How To Tip, When To Tip: Helpful Tipping Rules

Wondering how to tip and when to tip? Here are some helpful tipping rules to give you some guidance.

Once I met a British girl who ate at a certain restaurant daily, but only tipped once a week. She couldn’t understand why the waiters were so surly to her on the other six days. During the holidays, it’s hard for me to remember whom I should tip and how much to give out, so I’ve decided to review these guidelines for tipping.

How To Tip At Establishments

At restaurants, I check the menu to see if a gratuity’s included in the check. If not, I try to leave 15% to 20% of the bill. I’ve heard the rule of thumb that you can take the sales tax and double it, but since tax rates vary from city to city, it would be easier to just stick with the percentages. Luckily for me, my cell phone has a tip calculator built in!

Although I don’t go out for coffee or drinks often, if I encounter a tip jar, I’ll give a dollar or more based on the amount of my order. For food deliveries, I’ll tip at least a few dollars, but larger orders incur a bigger tip. And I was more generous with the pizza delivery person who ventured out during a storm when I didn’t want to pick up my order. Hopefully, I didn’t end up as a chapter in Waiter Rant. 🙂

How To Tip For Personal Services

Salon Service Providers: When my family members go out for haircuts, they’ll generally tip around 10% or more depending on where they go. As a holiday bonus, they might want to just double the cost of their salon service. During the holidays, a neighbor brings a gift that costs around $15 to $20 to her manicurist, but I’m sure the same amount in cash would be appreciated.

Child Care Providers: For child care workers like those at daycare facilities and in-home babysitters, parents I know have given cash as well as nice gifts. Something from or gift certificates offering great restaurant discounts may also work. Some parents may even try to give an extra week’s pay or paid time off. In addition, it would be nice to have the kids personalize a card or let them pick out a small gift as well.

School Personnel: I’m not sure about the school’s policy on cash gifts for teachers; instead, I’d opt for either a modest gift or even a gift card to or a place like The gift card idea would also work for the bus drivers and drivers in the car pool who transport our children.

Gym Workers: What about workers at the gym or personal trainers? For some, it might be helpful to share an amount equal to a month’s membership fee. If that amount’s a bit steep, try a lower amount. Consult the management or fellow patrons if you’re unsure what’s appropriate.

Postal Workers: Our area sees a different postal worker on our route each week, so I hesitate to share a cash tip with someone I don’t know. Your situation might be different, but I’ll probably end up sharing a food gift instead, this year.

Tips While Traveling

On my last trip out of town, it seemed to take a dozen people to get me settled in. At the airport and hotel, I tipped the people who handled my luggage at least a few dollars per bag. Cabbies and drivers always seem amenable to a reasonable amount over the fare. According to one tipping guide, you can tip doormen at the end of your stay, but you might find better service if you tip a concierge in the beginning. At the last hotel I visited, the housekeeping staff seemed to change each day, so it may be better to leave a tip every day.

Traveling out of the country? Don’t be like my British acquaintance — do your homework before you attempt to tip anyone. You don’t want to tip too little if you’re unfamiliar with the currency, and you don’t want to inadvertently insult someone if tipping isn’t part of their culture. For example, if you’re headed to Hong Kong, check out a guidebook like Frommer’s Hong Kong before you go.

tipping, tip jar
Photo by Matthew Oliphant.

A Handy Tipping Guide

For even more information on tipping, check out this tipping guide from the Emily Post Institute:

  • Au pair or live-in nanny, one week’s pay and a gift from your child.
  • Regular babysitter, one evening’s pay and a small gift from your child.
  • Day care provider, a gift from you or $25-$70 for each staff member and a small gift from your child(ren).
  • Live-in help (nanny, cook, butler, housekeeper), one week to one month of pay as a cash tip, plus a gift from you.
  • Private nurse, a thoughtful gift from you.
  • Housekeeper/cleaner, up to the amount of one week’s pay and/or a small gift.
  • Nursing home employees, a gift that could be shared by the staff (flowers or food items).
  • Barber, cost of one haircut or a gift.
  • Beauty salon staff, give individual cards or a small gift each for those who work on you.
  • Personal trainer, up to the cost of one session or a gift.
  • Massage therapist, up to the cost of one session or a gift.
  • Pet groomer, up to the cost of one session or a gift.
  • Dog walker, up to one week’s pay or a gift.
  • Personal caregiver, between one week’s to one month’s salary or a gift.
  • Pool cleaner, the cost of one cleaning to be split among the crew.
  • Garage attendants, $10-$30 or a small gift.
  • Newspaper delivery person, $10-30 or a small gift.
  • Mail carrier, small gift only.
  • Superintendent, $20-80 or a gift.
  • Doorman, $15-$80. $15 or more each for multiple doormen, or a gift.
  • Elevator operator, $15-$40 each.
  • Handyman, $15 to $40.
  • Yard/Garden worker, $20-$50 each or a gift.
  • Teachers, a gift (not cash).
  • Wait service (sit down) 15-20% pretax.
  • Wait service (buffet service) $1 to $2 per person or 10%.
  • Host, no obligation, $10-$20 on occasion, if you are a regular patron.
  • Takeout, no obligation, 0-10% if the person went above normal service.
  • Bartender, $1 to $2 per drink or 15-20% of tab.
  • Tipping jars, no obligation but tip occasionally if you are a regular or if the person went above normal service.
  • Restroom attendant, 50 cents-$3, depending on service.
  • Coatroom attendant, $1 to $2 per coat checked.
  • Valet, $2-$5.
  • Skycap, $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag.
  • Housekeeper, $2-$5 per day, left daily.
  • Concierge, $5 for tickets or reservations, $10 if hard to get; no need to tip for answering questions.
  • Taxi driver, 15% plus an extra $1-$2 if helped with bags.
  • Hairdresser, 15-20%, ask to be split among those who served you.
  • Manicurist, 15-20%.
  • Facial, waxing, massage, 15-20%.

Also, has an eye-opening roundup as does Get Rich Slowly. Martha Stewart also has some tipping advice that includes an amusing tip-o-meter to print out.

Despite the fact that a lot of us feel that our holiday budgets are pinched, it benefits everyone when we reward good service with tips. The next time you draft a holiday spending plan, don’t forget to add tips to your budget.

3 thoughts on “How To Tip, When To Tip: Helpful Tipping Rules”

  1. As a personal trainer I have received tips frequently. There doesn’t appear to be a “set” amount. The greater the value of my service, the higher a tip I receive. It’s just like with any other service; if you don’t give the customer what he/she wants, you don’t get tipped.

  2. Pingback: Cook At Home, Red Lentil Soup

  3. I have absolutely no problem with rewarding someone for doing an outstanding job or going above and beyond. The problem is that recently I have found that many people just expect tips, and do not plan on putting in any effort to earn them. I do not want to generalize because I know that a lot of people work hard for their tips, but its just that I have seen so many random people put up tip jars in places or situations where a tip is not needed.

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