Book excerpt: Badges and Budgets
If you're tired of living with the OT cycle – spending more because you've worked more, which only causes you to have to work more – then read on
The following is excerpted from “Badges and Budgets” by PoliceOne columnist Jason Hoschouer. PoliceOne readers can access a free pdf download of the book.
Chapter One: The $100,000 Conundrum
In 2009, I made more than $100,000. Mind you, that included an average of about 40 hours of overtime a month. Sounds great, right?
On paper, perhaps. The problem? I couldn't afford to pay a $300 electric bill. My tax guy tells me I had a great year, yet I haven't a blessed clue where in the blue hell all that money went. I had a wife, a daughter, and another kid on the way in August 2009.
I felt like a complete failure. How was I supposed to support my growing family when I couldn't make $100K work? And exactly why couldn't I pay a $300 bill making that kind of money?
Maybe you've felt like this, as well. As a matter of fact, I'll bet there are more of you that identify with it than those who don't. I have felt your fear. I have felt your shame. I have shed your tears. But I have good news, friends.
I found the other side. And it's freaking glorious. In two days shy of 28 months, Katie and I paid off $77,232.88 in debt on just my income. We are now (with the exception of our mortgage) debt-free! We hit that milestone in December 2011.
How did we do it? In a word: budget.
A budget is nothing more than you telling your money where to go. When we knuckled down and put everything on paper, we found an "extra" $500 a month. It felt like a raise right away. We started being intentional with the money we made. We sacrificed. We cut back. I worked more. We found the Other Side.
The lion's share of you aren't doing this one simple financial move and I know why. You're afraid. Yeah, I know, first responders aren't afraid of anything. Aren't you just the cutest little thing?
It's beyond debilitating to face the mountain of financial concerns that loom over us on a daily basis. It's terrifying to hear the phone ring and face another collections call. It can be emasculating and humiliating to face the reality of your financial situation.
"I'll just work more overtime" was my cry repeatedly. I'm here to tell you that approach is unsustainable. If it doesn't affect your psyche, it will certainly catch up to you and affect you physically. How many stories of first responders getting injured or worse have you seen in which sleep deprivation was expressly mentioned or the amount of hours worked was at least a contributing factor in an officer-involved incident?
We're putting ourselves at risk every day on the job. It's dangerous enough without our minds being distracted by personal financial concerns. I believe departments aren't doing enough to educate and support their people with regard to personal finance.
A budget can be a lifeline to you. It's difficult at first, but with some training and coaching, it can not only improve your financial future, but it will positively affect your work life and, more importantly, your personal life.
It simply comes down to intentionally planning for the money you work so damn hard to make. I don't care if you make six figures or barely scrape out $30K. You can take control of your financial destiny if you're fully committed and make things happen instead of waiting around for things to happen to you.
When we go on-scene and see some heinous detail, we're in control. Period.
It's time to take that authority to the bank. Literally. Start taking control of your financial life.
Start doing a monthly budget.