How to Live (and Die) in OKC on $10K a Year
6:43 AM EST on January 26, 2017
In the recent article “The 15 Cities Where You Can Live Really Well On $60,000”—you know, the one where everyone got upset about the wholly accurate picture of the guy filling up his car in an urban wasteland with a rusty pumpjack in the background —CNBC listed Oklahoma City as one of the cheapest places to live in America, with the median base salary of $50,000.
Meanwhile, according to my recently received 1099s, I apparently made just a little over $10,000 for all of 2016. And, believe me, that was actually a good year!
As a lifelong friend to living behind the eight-ball, I was trained from an early age, like an impoverished John Connor, to combat hunger, cold and lack of health care, facing head-on anything that comes my way, which, in recent years, they have with an absolute vengeance. From life-altering deferments such as divorce to numerous body-crippling health issues, I have ended up in a place where, while I am not proud of it, I am most definitely not ashamed.
Besides, we’re all now living in Trump’s America now! Very soon, many of you will be down here with me, no shirt, no shoes, no money. In preparation for those deathly hallows of mass deficits, here’s a few tips on how to live, mostly as a single dude, on $10,000 or less in Oklahoma City, the greatest place in America to be poor!
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to live in the absolute worst areas of the Metro to score a good deal on a roof and four walls. Oklahoma City is absolutely on fire with cheap dwellings even in such vaunted areas as the Paseo or the Plaza District, or at least the more rugged outskirts of them, with two bedroom houses going for as low as $450 a month and some, if you’re truly blessed, even offering all bills paid options.
(Hell, I know people who’ve scored garage efficiencies in Mesta Park and Heritage Hills for less, so the dream is attainable, my penny-pinching pal.)
Sure, many of these houses might be in modicums of minor disrepair with possible vermin infestations and lead paint warnings bound into the lease agreement, with property management maintenance crews that rival a Three Stooges routine, but, hey, let’s be honest: even if you have to deal with mice scampering all over your body while you sleep, it’s still a million times better than sleeping on the street, right?
Let’s say you aren’t able to find a rental with an all bills paid option. This is where I’d advise you to pick your utilities wisely because, let’s be honest, there’ll be many months you won’t be able to pay for all three, which are typically electric, water and gas.
Here’s how I look at it: electric is an absolute must-have, and the first bill to be paid every month. You can’t live without electric—I mean, you can, and I have—but, honestly, I’d rather not. Secondly, water is a great thing to have, but it is not always a necessity; there might be some months where it’s just easier to fill up gallon jugs of water for drinking and bathing from the water-spigot outside of 7-11 everyday—but if you can afford to keep that bill paid, more power to you.
Finally, there’s natural gas, the most useless of utilities. If you can learn to enjoy cold showers and dangerous space heaters, you’ll be just fine without it, kid.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, that’s a good one! You must do open mic at District House on Monday nights!
Luckily, as a proud Choctaw, I have Indian Health Services to diagnose me with life-threatening illnesses for which there is absolutely no funding available to treat. And, with all the health care cuts that Trump is so diligently making, pretty soon even general medical check-ups will have a waiting list of a year or two. Time to pick up a book on natural Native American healing from Amazon—hope you like sage, brother!
And forget about seeing the dentist at the Indian Clinic altogether; with a waiting list that is comically long, last year I got so tired of dealing with the constant pain I ended up pulling two of my own back teeth out with pliers, a trick my father, also a lifelong $10,000-aire, taught me before he died. What’s the secret? Black market extra-strength Mexican lidocaine. Accept no substitutes!
My car sputtered to death about two or three years ago—it was the unfixable engine rods, of course. Not having that transportation since cut deeply into my income and, as I started to lose gigs because I couldn’t get from point A to B, I fully realized how the lack of an automobile could absolutely destroy a modern working family, a snowball effect where the working parent loses hours due to a lack of transport, costing money that will effectively put them in poverty. And before you say there’s always public transportation, check your privilege, gabacho.
(Now that I think about it, I wonder how many Oklahoma families would be able to get off of welfare and other assistance programs if they had something as simple as an automobile to get them on their feet. It’s no wonder that places like David Stanley are able to demean the poor so effectively with their raffles and poker chips and musical chairs—I mean, c’mon: it’s not like anyone else around here is going to give the poor even the chance of the hope of owning an automobile. You gotta get in where you fit in, fool.)
As for me, I typically rely on the kindness of my Christian brothers for helping me with things like trips to the grocery store and frequent emergency room visits. It also helps to be a restaurant critic, because there’s never a lack of friends wanting to help you eat food. Speaking of which…
First off, if you can, become a restaurant critic. It worked for me!
Back in the real world, however, there are many times groceries are an extraneous expense that is one of the easier things to cut from your budget if you know how to shop just right—I’m looking at you, Whittaker’s! Growing up in poverty, I was taught from an early age how to make $20 last all week, how to turn a gallon of water into a filling meal and, when times get really tight, knowing the right time to pull a co-worker’s half-eaten sandwich out of the trashcan without anyone noticing.
I will say this, however: if you are down and out and need to make things stretch, there’s no better kitchen investment than a Crock-Pot. From beans and rice to chicken and dumplings, it’s easy to live under an extreme budget when you cook your food, en masse, in this slow-cooking minor miracle of convenience. And, if you start to run low, just dump a can or two of corn into the pot and it adds an extra two days to whatever simmering concoction you’ve got going on in there. This can basically go on like a month-long Moebius strip if you’re truly hungry enough.
To quote the great Rudy Ray Moore, “Romance without finance is a nuisance!”
But, still, there is always that burning need to love and be loved. My brother, if you can believe it, is probably even more destitute than I am—they actually named a wing of the plasma clinic after him—but, since he is traditionally handsome and indigently muscular, no matter what, he will always have a girlfriend to give him that emotional nurturing and romantic illusionment that gives one the will to live on no matter what their circumstances are.
I, however, am classically Dom DeLuise-ish and have accepted I will die alone and deservedly so.
Those of us who live under the poverty level typically cash in their chips around 65 or so, even younger if you’re a minority. Chances are many of us are so busy trying to live in the present that even thinking about down the road is an utterly useless task. If we are lucky, hopefully someone will come forward and pay the funeral director the city has tasked with handling our body a couple of hundred bucks for a cremation, the ashes left to be thrown in the garbage can and the fact we were ever here completely forgotten by history.
But, as bleak as all this sounds, don’t cry for me Oklahoma City—I am truly one of the lucky ones. At least I have a warm-ish home and enough food to get by until the next freelance check. There are many in the Metro, however, who don’t even have that. In Oklahoma City, there are so many homeless people, so many sick and infirmed living on barely any SSI, and families with children living out of their car—so many people are living far worse lives than I do and, in that respect, I consider myself absolutely blessed by the right hand of God himself and thank Him everyday for the blessings I do have. We all should.
It can always be worse.
As a matter of fact, the only thing that I honestly, truly worry about is this here decade-old laptop, the thing that I write all of these wholly hilarious TLO lamentations on, finally going the way of the Univac. Then I will truly be screwed but, you know, I’m sure I’ll cockroach my way out of that somehow too. ¡Cómpralo Ya!
Maybe a writer from the Oklahoman can spend a day walking in my shoes? Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.
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