Sustained Finances

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Community, Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Jennifer Gooden, Organic Gardening, Tips | Posted on 17-10-2008


by Jennifer Gooden

I, like everyone else it seems, have spent more time than usual thinking about the economy over the past few weeks. As I write (Monday 10/13), the stock market is rallying after a week of freefall, and photos of i-bankers looking relieved abound on internet news sites. 

I wish I could share their optimism. Instead, I think further tough times are on the horizon, so I have turned to two sources for advice: Bob Waldrop, an admired local advocate and fellow Fresh Greens blogger, and the Survival Podcast, a resource to “help you live the life you want, if times get tough, or even if they don’t.” Since financial stability is essential to sustainability and self-sufficiency, I thought I would pass along the advice I have gleaned from these sources.


Bob Waldrop, known to many interested in sustainability in Oklahoma, has become a trusted source for many in our region. We’re lucky to have him. Bob’s publications are charming in their old-fashioned wisdom, and his messages of frugality and compassion are more important than ever in our current environment. 

I found the Survival Podcast a few weeks ago and have become a fan. While I disagree with the author on some key issues (particularly climate change and politics), I have found the podcast to be a good source of information about practical planning and preparedness. Over the past two weeks, listening to the podcast has become part of my regular routine.

The Recipe

I find it reassuring that multiple sources, based on different perspectives, point to the same solutions for prosperity in times good and bad. In a nutshell, here’s the recipe for financial sustainability:

1.    Curb spending. Keep track of all expenditures for a month or two, and evaluate what can be cut without forfeiting your quality of life. 

2.    Eliminate debt.  Pay off all debt, and enjoy the freedom that comes from being in the black. The Survival Podcast lauds Dave Ramsey’s “debt snowball” strategy. I concur.   

3.    Keep three months of food in the house. On Bob’s advice, I have been purchasing extra flour and grain from the Oklahoma Food Coop every month, which I use to make bread.  Following Jack’s advice, I have added a variety of grains, legumes, pastas, and canned and frozen vegetables to my stored food. I eat a lot of these foods anyway, so I just buy extra when I go to the store. I find that having an abundance of food in my household makes it more fun to cook and pushes me to try new recipes. 

4.    Grow a garden. I began with the principles of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening and went my own way from there. Anticipating even greater demand for the food coop’s limited fresh veggies next year, I recently added four new garden beds; one is planted with fall greens while three are lasagna gardens, which trick worms into doing the hard work for me. 

5.    Build community. Both of my sources emphasize that it is difficult to build trust during times of crisis. The time to get to know your neighbors is now.

I would be interested to hear what strategies others are following to prepare for uncertainties in the future. If you have more “ingredients” to add to the recipe above, post a comment to let us know what is working for you.

Comments (8)

I would add – save up 3 – 6 months of expenses – in savings account or CD’s only. Many people have the money, but it’s all tied up in 401K’s or mutual funds with nothing immediately accessible, and it’s all subject to market risk.

I think it helps also to make a budget. This seems like a no-brainer, but I talk to people all the time who don’t have them. It’s no wonder people spend more than they make when they don’t know how much they’re spending. It takes about half an hour to make an Excel spreadsheet and five minutes to enter receipts each night.
My wife and I even budget a little bit of personal spending money for ourselves each month, which helps make the whole thing feel like less restricting.

love the ideas you’ve gleaned — being in the world with advertising at every turn aimed at enforcing the culture of consumerism makes these challenging times — finding balance between inaction and hysteria or paralyzing fear of the unknown we’ve found it useful to be open to a variety of perspectives, conscious, aware and thoughtful in planning and responses — and I couldn’t agree more — working cooperatively for the common good, moving together toward building resilient communities will create many opportunities for joyful abundance for all!

Thanks for the great input.
A shared community spirit is what we should all strive for. I do all the above you listed, plus I stockpile whatever I can when it is available, including fuel, building materials, organic matter for my garden, seeds, for example.
Since i’m a solo builder/gardener, I build ‘work credits’ with my new neighbor/s. I have been helping my neighbor build his green house, chicken tractor and well house. He in turn is helping me build my green house, garden and what other project I pursue. On Sunday I was lucky enough to have 3 helpers, so was able to get a couuple of projects done that would have been inpossible by myself. So now we have 2 more in our ‘work credit’ circle. I believe work credit used to be called neighbor helping neighbor. Somehow we have lost that great resource in this consumer society. Many of the old skills and social attitudes are about to make a welcome comeback in our lives. blog on

I have purchased a large dump bed farm truck for hauling organic matter to my garden, and am selling my smaller pickup. The truck has a dump bed, so less labor on me, but…………here’s the good part, my same neighbor is paying the insurance, tag, 1/2 of maintenance, tires, etc. So I have upgraded my hauling capacity, for basically less money than I was spending. So, share a vehicle with your neighbors if possible.

I remember reading Wendell Berry’s The Memory of Old Jack and being astounded at the fact that these farm families just went from one family’s field to the next during harvest, as a matter of course. It was remarkable to me how unremarkable it was in the minds of the books characters. That’s just not something I ever got growing up in the suburbs despite having two of the most generous, outwardly focused parents on earth. I’m not sure exactly how we can get back to that when young people like me have no frame of reference for such neighborliness.

I grew up at rural route 4 in Leedey Oklahoma, and before mechanised farming took over, neighborliness was the way we, as a community lived. Everyone’s success was important to YOUR success. I remember one year when my Uncle became ill and couldn’t harvest his wheat, w/in 2 days, everyone in the community showed up to harvest and put up all of his wheat crop, then came back and plowed all his fields. He didn’t even have to ask. Rarely do I hear people say, “if you need help, let me know”. My 2 neighbors and I now have that. it’s great….

What a great idea, marry the causes of personal finance with sustainability. I agree with the foundations of having a reserve (of cash and food) and paying off all debt. The debt snowball is the best method I have found for paying off debt quickly. This post explains two approaches to the debt snowball: