Back to the Promised Land: On RoadTrip 2018, living it up in OKC

Elle bribes Rusty to pose for a picture.

Oklahoma City finds its way onto lots of “most affordable” lists — it was the 7th-cheapest large city in American for rentals last year, for example, when one bedroom apartments averaged $631. 

There’s plenty of reasons why. An important one: It’s in Oklahoma. And people think Oklahoma is hot, and kind of boring.


When Rusty and I crossed America this summer, OKC made it right near the top on our list of places we can’t wait to revisit.  Yes, it was hot. But Bricktown is bustling with fun; the way minor-league baseball is built into the neighborhood is among the best urban designs I’ve seen.   Friendly brew pubs are everywhere.  The city’s night life is actually night life – my hotel bar was open until 2 a.m.  The place is far more manageable than Dallas or other large middle-of-the-country cities.  And the OKC bombing memorial is perhaps the most touching I’ve ever visited.

On this trip, I was lucky enough to visit with Elle Adkins, who I’d profiled three years ago as part of my “Promised Land” series.   Back then, she was working her way through a divorce and the situation was really complicating her finances.  She had moved to a suburb with good schools for her son, but was paying above-market $900 in rent, and was struggling to make ends meet on her $41,000-a-year accounting job.

She still was bullish on Oklahoma City, however.

Rusty and I interviewed her at a brew pub just outside downtown.

Today, it seems that spirit has been rewarded.  After really trimming back her expenses, she was able to save a good chunk of money and pay off the remainder of her student loan.  Then this past December, she was able to buy a new home. Here’s what she told me about her life in Oklahoma City.

“I would clarify making ends meet was only a problem because of my ex-husband’s $1400-a-month student loan payment. There were 1 or 2 smaller ones and my own student loan of 300/month, which I now have paid on in December.

“I would also add that I’m very optimistic about Oklahoma. It can offer a good life because housing cost is low and income moderate. There is always room for improvement and I think if you take a drive around the metro you would be hard pressed to find an area that isn’t doing just that.  They are putting in a streetcar system. There’s lots of new construction. We have the Devon tower improving our skyline to the tune of 52 stories. I’m not bragging, but OKC isn’t too shabby. I still want to move (three years ago, she said she’d prefer to live near Seattle, where some of her family live.)
“People are friendly. Mostly mild winters and this year a surprisingly sleepy tornado season. It’s just the summers that will get you.
“I would like to add my financial perspective. I think life is about choices. In your 2015 story you wrote that we were having trouble making ends meet. Well, it was a choice to live in a better school district. And many other choices. Home internet. Expensive coffee. Ridiculous cell phone plans and rates. I stopped eating out except on Friday paydays. So only twice a month. Stopped buying apps. Stopped buying a number of things. Changed they way I eat. I used to  make new recipes all the time.
“One dish would be Asian, one Mexican, one American…. and I spent so much in ingredients that I never used again.  So much waste!!! Not to mention also money waste. So now I cook middle eastern food (mostly Persian) have a limited number of ingredients I buy at the store and everything always gets used up. It’s way more efficient.
“And this is how I got out of debt.
1. I got a divorce
2. Turned off internet (although I do get Netflix in the mail DVD 13$/month)
3. Cooked my meals at home
4. Stick with the same recipes and or region where the recipes come from (so you don’t have a lot of left over/unused ingredients)
“I did buy a house in December. So I saved enough for my down payment, paid off my credit cards and student loans. I just started making better choices. You’d be surprised just how much less you can live with.”

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About Bob Sullivan 1648 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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