When I first started on my department 15 years ago, I couldn’t wait to get through my probationary year to start working off duty. The idea of working off duty and getting paid almost double my hourly wage was appealing. It wasn’t only me, nearly everyone on my squad worked some type of off duty job whether it was traffic control or security.

As a young officer, I fell into the dangerous habit of relying upon off duty. I was no longer able to live off my regular paycheck from my department, I now relied on the supplemental off duty to pay the bills. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was walking a dangerous line.

So many of us work off duty jobs to make ends meet. I know several officers that spend all of their days off working different off duty jobs. Most of us have read the book, “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin and know we need our days off. Those days off are important to balance out our stress levels so we can attempt to lead normal lives. Unfortunately, even with this knowledge, many of us are in terrible financial situations that cause us to work more off duty than we should. This constant working and increased stress level has led to many issues to include divorce, financial instability, and job related discipline.

How Do We Stop the Spiral?

In order to stop this downward trajectory, we need to figure out a way to live off our regular salary. The truth is, many of us are one off duty injury away from not being able to pay the bills. Without that off duty income, we would be unable to stay afloat financially. The idea of living off our take home pay may seem like a fairy tale. However, there are many officers in my department who do not work off duty and are able to make ends meet. How do they do it?

Contentment Is Not Normal

The officers I know who are able to live off their salary are content individuals. They drive old vehicles and pack their lunches every day. They act like they’re poor, yet they seem happier than the rest of us. They have friends who own boats, rather than owning the boat themselves. These officers found a place of contentment in their lives that does not involve spending.

How I Stopped My Spiral

Years later, when I finally snapped out of my off duty spiral, I found that the easiest way to pay my bills with my regular income was to budget. I learned how to tell my money where to go rather than wondering where it went. As a cop, I always need to be in control. For some reason, early on in my career I had no control over my money. As I matured, I found that I was wasting enormous amounts of money and I continued to work more off duty to make up for my bad spending habits. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation?

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No matter how much debt you have right now and how little you make, there is a way out. You may need to continue working off duty to reverse the pendulum, but it’s time to take control of your finances.

I still work off duty to this day but it is only one day a week. In addition, all of my off duty money goes towards vacations and extra things I want to pay for in cash. I no longer need my off duty to pay my bills – it truly is extra supplemental income! If you are caught in an off duty death spiral, I encourage you to reach out for help. For your own sanity, create a budget and a plan for your money. Stop digging and start climbing out of this mess. You can do it my friends! If you need more information about budgeting and contentment, please head over to Arrest Your Debt for further information to get your money under control. You work too hard to be this broke!

Until then, stay safe my brothers and sisters – I’ll see you out there.

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Ryan Junas has been in law enforcement for over 15 years and is a lieutenant for a large police agency in Arizona. He holds a Master of Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Northern Arizona University.

In his spare time, Ryan founded Arrest Your Debt LLC which is a financial education website geared to help people pay off debt and build wealth. You can find him over at https://arrestyourdebt.com to learn more about his side project!