What is affordable? Definition and examples

If something is affordable, its price is reasonable, it is inexpensive, most people can afford it. An affordable product or service is one that is within most people’s budget.

In this context, the word budget‘ means how much money somebody has available or put aside to purchase something. If a car costs $20,000 and my budget is $17,000, that car is $3,000 more than my budget.

The Collins Dictionary has the following definition of the term:

“If something is affordable, most people have enough money to buy it.”

If I say: “If we want golf to be popular in this country, it needs to become affordable,” I am saying that it is too expensive for most people. Perhaps golf club memberships are too expensive, or there are not enough council- or government-run golf courses. Put simply; it needs to become cheap enough for most people be able to afford it.

The term first appeared in the English language in 1804. At the time it meant “that one can spare.” In 1853, it acquired the meaning “that can be paid for.”

Affordable items
We often use the terms affordable housing, mobiles, drugs, or vaccines when we are talking about making them available to low-income families or consumers in low-income countries. 

Affordable – example

Let’s imagine that a travel agent gets a visit from a couple, Paul and Anne. Paul is a bus driver, and Anne works part-time cleaning offices. Their one child, Peter, is five years old.

They have never been abroad and would like to spend two weeks in another country. They would like somewhere sunny with a nice beach. The travel agent shows them a brochure of a spectacular hotel that has five swimming pools. It is right on the beach. A two-week package costs $3,000, including flights, airport transfers, and all meals.

Anne looks at Paul and says: “We need to find something more affordable.” What does she mean?

She is saying that she would like to look at cheaper options. The price, $3,000 is too high, they cannot afford it.

The agent asks her: “How much can you afford?” Anne answers: “Up to about $2,200.”

Affordable housing

In some countries, the term ‘affordable housing’ has a specific term. In the United Kingdom, for example, it means homes whose rents are lower than those on the market. The rents are lower because the government subsidizes them.

According to the UK Government:

“Affordable housing is social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices.”

In other countries, affordable housing simply means homes or accommodation that most people can afford. In the center of London, New York, Zurich, and Vancouver, for example, house prices and rents are very high. Most people who work downtown have to commute long distances because they cannot afford to live nearby. Therefore, we can say that in those cities there is not enough affordable housing downtown.

In most English-speaking countries, the term, when used with ‘housing,’ often refers to housing for low-income families.

The verb ‘to afford’ means to have enough money or spare cash to be able to pay for something.