charm his way to a week's leave, and tug on their heartstrings a bit.

If they won't budge, there is always the option of taking a few days leave at the time. Not ideal, but I know my wife really appreciated the support at the time. I may not have known much about babies, but even a cup of tea can help! I hope it works out for you.

I'm currently five months into my maternity leave, due back full time in May. I used the HMRC child and working tax calculator online in which it indicated we would qualify for these. However, I received their response with a total award of £0.00, as in each section they awarded circa £1-1.5k but deducted it straight away due to earnings. Our total salary combined is £53k. As I'm on SMP, will this be recalculated at the change of tax year and am I likely to be awarded anything? Also, if they've awarded and deducted at the same time, do I qualify for any of the boiler grants?

Dan Plant: Child tax credits are based on your total household income, and for couples with one child you won't receive anything in 2013/14 if your household income exceeds £25,800 (this rises if you've more kids). So yes, from April I would contact them again and say that in the 2014/15 tax year you'll be earning far less, and ask for a recalculation.

On the boiler point, eligibility for grants varies massively depending on who you are, where you live and what you earn.

I’ve just given birth to my beautiful baby girl (first one). And I’m finding very quickly that being a parent isn’t cheap. Is there anything I can do to save money?

Dan Plant: Most important is to do a budget, based on your new income. Do one that looks forward over the next year, taking into account your drop in pay if you're on maternity leave, and any essential baby-related purchases you know you'll need to make.

Once you know your situation, there are LOADS of things you can do to claw back any extra cash you need to make ends meet – cut the interest cost of your debts, switch energy or insurance providers, or reclaim money wrongly taken from you for a variety of reasons.

I had my baby one year ago and took the full year maternity leave. However when my baby was eight months old and whilst still on maternity leave I discovered I was pregnant again! This was not planned but we were over the moon with the news. I have since returned to work full time this week, whilst I'm five months pregnant with my second baby. Would I be entitled to maternity leave again and also full time maternity pay the second time round?

Dan Plant: It's not a situation we have heard about a lot, but from the rules it makes sense that you'll be eligible for the same package as the first time around – certainly in terms of the Statutory Maternity Pay package, but I would think for your employer's Maternity package too.

Check M&B's work and money section for more information.

Which topics would you like covered in M&B’s Wednesday Lunch Clubs? Let us know in the comments box below. 

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