If you haven’t heard this before, here is what “*Tanstaafl” means: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If you think about it, just about everything needs to be paid for in one way or another. Even when someone assures you that “it won’t cost a cent,” there is always a price tag. Here are some examples:
The Ubiquitous Business Lunch: your boss insists on picking up the tab, saying “hey guys, it’s on me.” Well, that’s very nice of the boss to foot the bill. However, don’t be surprised when that same boss asks you to stay late to finish a project or two.
The Friend Who Invites You to Dinner: the friend calls you just as you are leaving your house, and asks you to pick up a “few things” on your way. This can mean anything from them asking you to buy an expensive bottle of wine, or pick up three people who were also invited (but of course you didn’t know that in the first place).
The Old Pal Who is Moving Out of His Apartment: the “old pal” of yours has asked if you can help him move. He says that his brother will be there with his truck and all you have to do is just put some of the “lighter items” in the truck, as there will be “other guys” to handle the heavy stuff. Well, behold and lo, when you get there; surprise! There are no “other guys” to do the heavy lifting. Guess who ends up doing it all and goes home with a sore back? And so it goes.
When we hear presidential hopefuls promising this, that or the other thing, I have to wonder this: who is going to pay for all this? I’m not sure if parents are telling their kids what I was told when I was a child: “you don’t get something for nothing. There is always a price to pay.” Hence the term, Tanstaafl.
“TANSTAAFL.” It stands for “There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.” Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein popularized the acronym in his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.