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Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of jokes and memes about “guilt tipping,” or the social pressure to leave a tip for service workers. And sure, it’s a bit ridiculous to be prompted to leave a tip when tapping to pay for services like using the self-checkout (who am I tipping?), or when paying for something at a gas station or corner store. But when it comes to the people who are actually providing you with a service—baristas and fast-casual servers among them—some seem incensed at the mere idea of being asked to tip, and especially to tip 20% or more.

Yes, 15% used to be “standard.” But even if you don’t think the quality of service warrants it, it’s time to adapt, and accept that a 20% tip is simply part of the equation when making certain purchases in 2024. Whether you’re annoyed on principle or truly concerned about the added cost, the simple fact is: Tip requests shouldn’t be that big a deal. And I am going to use some math to put them in perspective.

The cost of tipping your barista

According to Northwestern Mutual, 53% of Gen Zers and 52% of Millennials surveyed feel that making small, habitual purchases like a daily cup of coffee will impact their long-term financial security. But as I’ve previously argued, small indulgences (like a latte or a slice of that infamous avocado toast) are not by themselves going to make the difference between long-term financial security and a life of chronic debt. That also means that tips on those purchases aren’t going to doom you to a hardscrabble life.

Let’s say you buy a $5 cup of coffee. Twenty percent of $5 is another $1. If you can afford that latte in the first place, that extra dollar isn’t going to break the bank. It’s a small courtesy that can make a difference in someone’s day. And the same holds true for tipping your server at a restaurant, or tipping your Lyft driver, or many other situations where you are given the option to tip.

Part of being a more conscientious spender is understanding where your money is going. If you can’t afford to factor in a 20% tip into your total cost, then you cannot afford the service. And if you’re so bothered by the principle of tipping that you refuse on ideological grounds, you might as well be wearing a shirt that says, “I’ve never had to work a service job!

Who you should tip (and how much)

From a personal finance perspective, there’s no good excuse for neglecting 20% tips for the services you’ve built into your budget. But who should you be tipping? Here’s a refresher to help answer that, as well as figure out how much you should be tipping.

When and how much to tip servers, baristas, and restaurant staff

  • Picking up from a restaurant: When you order from a diner or restaurant for pickup, a 10% tip will do.

  • Buffet: Tip 10% of the total pre-tax bill.

  • Delivery person: Most of us know to tip food delivery people, who often use their own cars; however, should you tip a dollar amount or a percentage? Both: Consumer Reports says to tip 20% of the bill, or $3-5—whichever is higher. And do it in cash, please.

  • Supermarket bagger: Many grocery store baggers aren’t permitted to accept tips.

How much to tip for home-related services

  • Building supervisor: An annual holiday tip of $75 to $175 is advisable.

  • The cable guy: No need to tip, though offering them a drink is nice.

  • Home service providers (e.g., electrician, plumber, lawn service): No need to tip.

  • Exterminator: Because this can vary by area, call the company before you get service done to ask what’s normal.

  • Home contractors: If the contractors do work outside of what’s normally expected, go ahead and tip 20%.

  • Furniture/appliance delivery person: $5-20 per person, depending on the size and complexity of the delivery. (Check to make sure this isn’t already included on your bill.)

  • Flower delivery person: $2-5, or up to $10 if the plant is heavy or large. If the delivery is for an event (like a wedding), kick in a little extra.

How much to tip for car-related services

  • Gas station fill-up person: No tip is necessary if you’re in the last lonely state where you can’t pump your own gas. If you’re in one of the other 49 states and you’ve chosen to use a gas station with an attendant, tip $2-3.

  • Mechanic: No tip needed.

  • Tow truck: $5 to $10 if they help you when you’re locked out; $3 to $5 for a jump start/tire change; $5 or more for a tow.

  • Parking attendant/valet: $1 to $2. If you’re assisted regularly by this person (like at your garage at work), th tip $1-2 per day.

How much to tip for travel-related services

  • Concierge: $5 to $10 for reservations.

  • Hotel housekeeping: $2 to $5 a night. (Leave the tip in a clearly marked envelope.)

  • Bellhop or airport skycap: $1 a bag, or more if it’s heavy.

  • Rental car shuttle driver: $1 or $2 per bag if they help with your luggage.

How much to tip for entertainment-related and miscellaneous services

  • Theater/arena usher: It’s not customary to tip ushers, but $1-$5 would be appropriate if you do want to tip.

  • Camp counselors: Depends on the camp. Some camps don’t let their counselors take tips, while others will send parents a letter with recommended tip amounts (e.g., $1 a day). When in doubt, call the camp to find out.

  • Children’s party entertainers: $15-$25, depending on the performance.

  • Dog walker: Provide a holiday tip at the end of the year, in an amount of up to a week’s pay.

  • Tattoo artist: 15% is the minimum, and 20% is the norm.

  • Hairdresser/colorist: Tip 20% of your total—and bring cash, as salons won’t always allow you to tip on a card.

If you are in doubt about whether or how much to tip, ask in advance. For service workers living on tight margins, these couple dollars make a real difference. Don’t be cheap, and tip your service people. Being asked to do so should not be a source of outrage to you, and it sure can make a difference to the person out there trying to earn a living.

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