Take a look at this amusing, yet (in my opinion) educative article. It talks about how, long before it became fashionable to be "earth-friendly" and "environmentally responsible" (both of which I applaud and try to implement), people were thrifty, creative recyclers and stretchers of budget, simply in order to thrive during the tough times.
"I turn empty tissue boxes into space shoes for kids. I'm the one who thaws the frozen foods next to the boiling tea kettle, who warms my lunch on the hot dashboard of my car instead of in the microwave. I bucket brigade my bathwater to the rose bushes. I invented and patented a valve that allows one to irrigate gardens with used shower water. Like my father, I'm a toothpaste squeezer, brushing with the last dregs of elusive paste throttled from the very corners of the tube."
Often, when I talk about our choices of frugal life, I'm asked, "and can't you, indeed, afford this, that and the other thing..?" - it shows how much definitions of "can afford" and "can't afford" vary. Some people will only make a major purchase if they can pay for it in cash. Others will consider taking a limited loan which they can return within a reasonable amount of time. And some will say they "can afford it" if their bank will allow a loan high enough to cover the cost of the purchase - without ever considering how they will pay their debt off.
So, when someone who just bought a nice big apartment in an expensive location, and signed up for being in debt for the next twenty years of their life asks us, "can't you afford this?", I think to myself - you'd say we can. We say we can't.
Furthermore, even if we can afford something, it doesn't mean we will buy it. We will consider how much we really need it (as silly as I feel for pointing this out, this wasn't always obvious to me). Perhaps we'll decide that, even though buying this or that wouldn't put us under financial strain, we'd better direct our money elsewhere. It's all a matter of priorities.
For example, tithing. We are taught to give away ten percent of our income, but many people say they can't afford to do that. Indeed, some are poor - but let's think, in the last month, did I buy something I don't strictly need? If I could afford that item, I can afford to give a similar amount of money to charity. I try to remind this to myself whenever I'm asked to make a modest donation, right after I bought a "treat" for myself.