Encore: The Overtime Trap

Jason and Katie Hoschouer discuss the overtime trap and how to avoid the cycle.


The holiday season can be challenging for any couple. For law enforcement couples, we know that it’s going to bring an absence to regularly scheduled events and rituals. What can be kind of nice is the increased need for off -duty officers at shopping centers and churches, or the overtime that comes with having to work events, or the holidays themselves. That extra dump of income can be really nice and helpful, and even make the separation worth it during the holidays.

It can also get couples in trouble if they plan on the cash to catch them up with bills that they’ve incurred throughout the years. The OT and off -duty can also have a side effect on officers creating a safety issue and stress and conflict in your relationship.

It’s important, especially during the holidays, to decide how you want to take advantage of the situation and honor how you want to celebrate and connect over the holiday season. Overtime and off -duty can be great. Just don’t let it be a trap. Today, I’m rebooting one of my favorite episodes with now -retired sheriff’s deputy, financial coach, and podcaster Jason Hoschouer, and his wife, Katie, as they talk about the financial trap they’ve found themselves in and how they recovered.

Jason and Katie met in 2002, married in January 2005, and have three beautiful daughters. Jason’s been a cop for over 20 years, 13 as a motorcycle officer. He started blogging in 2008 just as a way of therapy. From that, he’s grown a platform that educates and entertains people at the same time. Jason has written articles for American Cop Magazine, Police One, and is a podcaster as well. Katie is a certified professional organizer and has her own business, “Katie can help!” She helps families in the San Francisco bay area manage their mess. She started this business out of a desire to go on a “business trip.”

The Trap

Their overtime cycle started in 2009. The perception and perspective on money wasn’t “how much is this?” or “can I afford it?” It was “how much will it cost a month?” and “how much overtime needs to be worked to afford this item.” For example, Jason and Katie went to go “look” at travel trailers in 2006 when Katie was 6 months pregnant with their first child. Jason recalls sitting in this really cool hybrid travel trailer and the question out of Katie’s mouth was “how much is this going to cost us every month and how much overtime do you need to work so we can afford this?” They bought the trailer with a payment of $200 a month. In Jason’s world, $200 was nothing because he was getting paid well as a police officer in the Bay area. It was equivalent to 3 hours of overtime. Long story short, they ended up selling the trailer 4 years later and used the profit to pay off Katie’s student loans. Eventually, they learned to stop asking “how much is this a month?” and started asking “can we just buy it outright?” If the answer is no, then they saved money until they could buy the item. The interesting part of this for Jason was that if you are saving for a large item, a few months into your saving you may change your mind and think, I don’t want and/or need that item anymore. The great thing is now you have $3000 saved and can do whatever with.

In Law Enforcement, it’s common to shift into a mindset of “purchasing the sparkly objects.” It provides a dopamine hit in the brain of “I spent money that felt good” and then the purchase is justified because it’s “just 3 hours of overtime.” Jason mentions that quite often because of what he experienced at work, spending money on vacations was looked at as a way to decompress. In reality, he was working overtime to pay for the trips and big purchases, so decompression didn’t happen as much as they wanted it to.  It was a double edge sword.

Jason references Dr. Gilmartin’s book Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement and how it talks about the financial aspects of what he goes through. Law enforcement officers experience the same dopamine hit when spending money as they do with an adrenaline rush at work. Dr. Gilmartin calls it the “hypervigilance roller coaster.” The spending is then justified with “I work so hard, I deserve it. “ As spouses sometimes we enable that behavior, with the same mindset. Ultimately the overtime keeps accruing and you can’t come down from that cycle. It impacts your wellness, sleep, and physiological and mental components.

While purchasing the trailer at $200 a month (for 15 years) during Katies first pregnancy, neither of them thought about how much overtime and time away from the family that Jason would have to give to make the payment. “I didn’t think of the time away from the family. It was “How can I get this shiny toy and how long do you need to be away to afford it.” It didn’t register that while Jason was working, their child wasn’t going to have a father present. Only in hindsight did Katie and Jason notice that this continued for several years.

The change

Katie remembers a car ride where they discussed the budget for groceries. Jason would say how much do you need? Katie says she remembers this one conversation and asked, “Why are we doing it like this? Why can’t I be more disciplined about what I spend?” She then suggested getting a budget of $200 per paycheck a month for Costco. Jason didn’t think it was going to work. That’s when Katie came across Dave Ramsey and told Jason about him. Jason quickly changed his mind and wanted to give Dave Ramsey’s method a try. That is not how Jason remembers the conversation. He remembers a conversation in their living room when Katie told him she was worried about their finances. She then asked, “Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey?” Jason went from that conversation to Barnes and Noble and he used a credit card to buy Total Money Makeover.  It was read in two days. Jason says, “We drank the Kool-aid and didn’t look back. I worked an average of 40-50 hours of overtime every month for 28 months. We didn’t go on vacation, we didn’t eat out. We were remarkably disciplined, and in two days shy of 28 months, we paid off all of our debt except for our house. We cut up all our credit cards. We haven’t had one in 9 years. If we can’t afford it we don’t buy it. It was not easy.”

