All year long, Clark.com’s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox! 

Many of us will be using the start of 2017 to hit the reset button on our personal finances, which means coming up with a new budget.

While budgets can get very complicated, I choose to keep mine as simple as possible.

Read more: Budgeting 101: How to create and stick to a budget in 5 simple steps

This painless budgeting trick can save you money

With the help of an online budgeting tool, I generally look for three pieces of information: what I’m earning, what I’m spending and what I’m saving.

As long as I'm not in the red, I usually consider it a good month. 

Today I wanted to share a budgeting trick that I’ve been using for years. It's helped me painlessly save two paychecks a year. And it's also made budgeting a lot more fun! 

If you get paid every other week, try this... 

Here's an example

Let’s say that after taxes, health insurance and retirement savings are deducted, your employer deposits a check for $1,500 into your account every two weeks.

Since there are 52 weeks a year, that’s 26 checks. Your annual take-home pay is $39,000.

If you’ve always been paid this way, you may not realize that you’re receiving two more paychecks a year than someone who’s paid twice a month.

  • Twice a month = 12 months x 2  = 24 checks 
  • Every other week = 52 weeks / 2 = 26 checks 

If you’re paid every other week, you’ll receive two paychecks a month, except for the two months of the year when you’ll get three paychecks.

This is something I look forward to every year, so I already know that my 3-paycheck months for 2017 will be March and September. Yours may be different. 

Read more: This is a really easy way to eliminate wasteful spending

Treat the third paychecks as "bonus" money

Here's where the budgeting trick comes in. I simply set my projected monthly income based on receiving two paychecks a month and nothing else, which would be $3,000 using our example above.

Because those 3-paycheck months only come twice a year, I treat those checks like bonus money! 

Maximize your 3-paycheck months

Need some ideas? When I was paying off my $86,000 mortgage in two years, I would use those “extra” paychecks to reduce the principal balance.

But you could use that money to reach other goals as well: 

  • Pay off a debt
  • Contribute to a retirement account
  • Add it to the new car fund
  • Pay an insurance policy (auto, home, life)
  • Grow your emergency fund
  • Erase student loan debt
  • Start a vacation fund
  • Save up for a home renovation

Get a plan together now! 

If you decide to use this strategy, the key is to make a plan for your third paychecks well ahead of time so that you spend your money wisely when that direct deposit hits. 

To help you make a budget for 2017, use our step-by-step Common Cents Budgeting Guide.