If you can afford something you’ve got enough money to pay for it or you can borrow that money and eventually pay it back without putting you in the poorhouse and without forcing you to forgo any of the true necessities of life.
Hint: video games and television sets don’t count as true necessities of life.
There are no poorhouses in most countries these days, but I’m sure you get the point. A poorhouse was a place maintained with tax funds where the indigent were kept. It was like a jail to lock up people who committed the crime of being poor and not paying off their debts.
Come to think of it, a poorhouse is not all that different from a government-funded homeless shelter, except it’s mostly voluntary and failure to pay your debts isn’t required to put you there. Whether you blame that on homeless people themselves, our economic systems, or possibly some combination of the two depending on the individual involved and the current economic policies is contingent on whether you are a capitalist, socialist or liberal.
In a completely different meaning, afford also means to provide. For example, one might say, “his job afforded him the necessities of life and then some.” Of course, if that were the case for everyone then the question of homelessness and the affordability of the necessities of life would never have come up in the discussion of the other definition of afford.
Fight among yourselves on the politics of this entry.