How to avoid the trap

Discipline and being goal-oriented are what saved the Hoschouers.

“Honestly it was Jason. I got my 400 dollars and that’s all I got. I was couponing. It was exhausting, but every time Jason would sit down and do the budget, he would get excited to send off a big payment.”

Katie said she was a little more relaxed with the idea of being debt-free and Jason kept pushing the perspective. Jason could be excited to send off a big payment and Katie would cry. Katie reflects that it was a heart change. They both very much had their own journey and internal processes to get debt-free. “It was a cool experience to do this side by side. Jason understood it was hard for me.”

I asked if they had any struggles between the two of them while they transitioned into being debt-free. Jason says “Honestly it was a lot of high fiving! Going to Domestic Violence calls, 9 times out of 10, that fight started over something financial. It happens all the time. The key to this is being on the same page. That’s what it takes to have the mindset shift, being vulnerable enough to say I am worried about our finances and being vulnerable enough to listen.  If you can do that you have bigger problems because that’s an important aspect of marriage. That’s being a good partner in every aspect of our marriage. You have to come at it from that point of view.” What held it together was the commitment from both sides. There was no resentment. It was an agreement.

Katie’s contribution

Katie’s sister is a blogger, while Katie had just started her own journey of blogging. She offered Katie an opportunity to go to a blogging conference in Turks and Caicos. Fresh out of debt, Katie approached Jason about going to the conference and he agreed. However, Jason was not paying for the conference. Jason said, “I have been working my butt off to get out of debt and we are on the same page there, why should you get to go drink mai tais and go on a blogging conference?” Katie wasn’t working outside of the home at the time. Their big mindset shift about finances happened when they stopped using his money and her money. They changed their mindset to “Our money.”  Jason admittedly says he reverted a bit at that moment when he said he wasn’t paying for Katie to go on vacation. “Had we not had the awareness of money and a connected understanding of what our plan was for our family, I (Katie) would have been resentful for that.” Instead, Katie posted on Facebook asking if anyone needed help sorting paper. A friend of Katie’s said she needed help in her home office and took before and after pictures. The pictures were posted, and Katie was mentioned as transforming her space. “She Katied the bejeezus out of it” Jason told me. Two hours later, Katie had two more clients and it kept growing from there. “I needed $1500 to go on vacation. I made that money plus some and I remember sitting in the hot tub in Turks and Caicos by myself and I thought that was fun. How I got here was fun, do I want to keep doing it? I had people on my books for when I got home from vacation. I was aiming to be out of the house and be helpful. The name of my business Katie can help is so spot on because I go in with this heart to help. It’s very law enforcement-esque. It was an organic way of answering the call to do this. Had we not had the same mindset about our finances I don’t think I would have had that push to do that.” What started out as a way to bring in $1500 grew to last year Katie made $50,000 to help support their family.

Part of this journey was for Jason to also find another way of bringing income that wasn’t him being out on the street. It inspired a whole other part, another dimension of his life.

Jason’s inspiration for creating this other part of his was that he lives to protect and serve. “I got such a charge of getting out of debt. Dave Ramsey is amazing, but he is not a cop. Cops don’t trust anybody but other cops. So, I took his message and geared it towards law enforcement. We need to know how to get out of the overtime trap. “I wanted to speak in the lives to other cops because they would listen to me. I’ve walked in their shoes.” Jason mentions that he especially wants to get his message out to new police officers. “I want to help the baby officers see the potholes that may exist in their life and career. I know how it feels to feel better through retail therapy and work 80 hours of overtime while missing my family. That’s why I created MotorcopMindset.com and an online course teaching people how to budget based on their real-life numbers/debt.  I also wrote a book Badges and Budgets sharing our story.

Jason and Katie, your story is so inspiring to help people overcome that overtime cycle and to stay out of debt and keep moving forward. Jason’s book is available to anyone. Just visit the MotorcopMindset.com and type in your email address. If you live in the Bay area and need help organizing your space, reach out to Katie at katiecanhelp.com!


Encore: The Overtime Trap

Jason and Katie Hoschouer discuss the overtime trap and how to avoid the cycle.