I think we in this country are getting ourselves into some big trouble, and the problem is related to the way we live, right down to our standard of living. Many of us are trying to maintain, or even bring about, an unrealistic standard by insisting on buying what we can’t afford. We’re spending money we don’t have.

Now I’m not going to use this post to rag on the current administration in Washington and complain about the national debt. I want to talk about something much closer to home: our homes themselves!

I understand that here in Minnesota we don’t pay the highest prices in the land for housing, not by a long shot. Yet the fact is that we are paying an incredibly high price for the amount of money the average person earns in this state. Here in Mankato contractors have been building houses like they’re going out of style! They’re all over the countryside around our little city. Every cornfield or beanfield near town has been bought up and new homes or condos built on it, and some of those houses aren’t your little 2- or 3-bedroom homes with 1 1/2 baths and a two-car garage that have been so common over the past 30 or 40 years. A great many of them are what used to be called mansions, with many of them priced so that only millionaires can afford them.

But we don’t have very many millionaires in Mankato, Minnesota. A few, but not many.

The problem is that a great many of the people here think they have to buy those new houses. They don’t make that kind of money. They have to hold down two or three full-time jobs to come close, and even then many can’t do it. Yet some of them just keep on trying.

In this morning’s Free Press there was an article that says the rate of foreclosures here in this county is up 77% for 2006 over the year 2005, and at the current rate 2007 will see a doubling of foreclosures in this county, which will be at least 4 times the number of foreclosures there were in 2005.

In other words, lots of people are losing their houses, and losing out on their own version of “the American Dream.”

The article was very timely for my wife and I, as we are currently looking at purchasing a foreclosed home that has been sitting empty for well over a year. We’re hoping to make a low offer on the house and get into it cheap. But we’re not holding our breath. The bank that owns the house right now will probably say no way, and we’ll say, “OK, then you can just sit on it.”

Do we need such a house? Well, it’s not a fancy house. It’s one of those 3-bedroom, single-car garage and no dining room houses that were so commonly built back in the 50s and 60s. It has a basement, which would give us a lot of storage space and some breathing room. It’s a nice, average house at what has become a ridiculous price.

What do we do if we can’t buy that house? There are options, chiefly staying in our paid-for mobile home or trading it in on a new one. We’ll survive. But there’s lots of people who need to learn how to handle their own money, because there are lots of houses out there that should be standing empty because nobody can afford to buy them.