This article is by staff writer J.D. Roth.

[Editorial note: There is a lot of confusion over how much to tip and to whom. What should be a simple decision is often clouded by cultural mores and traditions. The desire to acknowledge the service you've been given is a personal choice, largely a measure of the value you attribute to the service -- perhaps even a reflection of your own values.

The concern around tipping stems from the need to get it right -- offer too little, and you run the risk of offending someone; offer too much, and you needlessly impact your budget. Plus, there’s actually significant disagreement about how much to tip for even common services. So we went back to simplify and update one of J.D. Roth's original articles on the subject since the holiday season is full of opportunities to acknowledge the service of others.]

“Tip: (noun) — a small present of money given directly to someone for performing a service or menial task; gratuity” — Dictionary.com

Food Service


It’s common knowledge that you should tip your waitress. But how much should you leave?

Some people claim that 10 percent is adequate; others believe that 20 percent is standard. But a majority of us learned to tip 15 percent, and to give more for exceptional service. (The Wikipedia entry on tipping contains the rather bizarre statement that “18% is generally accepted as a standard tip for good service.”) So which is it?

Barista chatting with customer

Service

Tip Suggestion

Comment

Barista

None

Many people suggest putting coins in the tip jar.

Bartender

15% of total bill or $1/drink

Pre-tip for better service

Delivery Person (including pizza)

10%

$2 minimum

Maitre d’

$5

(… up to $25 for special effort)

Takeout

None

None

Waiter

15% for adequate service

20% for exceptional service. For poor service, leave 10% or less.

General holiday tipping guidelines


  • Holiday tipping is never required. Even when it’s the social norm, you shouldn’t tip if you can’t afford it or you don’t feel the person deserves it.
  • Tipping tends to be more common (and on a larger scale) in big cities than in small towns. The best way to determine the etiquette in your area is to ask around.
  • In general, you should consider giving a holiday tip to the folks who take care of your home and family, especially those you see often. The more often you see someone and the longer you’ve known them, the more you should tip. (Someone who works in your home regularly — such as a housekeeper — usually expects a tip.)
  • For personal services like manicures, massages, pet grooming, and fitness training, tip up to the cost of one session, but only if you see the same person regularly. For example, if you get a $60 massage every six weeks, your holiday tip should be about $60.
  • Public servants are not allowed to accept cash tips in the U.S., but it’s acceptable to give a non-cash gift of up to $20. You might give a plate of cookies to your mail carrier, for example, or a book or a gift certificate to your child’s teacher.
  • When you give a tip, include a card or a hand-written note thanking the person for their service.
  • If you tip cash, crisp new bills make a better impression than old wrinkly ones.

Home Care Service


Here’s a list of people who often receive holiday tips and what they typically receive:

Mail carrier delivering mail

Service

Tip Suggestion

Comment

Babysitter or Nanny

One week’s pay

None

Housekeeper

One week’s pay

None

Building Superintendent

$20 – $100

It varies. Some people think this helps to keep a harmonious relationship with the super.

Doorman

Holiday gift

Bottle of wine

Furniture Deliverer

$5 – $20

It varies. Some people recommend offering cold drinks.

Garbage Collector

$15

(… up to $25 for special effort)

Gardener

One week’s pay

None

Mail Carrier

$15

(… up to $20 non-cash.)

Newspaper Delivery Person

$15 to $25

(… up to $25 for exceptional service.)

Personal Care


Woman at the shampoo bowl

Service

Tip Suggestion

Comment

Babysitter

One week’s pay

It varies. Don’t pay this for one-time babysitting.

Barber or Hairstylist

10-15% or 15-20%

Some people recommend $5 to each person who shampoos or blow-dries your hair, and others recommend up to the cost of one visit for the holidays.

Coat checker

$1 per coat

It varies. Some people recommend $2 to $5 upon retrieval.

Home Health Employee, Private Nurse or Personal Caregiver

(… up to a week’s salary)

Check with the agency as some prohibit gifts.

Manicurist

15%

None

Masseuse

10%-15%

None

Nanny

One week’s pay

None

Personal Trainer or Yoga Instructor

$20-$50

Tip discreetly.

Shoe Shiner

$2 or $3

None

Spa Service

15-20%

None

Office Service


Office building janitorial staff

Service

Tip Suggestion

Comment

Janitor

$15-$25

None

Parking Attendant

$15-$25

None

Travel


Tipping the skycap

Service

Tip Suggestion

Comment

Bus Driver (not mass transit)

$1-$2

(… if he handles luggage.)

Cab Driver

10%

($2-$5 minimum)

Chauffer

10%-15%

None.

Gas Station Attendant

None

(or $2 -$4 – there’s no agreement on tips).

Porter or Skycap

$1 per bag

(… $2 for heavy items, if the porter brings luggage to counter)

Hotel Staff


Service

Tip Suggestion

Comment

Bellman or Porter

$1-$2 per bag, $5 minimum

Or $1 per bag, $2 minimum

Concierge

$5

(… up to $20 for something exceptional; nothing for directions.)

Housekeeper

$2-$5 per night, paid daily or as a lump sum at checkout

Most suggest you tip daily.

Parking Valet

$2-$5 paid when your car is retrieved

Some say to pay when it’s parked too.

Room Service

$5 minimum

(unless the gratuity is included in check)


Most of these relate to holiday tipping, but some suggestions are appropriate any time of year. Of course, giving a tip is an individual decision. J.D. Roth used to tip the barber extra if he got to hear an entertaining story about Vietnam or histrionic political rants. What influences you to give a larger or smaller tip? Do you have any suggestions to add?

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, GE Capital Bank, and more.

484 Comments