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What is a Pay Period?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A pay period is the number of days for which a regular, usually non-salaried employee gets paid. Salaried employees tend to expect and receive the same pay no matter the length of the pay period, while workers paid by the hour can have variance in pay depending upon hours and days worked. Pay periods vary widely and usually are one of several common systems. You may be paid weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, yearly, or paid twice a month on specific dates, usually the 1st and 15th of each month. There are advantages and disadvantages to each different type of pay period.

The weekly pay period is preferred by some, though it can mean more expenditures for a company to pay weekly, since it means each week an employee or employers must figure out payroll, and cut and sign checks. There are also some disadvantages for the employee who gets paid weekly, if they’re not careful. The surety of money arriving every week may give some people the sense that they can spend more than would be prudent. After all, you’re only ever at most, seven days away from your next paycheck. To keep within spending limits, budgeting and allocating funds from each paycheck for necessities, like rent, food, and utility payments, is a good idea.

The bi-weekly pay system is common. Employees get paid every two weeks, usually a few days after they’ve completed the two weeks. For many employers this is the ideal way to pay employees, since it is less expensive to figure payroll every two weeks than it is to process paychecks every week.

Two to three times a year, employees who receive bi-weekly checks get the wonderful benefit of the three-paycheck month. If your budget is based on two paychecks a month, the three-paycheck month is a great time to make major purchases, get caught up or get ahead on bills, or add to your savings account. Typically you’ll still need to buy food with your third paycheck, but you’ll usually have a leftover amount that isn’t allocated to any regular payments.

The other bi-monthly plan is a pay period that ends in pay on the 1st and 15th. If you are paid by the hour, you do have to budget carefully when your employer uses this method. Some months, you’ll have larger paychecks than others, because there will be more days worked on a paycheck than usual. Other months, like the pay periods in March, can mean your paycheck is lower than usual because February is a shorter month.

Some pay period types are structured on monthly pay, and good for those who can budget their money accordingly. These may be harder for people who have difficulty budgeting, as they mean you won’t be paid again for another month. If you run out of money in the middle of the month, you’re in trouble. Living within your income is the most important aspect when you are only paid on a monthly basis.

Less common is the yearly paycheck, though a few companies employ it. Again this type of pay period means employees must live within their income and budget carefully. Some companies don’t use any of these types. Commission based workers may be paid when they make sales instead of on a specific date or during specific pay periods. Some freelance workers, especially those who work in construction fields may be paid at the end of each day.

Other freelance workers or those who run their own businesses get paid after they complete work, within a few days to a month or two. It can depend upon how quickly clients pay you, and whether you have any written agreements or verbal ones with those who employ you to pay you within a certain time period. Pay when you run your own business or freelance usually exists on a per job basis instead of being based on a specific pay period.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon348156 — On Sep 14, 2013

Do employers have to have a set day of the week to pay their employees? What if the boss plays games and pays you on Thursday part of the time and when he is in a bad mood pays you on Friday the next time and threatens to pay you on Saturday the next time?

By anon344017 — On Aug 05, 2013

Bi-weekly is much better than once a month.

By anon342363 — On Jul 19, 2013

I get paid on the 15th and 30th of the month, but our cut off dates for the time sheet are on the fifth and the 20th of the month. So we have to wait ten days before we get paid. What do you think? Is this right?

By anon311363 — On Dec 31, 2012

I get paid bi-weekly. My first two weeks I got paid for a week since the first week is always held from you. In that week, I got paid for, I made 440 dollars and had 43 dollars taken out for taxes. It's mostly federal which is bogus, considering it illegally breaches our god given right laid out in our great constitution: no taxation without representations.

Aside from that, for my next two weeks I got a full two week paycheck for 880 dollars but had 180 dollars taken out. I figured they'd take out 86 dollars, double the first week's taxes, but federal took a whole other 100 dollars from me. So I did some research and found out you get taxed by pay period. So my company is stacking my checks, which puts me in a whole different tax bracket. Do I have any right as an employee to demand I be taxed once a week instead of two weeks so that I can take more of my hard earned money home?

By anon297899 — On Oct 17, 2012

Personally, I don't mind being paid on the 15th and the end of the month days. The problem is my boss is a creep and doesn't pay on those two days like he's supposed to. He waits until after but keeps saying it's bi-monthly, but from what I understand, you're supposed to be paid on the 15th and the 30th/31st of the month, but nope. He gives it to us on all different days, and this is illegal, right?

