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Here are the 3-paycheck months for 2022 — and 5 smart ways to make those extra checks count, according to a CFP

Five smart ways to spend, or save, when you get three paychecks in one month.

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If you get paid biweekly as a W-2 employee, there are usually two glorious months out of the year when you get three paychecks instead of two.

The months in which you take home three checks depends on your pay schedule. If your first paycheck in 2022 is scheduled for Friday, January 7, your three-paycheck months will be April and September.

If your first paycheck in 2022 is Friday, January 14, your three-paycheck months are July and December.

Planning ahead for three-paycheck months can help you reach your money goals faster, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner and the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. If you and your partner commingle your assets, "there could be a situation in which you have four extra checks," and can really make big financial moves, she says.

Here are five smart ways Cheng says her clients spend or save their money when it's a three-paycheck month.

1. Schedule an extra mortgage payment

"Some clients use their extra check to make one extra payment towards the principal on their mortgage," says Cheng.

Making an extra payment toward your mortgage can help you pay off the debt faster and pay less in interest overall.

2. Pay down debt

Another great use of an extra check is to pay down debt, Cheng says. Tackling high-interest debt is one of the most efficient ways to improve your finances.

"Think of the interest rate on any debt you owe as a return on an investment," Jean Chatzky, CEO of HerMoney.com and host of the "HerMoney" podcast, recently told Grow. "In other words, paying down a debt that carries a 10% interest rate is equivalent to earning a 10% return on your stock portfolio."

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3. Boost retirement contributions

Setting yourself up for retirement is always a good use of extra money, says Cheng. You might escalate your workplace contributions ahead of receiving that extra check, or plan to make an extra payment into your IRA.

In November, the IRS announced that it increased some retirement contribution limits for 2022. Investors younger than 50 can contribute a max of $20,500 to their 401(k)s, and $6,000 to an IRA in 2022.

4. Make home improvements

Clients also use their extra checks for home renovations and other projects. One couple combined their four extra checks in a year to fund a kitchen remodel, with new "appliances, floors, and paint," Cheng says.

Updating your home may be a smart use of extra funds since it can increase the value of your property.

5. Budget for a vacation or other 'fun'

It's important to have some fun with that extra money, Cheng says. "Some clients save it [their third check] with the understanding that it's their fun money," says Cheng. "No, they don't spend frivolously."

Instead, she often sees clients use the extra money for vacations. "It might be for a self-care weekend trip with friends, a weekend getaway for golf, or weekend trip with your partner or kids," she says.

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