The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point

Let's face it. We live in a judgmental and superficial world. First impressions matter. Whether we like it or not, in our initial encounters with just about anyone, from potential bosses to romantic prospects, wedraw instant conclusions about one another based on clothing, food choices, hair color, accents, you name it. If the exponential rise and popularity of the dating app, Tinder, isn't enough to convince you, I'm not sure what is.

When I began dating my boyfriend, one of the first things that I noticed, after his warm heart and easygoing attitude, was that he was a very generous tipper. This immediately impressed me, not because of anything financial, but because it showed me that he respected, valued and appreciated others, something that is fundamentally important to who I am as a person. As our relationship progressed, I noticed that all of our dates seemed to be at our local college bar and I concluded that his overly generous tips may have had more to do with guaranteeing strong drinks from the bartenders that knew him by name. Nonetheless, it is one of the actions that drew me to him in the early months of us dating and demonstrates the importance of making a great first impression.

Anyone who relies on the service of another should tip for many reasons, including making a good first impression. However, the financial impact of tipping is often not accounted for or considered. When crafting a monthly budget, we might be proactive enough to budget for "Haircut" or "Night Out," but the majority of people do not budget for the respective tips associated with each of these activities or events. At the end of the month, they find themselves way over budget, scratching their heads as to why. Hidden costs and expenses are a huge reason behind why individuals cannot stick to their budgets or keep track of their spending. However, before we can start to plan for these expenses, we need to understand how much they are.

As young people and recent grads, it, often, feels as though we are experiencing everything for the first time. In the first few years following graduation, I found myself hiring movers, apartment cleaners and many more, all for the first time. I left each interaction unsure whether my standard 20% was too much or too little for the given service. Over time, through conversations with individuals in the service industry, friends and adults that I respect and look up to, I have come up with my best practices for tipping. Hopefully, these guidelines will be helpful to each of you if you ever find yourself in any unprecedented or new situations, as I did.

Around The House:

Furniture and Appliance Delivery - $5-10 a person. Definitely tip more if the delivery is challenging or out of the ordinary. My first "real world" apartment was on the top floor, of an old building, with no elevator and no AC. Did I mention that it was high noon in the middle of August? $10-20 would be appropriate.

Movers - $20-50 per person. As above, the more challenging or time-consuming the move, the more generous that you should be with your tip.

House Cleaning/ Maid Service - 0-20%. If you have a regular maid service (i.e. 2-4 times a month), it is acceptable to pay for the service at face value, but it is encouraged to provide a generous holiday tip/gift. If your service is less frequent (i.e. once a month, special events only, etc.), 20% is a good guideline.

On Wheels:

Car Washer - $2 for standard vehicle, $4-5 for large vehicle, 15% for detailing

Valet Parking - $2-5 per car. Your level of generosity here should depend on the prestige of the venue (i.e. Bellevue Square mall parking lot, $2 ; Four Seasons, $5). Tip when the car is returned to you, not when you drop it off.

Food And Dining:

Bartender - $1 for a well drink, beer or wine; $2 for a craft or specialty cocktail. If you spend your entire night out at one bar, it is acceptable to tip 20-25% at the end of the night, rather than with each and every drink.

Waiter/Server - 15-20% of pretax bill. A quick trick is to double the tax (i.e. If tax on your meal is $6, an appropriate tip would be $12)

Food Delivery - 10-15%. Be a little bit more generous if you live in a hard to find or hard to reach area.

Coat Check- $1 per item


Bellhop - $1-2 per bag delivered

Housekeeping - $2-5 a night. Again, your level of generosity depends on the quality of the hotel. (i.e. Holiday Inn, $2; Bellagio, $5). Tip daily as several housekeepers may rotate cleaning your room over the course of your stay.

Taxi or Car Service Driver - 10-15%. Add an extra dollar if he/she helps with any luggage.

Personal Care:

Hairstylist or Colorist - 15% is standard. Women, especially, are loyal to a fault to our stylists and colorists. For many, their hair stylists and colorists know more about their personal lives than their closest friends do. If you frequent the same stylist and have developed a relationship with him/her, definitely tip more generously. Additionally, it is benevolent to ask for the tip to be split amongst all who help you. At many high-end salons, it is common to have someone other than the stylist wash and/or dry your hair.

Manicurist/Pedicurist - 10-20%.  Lean toward 20% for pedicurists. No matter who you are, your feet aren't that beautiful and nobody enjoys spending 30 minutes to an hour staring at them.

Waxer/Threader - 20%. PLEASE tip more for Brazilian waxing. If pampering your feet warrants 20%, Brazilian waxing definitely deserves more. No questions asked.

Save Your Money:

The following services do not necessitate a tip, but, if you are a frequent client or customer, a holiday tip is encouraged.

Personal trainer, Bouncer, Dry Cleaner, Tailor, Grocery Bagger, Geek Squad, USPS/FedEx Delivery, Cable Installer, Chiropractor, Barista, Gas Station Attendant

Of course, always tip more if you feel someone went above and beyond the call of duty and never feel compelled to tip someone who performed his or her job poorly. A rule of etiquette, and personal finance, that I have always lived by is that if you can't afford to tip for your drinks, you can't afford to go out. Now that you have a solid guideline for the best practices of tipping, I encourage all of you to account for tipping in your 50/20/30 budget to ensure that you, not only always make a great first impression, but that you also stick to your budget and never let hidden costs and expenses get in your way.


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