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Tips on Tipping

by Kevin McKinley - December 20th, 2015

Posted Under: around the house

‘Tis the season for lots of things, including tipping the many people who make your life easier. But it can be a challenge to figure out whom to tip, and how much. Of course, the ultimate decision on what and when to tip is entirely up to you. But here are a few guidelines on what gratuities might be appropriate during everyday spending, and every holiday season.


Coffee shops Drop a dollar in the tip cup near the register if you have one on you. At a minimum, at least dump in any coins you get back in change. Keep a few singles on you so that you can still tip in cash when you pay with plastic.

Bartenders A dollar per drink is reasonable, with at least two to three dollars for those complicated ice cream drinks your sister-in-law always orders. Slide the bills as close to the serving side of the bar as possible to make sure the worker sees and gets the money.

Food servers 15% of the bill is a bare minimum for good service, but 20 to 25% is preferable for those servers who are working hard and/or handling larger groups. Note that they don’t make the food, so don’t punish them if your order didn’t turn out to your liking. Instead, alert the server to see what reparations can be made.

The math-challenged among us prefer tipping 20% simply because it’s easier to figure, since you can just take the total of the bill, double it, and then slide the decimal point one spot towards the left.

When dining out a restaurant and paying with coupons or getting some other kind of discount, try to tip on the amount you would have spent at full price. You’ll still come out ahead.

Traveling Check in advance with the hotels and restaurants you’ll be patronizing to get their tipping policies, especially if you’re going out of the country.

But in absence of that information, at a hotel or resort give a couple bucks to anybody on the main floor who provides a service (such as hailing a cab), and at least five bucks if they carry your luggage or make any other special trip to your room.


Yes, the people who cut your hair, clean your house, or mow your lawn already get paid by you or someone else to do their jobs.

But in the interest of maintaining a happy relationship with all of these workers, it won’t hurt to give them a little extra holiday bonus.

This is especially true if the providers are the kind who take appointments, and might be more likely to accommodate your schedule in a pinch.

If you can afford it, a good rule of thumb is to tip your regular service providers the cost of one session. For example, if you usually pay $25 to have your walks and driveway cleared of snow, give another $25 as a tip.

At a minimum, a twenty dollar bill should be enough to show your appreciation. If you’re leaving a card of envelope for someone, you may want to write a check (yes those still exist) made payable to the person.

If you have more appreciation than you have money, you may want to write a note of thanks to the provider. You could also write a letter to the person’s boss or supervisor expressing your gratitude for a job well done.

Baked goods in a nice container are another lower-cost way to express your esteem, but please, no fruitcakes.

Last but not least, whether you’re sending regards or cold hard cash, don’t forget about your friendly newspaper carrier in your holiday tipping campaign. Next time

We’re going to take a couple of weeks off from writing the column, but we’ll be back after the first of the year with more ways that you can spend less and have more. And then you’ll have even more to tip next year.