First of all the reasons for buying vs renting is that at least you are getting something for your money, you are making a long term investment. Should you chose to move in 5 years you'll have the money to do that if you own.
Yes you will be able to afford a condo for $144K making $42K a year, I purchased a $163K townhome (although I did put down over 35%) and at the time was making the same amount of money.
Renting an apartment you could easily be paying $1000 / month for a 2/2, however, for less than that you could be owning a 3/2 home or Condo, my mortgage payment is less than $800.00 per month and I own a 3/3 townhome with a garage. If you own a condo/townhome generally the garbage removal, the pool and other amenities including water are included in your HOA dues, these are paid monthly and you'll want to find out how much they are first before buying. You will be responsible for your own utilities such as gas, electric and cable, as you would be in an apartment, however, if you own you are responsible for your own property taxes which are paid annually not monthly and are tax deductible at the end of the year (if you put enough money down you can have the mortgage company escrow this for you each month so you wont' have to deal with it, they will also pay your annual tax bill).
Any Home Owners Association will take care of the landscaping the exterior of the building, all outside electrical costs, garbage removal, pool care and repair, they will maintain the roof and they will pay to paint the outside of the building along with the parking lot etc all these expenses are factored into your home owners dues each month with a small sum being put aside for capital expenses (roof, painting, parking lot reseal.) you will only be responsible for the interior of your unit along with your HVAC unit.
Basically if you live in an apartment at the end of 5 years you walk away with nothing to show for it; and you run the risk of the rent increasing yearly whereas if you have a fixed rate mortgage you will pretty much stay the same for many years with maybe only a slight variation depending on property tax increases.
I had a 2/2 condo in Florida that went from being valued at $58K to $150K in a span of two years, I sold and walked away with $112K in my pocket (talk about savings) I put a majority of that money into a new Townhome, I never would have had that if I'd rented.
Own your own place, there's nothing like owning your own home vs renting an apartment