Like, the 15th passed this Monday and still I have no paycheck. It isn't coming until tomorrow. I talked to him about it he and now said he's going to pay every second Thursday so I asked him if that meant on the first of November we're getting our cheques, and he said "Nope, you're getting paid the Thursday after." I said, "Sir that's three weeks, not two weeks." Yeah, my boss is a jerk and I'm about to make a huge complaint to head office and nom du travail (service that helps people being wrongfully treated in quebec). The guy has no heart.

By anon295309 — On Oct 05, 2012

$20.50 x 1,872 hours in the year for 24 pay periods = $1,599.00 (you were getting $1443 per pay when you worked the entire pay period).

By anon293408 — On Sep 25, 2012

I just started a new job and will be paid monthly, but my boss says I have to work two months before being paid? How is anyone meant to survive for that long with no pay? Help, please!

By anon289400 — On Sep 04, 2012

I started a new job three days ago, and the company's pay was the week before and they are paid bi weekly so when is my first paycheck?

By anon285298 — On Aug 15, 2012

My girlfriend started a new job where she will be paid monthly, but her boss says she has to work two months before being paid? How is anyone meant to survive for that long with no pay? Help, please!

By anon280284 — On Jul 16, 2012

I wish I still got paid on the 1st and 15th. It guaranteed that I could pay all of my bills including and most important, my mortgage before the grace period that took place on the 16th.

Now that my second paycheck can land anywhere from the 20-24th, I include the late fee on it. I've got to have water and electricity. I pay those on the first paycheck before I die of heat exhaustion here in Arizona.

By anon231992 — On Nov 28, 2011

Our pay period is bi weekly, which is fine, but for some reason or another, our company has made a decision. For those who come in on the last day of the pay period, specifically the night shift (10 pm-6 am) that shift will no longer be included in the pay day coming up: Thursday. Nope, gotta wait 18 days to catch that shift on your pay from now on!

By anon231747 — On Nov 26, 2011

I agree with post 7: quit belly aching. Paychecks come in here the 1st and 15th of each month, and I prefer it much better. You guys just need to learn to budget your money a little more wisely.

By anon206480 — On Aug 16, 2011

you're a bunch of crybabies who don't know how to take responsibility for yourselves. Might as well go join all the people on welfare and let someone else work for you.

By anon137836 — On Dec 29, 2010

i get paid every two weeks at my job. i think i liked it better when i was getting paid every week. you have to budget more especially if you are a hourly worker. my part time job thought which is super part time is weekly. so at least i can rely on that little bit of money.

By anon131174 — On Dec 01, 2010

Be grateful for your regular and consistent pay periods, because I get paid the 15th and the last day of the month, but my pay periods are only 14 days long. Compute that. I'm seeking other employment now and trying to figure out how to get all of my back pay?

By anon126754 — On Nov 13, 2010

I get paid on the 1st and 15th. Despite what the article says, I am paid the same amount (because I am salaried).

Right now, I am absolutely broke because there are 17 days (and three weekends) between pay days, and I won't get paid until the 15th (Monday). This because the bank won't process your pay over the weekend. It's nice to know that your money will always be there for the first of the month, when most bills are due, but it makes it difficult to budget when the number of days between paychecks is always changing, especially if you're already living on a slim budget.

By anon102761 — On Aug 09, 2010

"I'm so disappointed with this system. No wonder people turn to illegal ways of making money. Life is so unfair."

You have got to be kidding me!

By anon94484 — On Jul 08, 2010

It's absolutely dreadful to be paid every two weeks. I just started a new job and I've been waiting for three weeks and I've been suffering immensely because of it. now payday is just a few hours away and I still won't be able to access it until after my shift.

I'm so disappointed with this system. No wonder people turn to illegal ways of making money. Life is so unfair.

By leilani — On May 24, 2010

It all comes down to the habits and self control, because the amount of money is the same whether we receive it once a week, once every two weeks or once every month.

But after everything is said and done, I did prefer getting paid once every week, as oposed to once every two weeks. There is a good feeling when that paycheck is handed over at the end of the week, or the money is deposited into your bank account. It seems to me it is a psychological issue more than anything else.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia...
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