It didn’t take long to realize that I wasn’t cut out for apartment living. I’m an introvert at heart, so being surrounded by neighbors on two sides, plus above and below, was a lot. The couple whose apartment abutted our bedroom wall fought nonstop, while the family upstairs had two rambunctious girls who would practice their gymnastics moves in the living room.
It was loud.
But the last straw was a “house” party in the apartment below ours that spilled out into the hallway and up the stairs into our hallway. When they rolled their eyes at my polite request to keep it down a little, I knew I was done.
I thought it would take me years to save up for a house of my own, but I was out of that apartment and into a house of my own after only eight months on that first — only — lease. Here’s how I did it.
Before diving into tips, there are a few things you should know about me. First, things happened fast for me the year I bought that house. I graduated college a few days after my twenty-second birthday, and I was about six weeks later. By the end of the summer I had moved several states away (to the less-than-thrilling apartment I would grow to hate) and started my first full-time teaching job.
I made $23,000 per year. My husband, an artist, made far less.
I had about $25,000 in student loan debt, which came to $234.42 a month (a number permanently seared into my memory). My husband, who wisely attended a state school, had no student loans. We both owned our beater cars outright as well, and carried no credit card debt.
Rent was about $700 per month.
I tell you this so you can see that we weren’t rich, though we did start life with a steady, if not stellar, income and a pretty clean slate when it came to debt.
Live Like You Have a Mortgage
When we woke up bleary-eyed the morning after our inconsiderate neighbors’ party, we started talking seriously about buying a house. We knew we definitely wanted to be homeowners, and now we were all in on accelerating our savings to make it happen ASAP.
To do this, our first step was to estimate what we would spend on a mortgage payment per month. We did some math with an online mortgage calculator based on interest rates at the time and average price of houses in neighborhoods we liked — but nothing that would be too far out of our league on the first go-around.
With that number sorted out, we took a look at what the monthly payment would be. In our case, that was about $1,200. That was almost twice as much as our rent, so we weren’t sure it was realistic to think we could afford that kind of cash outlay every month.