Long Pay Period Warning

It happens every now and then – the months align in a way that creates a longer than usual pay period.  If you have your ducks in a row, then this isn’t a problem for you.  But lots of folks are living paycheck-to-paycheck, or throwing every available cent into paying down debt or meeting some fabulous savings goal.  If your spending plan already accounts for every penny, sometimes that longer pay period will throw you for a loop.

The official mid-month March payday is 13 March 2015, because the 15th falls during the weekend.  However, 1 April isn’t for 19 days.  When your pay hits tomorrow, or today if your bank or credit union releases deposits early, be sure you have a solid plan for having enough food and fuel to get you through until the next payday.

Here are some easy things you can do to stretch your dollars:

  • Pack lunch and snacks for work, school, or any voyages out of the house.  The average “little snack” runs over $3 per person, per snack.  That adds up fast.
  • Inventory your freezer and pantry, and plan meals to use the items you already have.
  • Cut your fuel consumption by planning your driving more carefully, organizing a carpool, or skipping a trip or two.
  • Alter a routine slightly.  For example, we have pizza on Friday nights, and we try to alternate between takeout and frozen pizza.  If we juggle the schedule and have frozen pizza two weeks in a row, we save about $25.
  • Iron your own clothes.
  • Be on top of your perishables and leftovers.  Most families throw away a lot of food.

If you really get stuck, check with your service’s relief society (Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society, Army Emergency Relief) for an interest-free loan.

Once you’ve gotten over the hump, make a plan so that a long pay period doesn’t ever cause problems again.  Build up a little buffer in your bank account and be aware of when long pay periods are coming.  Hint:  it is the end of November, over Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Dave

    If you save your change, you will be surprised at how it adds up. Would give you more for these long pay periods. I did it for 2 years and then bought myself a Goldwing motorcycle for cash.

    • Not Dave


      I like where you’re headed, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I held a dollar. Honestly I’m thinking right now. Ok yep, had to check the Facebook, last time I touched a dollar was Jan 10th when I bought some toys off a yard sale page.

      I do use the heck out of credit cards though, easy to track, great consumer protection, and I make $500-$600 a year just on rewards (not including the interest I earn on the float (I get to hold onto my money for an extra 30-60 days)).

      The credit cards provide income smoothing. No matter how long or short a month is, the CC bill is due on the same day, and as long as you keep a daily ledger (like the old school check books), you’ll stay in the black.

      NFCU and USAA give great starter cards, although I do prefer others for their rewards structure.

      Everything goes on the cards except rent and the carpayment (borrow at 0.9 and use NFCU 30 month certificate at 2.25%? Sure beats paying cash).

      • guest

        Yeaaa…except most people aren’t that disciplined. If they have trouble making a 19 day pay period imagine how hard the concept of interest rate floating is. It’s NOT good to push CC’s until someone has their budget under control, and that comes from someone who does use CC’s for everything to collect the rewards. Your advice would leave many families paying interest simply because they don’t have the resolve or budget to pay monthly.

        • Not Guest

          Sure any tool can be misused to the point where it causes harm, but the idea where is to provide consistent billing dates for consumables.

          Carpayment 1x a month
          Cell bill 1x a month
          Cable bill, insurance, rent and utilities 1x a month

          No matter the length of the month those bills fall on the same day, and putting food/gas/entertainment on credit gives the same predictable schedule.

          Not saying use credit for emergencies, or for wants, but for needs and to a pre-established budget.

  • Sandra Kelly

    I remember those days and now on Social Security, I have returned to those days of long pay periods. When first stated out in military, we got paid once a month, so really had to plan. We ate a lot of dried beans and learned to cook leftovers into different dishes so did not realize they were leftovers. But for the cash event we ended up with credit card debt. eventually. So be careful to make meals stretch and with fuel prices to keep the change each month for the long pay periods. Now a days I have home canned food to help stretch the dollar. Home gardens and fruit trees can stretch the dollar, but for those that can not have those then purchase bulk from the friendly neighbor farmers when they have the items available and home can them. A bushel of beans can go a long ways. Many farmers have meats and cheeses in NC for sale also. So enjoy them. This will stretch the dollar a long ways for those pay periods and the extra saved dollar can be used for fuel and extras.