It's a luxury we can't afford


Senior Member
Hello everyone,

It's a luxury we can't afford, means it's something expensive or hard to obtain, that we can't take care of, or spend time for it?

Here, Judge who has lost his dog, went to an officer, to ask for finding her. But since it's a very bad political situation in India; riots, so many people have been killed, the officer refused helping him.

"My dear sir," he said to the judge, "I am fond of animals myself, but in these times... it's a luxury we can't afford-"

It's part of Inheritance of Loss, a novel by Kiran Desai.
Many thanks.
  • Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    When someone has a "luxury" item it usually infers that they are so well off that they can afford such things.

    That being said, this is a very common and idiomatic phrase you are asking about.

    In times of hardship, luxuries cannot be counted on and often are not something we can have.

    The judge is telling the man that since there is so much rioting and killing, the police are extremely busy. They do not have time to look for his dog (the time to look for his dog is the "luxury" here) when more important matters need to be addressed.

    Therefore, looking for the dog is a "luxury" that the police department cannot "afford".


    Senior Member
    English - US
    In this case "luxury" means something not essential for survival.

    This set phrase is typically used to refer to something that was commonplace but which has become too difficult to obtain or keep due to circumstances.
    "Electric lights were a luxury we could not afford after the hurricane."

    It can also be applied to behaviors that are no longer practical.
    "Holding a door for a lady is a luxury you cannot afford when the building is on fire."
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