When left to my own devices on a long, lonely, much too quiet Saturday night, I start house hunting. I'm not sure what the origin of this house lust is. I've never dreamt of making some huge profit on a home, just buying it, paying it off as quickly as possible, and then having it to live in until I die. It's a harmless enough fantasy at the moment; I know far too well I probably won't be in any position to buy for at least a decade, but if daydreaming about houses keeps me putting my spare cash into savings instead of buying junk, it's a net positive.
Interestingly, the prices of houses I daydream about buying keep getting smaller. A year ago I contemplated a tiny house for $75,000, not so much because I wanted it as because I wanted to know what it would cost to live in my parent's neighborhood. Last I checked, the charming brick place in the town where I'm stationed is still for sale by owner for $60,000. The latest fantasy is an 840 square foot cabin on 1.37 wooded acres near my old hometown for a mere $35,000.
This is probably the least practical house as well. It's a cute little barn red A-frame built in 1975. It'd serve well enough for me, a dog, and perhaps a couple of cats, but not so much if I ever end up with someone else. The house has electricity and public water, but, even though I occasionally entertain Mother Earth News-fueled daydreams of dropping out and living off the land, I suspect I'd quickly tire of chopping wood to keep the place warm in the winter after the novelty of sowing my transcendental wild oats wore off. Plus, well, even if I can "afford" it now, in a couple of years it'd be a financial disaster. Paying for a house I couldn't live in while making a grad student stipend would probably break the budget.
Never mind all that and the fact that I probably couldn't get a mortgage in today's economy, I still decided to play with some online calculators. (What can I say? My roommate was spending the weekend with her boyfriend, I was alone with the dog, and we don't have television. How else would a 22 year old fill an idle Saturday night?) So now I know that if I were a proper grown up, with more credit records and an employment history stretching back somewhat longer than August, I could probably buy an entire house with a 15 year fixed rate mortgage for substantially less each month than my roommate will be putting toward student loans on a 20 year repayment schedule.