(NEXSTAR) – What’s sweeter than getting paid twice a month? Getting paid three times, of course.
Americans who get paid biweekly on Fridays will see three paychecks hit their bank account during a few months that happen to have five Fridays.
“So if you’re getting paid on the first, third and fifth Fridays, that means you have a bonus paycheck, which obviously you still earned, but is potentially outside of your regular budget and kind of like a mini windfall or a mini bonus,” Chanelle Bessette, banking specialist with NerdWallet, told Nexstar.
Not every employee who gets biweekly checks will get an “extra” check during the same months, however.
Workers who received their first check on Jan. 6 will see three payment months fall on March and September, according to Alliant Credit Union. If you had to wait until Jan. 13 to get paid, your three paycheck months will be June and December.
So what’s behind the financial phenomenon?
Dividing 52 weeks by two — since payments are biweekly — means that you will get 26 checks over the course of the year. But if you were to just multiply the number of months in a year by two, you would only get 24. So a third paycheck will go out in a couple of months during the year, usually very early in the month.
Is it a bonus check?
When deciding what to do with your third paycheck, an honest appraisal of your budget and any debts should come first.
If everything is on track with two paychecks per month, then a third check twice a year can be used for investing or other financial goals, according to Alliant.
It may help to think of the third paycheck like a tax refund, Bessette said. Depending on one’s financial situation, the money could be used to pay off a nagging bill, make an extra mortgage payment or line an emergency fund.
“You could use it for really anything that you’re planning on and anything that you might want a little bit of a head start on,” Bessette said. “And it can be really great too for a bit of fun money. We’re not going to say that you need to use it for 100% productive things. You know, if there is maybe a little splurge that you want to make, this could be a good opportunity for that.”
Bessette cautions people not to go on a massive spending spree, however, noting that this year especially there might be more incentive to save a little cash.
“We are seeing some layoffs happening in some major industries and it looks like the rate of inflation is slowing, so that’s something to consider if your emergency fund isn’t where it needs to be or where you want it to be,” Bessette said.
Finally, Bessette also recommended taking a look at savings rates and exploring other instruments, such as certificates of deposit. With the recent jump in interest rates, you might be missing out on earned interest if you choose to sock that money away for the future.
Other options when it comes to taking advantage of that third paycheck include: paying off debt with the highest interest rate, contributing to retirement and socking away money for a dependents’ college fund.