What Does If You Have To Ask, You Can’t Afford It Mean?

If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It Meaning

Definition: If you need to ask the price of an item, you probably can’t afford to buy it.

People use this to describe extremely expensive commodities such as luxury cars, yachts, or private planes. The idea behind it is that if a person is concerned with the cost, it means the person is not rich enough to own an item.

Origin of If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It

This quote is frequently attributed to J.P. Morgan. Morgan was an American financier who was famous for his business prowess and being rich. Allegedly, he said this quote to another banker who was enquiring about the cost of a yacht.

Research into whether or not Morgan actually said these words failed to produce any evidence. However, it seems he did say something similar, although he used slightly different wording.

Examples of If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It

define if you have to ask you cant afford itThis example shows two coworkers who are discussing a third coworker’s designer handbag.

Regina: Did you see Judy’s Louis Vuitton purse?

Ginny: Yes! It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?

Regina: Well, of course. But she is so stuck up about it. I liked it a lot, and I’ve been saving money for a long time to be able to buy a nice designer bag of my own. Anyway, I was just trying to be friendly, and I asked her if she thought I could afford it. She was so rude! She told me, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Can you believe that?

Ginny: Oh, don’t listen to her. Buy one if you want one.

Reggie: Actually, she was right. I looked up the price. I can’t afford it.

cant afford it phraseIn this example, two friends are talking about a famous singer who bought a private plane.

Kevin: I’m so jealous that he has his own plane. He’s not even that popular. If he can afford his own plane, maybe I can too. How much do you think that would cost?

Steve: I’m not sure, but I’m thinking that if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

Kevin: You’re probably right.

More Examples

This excerpt is about how much it costs for gas for the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso.

  • As for fuel economy, it’s a little like the question about how much it costs to maintain a yacht: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. –LA Times

This excerpt is from an article about an art gallery that is closing.

  • The price tag on Proscenium? Miller won’t say, but let’s assume if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. –Democrat and Chronicle


The expression if you have to ask, you can’t afford it is a famous quote attributed to J.P. Morgan.

People use it to say that something is so expensive that if you even wonder whether or not you can afford it, you can’t.