Personal Finance

How to Tip in Every Situation

I’ve always said that every American should have to do a mandatory year working in the service industry. After working as a waitress for years myself, it’s appalling how some people find it unnecessary to leave gratuity for services others provide to them. When you’re watching your money, it’s understandable to get a little nervous about leaving big tips, but remember that generosity always comes back around – and having a ‘poor persons mentality’ is a fast track to staying in a shitty financial state. In case you’re simply unclear as to what are appropriate tipping standards, I’ve gone ahead and broken down how to tip in every situation:

Waiter: 17 – 20% is average. Less than 17% is only acceptable if they truly sucked (and keep in mind they could just be having a really crappy day. Empathize) Don’t be afraid to tip over 20% if they have gone above and beyond to ensure you have a good experience, and always tip on the full amount if something was taken off your bill.

  • Question: Should you tip on the tax?
    • On one hand: There’s no reason to tip on the tax. The restaurant doesn’t get to keep tax money. When gratuity is automatically included on a check for a large party, it’s added pretax.
    • On the other: When most servers total their sales at the end of the night, they include the tax in the amount. This “cash-out” amount determines how much they tip out to busboys, runners, and other staff members. By not tipping on tax, you’re stiffing them out of their fair share.
    • I say tip on the tax.
  • Question: When, if ever, is it acceptable to leave a bad tip? 
    • Never. Even if your server really, really screws up, the tip money is being distributed to multiple employees of the restaurant. If you’re unhappy with your server, it’s not fair to penalize the busboy, bartender, food runners, and other employees who depend on this money to make their living. If the server was truly awful, just be sure to say something to the manager.

Food Delivery: $2 – $3 is average. If it’s a huge order or they had to travel far, $4 – $5 is more appropriate.

Food Takeout: You can throw a buck or two, but generally not expected.

Bartender: $1/beer or $2/cocktail is average. If you’ve ordered a round of say, 4 drinks – $5-$6 is appropriate. Don’t forget to tip a couple bucks at open bars as well.

Barista: Loose change is average, $1 or more if they are just really excited about making your coffee.

Cab Driver: In NYC, I usually leave $1-$2. Rides to the airport usually $5 – $10. Other cities 10-15% seems to be average.

Valet: $2-$4 is average – tip when the car is returned.

Bellman: $2/bag or $5 min is average.

Hotel Toiletry/Towel Delivery: $2 is average.

Doorman: $50 – $100 for the holidays is average, but it depends on how many people are in your building (you may want to give more for a smaller building), and of course how many doormen you have.

Hair/Nail Stylist: 15 – 25% is average. Tip the person who shampoos/blowdrys your hair $5 – $10.

Furniture delivery people: $5 to even $10 per worker, depending on how heavy the item is.

Strippers at a bachelorette party: $100 – $200 in addition to the smaller motivational bills dispersed throughout performance.

Hopefully this clears up any questions that you may have had about proper tipping etiquette. Disagree with any of the above? Please share (and yes I’m aware that if Channing Tatum shows up at your bachelorette party you may end up spending your life savings).



  1. In Germany tips are usually way smaller.
    Most people just tip to the full euro or give no tip at all.
    If your bill is 2,90 Euro, you give the waiter 3 Euro and say: “Stimmt so”.
    If you pay at a counter you usually give no tip at all.
    Usually only waiters are being tiped.
    When I give 5 Euro to my hairdresser she looks at me like I’m Mother Theresa.

    • Thanks for sharing Anita – yes, the tipping customs are definitely different in other countries. This is just the customs in the US, where servers make much less hourly wage than they do in Europe, so live off of tips!

  2. I am glad that even though you write a blog on how to help people save money, you don’t skimp on tipping generously.

    I have never worked in the restaurant industry before and don’t plan on doing it anytime soon, but I believe that it’s important to compensate people on their services.

  3. I get what you are saying having worked in that area too. However, customers cannot always be expected to make up for poor wages either. I know of places that only pay an hourly wage that is $2 to $3 more than they did 20 years ago!

  4. Pingback: Quick tip on tipping in America | Reasonably Relevant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *