Make a friend in HR. Get a full briefing about maternity or paternity benefits from human resources. Federal law requires you to give at least 30 days notice when requesting time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles any new parent who works for a company with at least 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, seniority-protected leave. Your employer must pay the usual portion of your healthcare benefits for the duration. In addition to any paid leave you might have, federal law also entitles birth mothers to short-term disability pay (typically six to eight weeks) if their company ordinarily pays disability benefits in other situations.
Practice austerity. Last month you set a new budget; now you may be tempted to put it on hold and enjoy the good life until the baby comes. That would be a mistake.
"In the second trimester, you need to make sure you're putting something away," says Chatzky. Start by earmarking funds to offset the loss of income you expect from any unpaid maternity leave. "Figure out what the gap will be and then try to make up for it beforehand," she says. If you also plan to furnish a nursery from scratch -- or purchase pricey baby gear -- set aside additional savings toward that goal. Put the amount you'll soon spend on the baby into short-term CDs or money-market accounts. You should have a tidy sum by your due date -- if you begin today.
Soul-search and cost-justify. When the baby arrives, will you return to work or stay home? You don't need to lock in a decision right this minute, but you should schedule a heart-to-heart with your spouse soon. When making your decision, keep in mind the following expenses. Full-time, out- of-home childcare averages $4,000 to $6,000 a year, $12,000 to $15,000 in major cities. Nanny care can be even higher. Commuting and incidentals like coffee also take a chunk out of a paycheck.