I recently spent a week at a relative’s house. When she went out shopping or to eat I went with her and I was astounded at the amount of money she left as tips in her wake. This relative has money trouble and constantly complains about her debt and how she cannot save money. I left her house thinking that if she’d just plug the tip leak in her budget she could easily save $200 per month, if not more.
Let me state right off: I am not against tipping in situations that warrant it. If someone is serving me a meal or in some other way going above and beyond to serve me or give me personal attention, I will tip. However, I do not tip for everything. If someone (such as the trash collector or the postman) is doing the job I pay them for, I don’t tip. And I only tip for good service. The better the service, the higher the tip. I was not brought up to consider tips as automatic or mandatory, as seems to be the case today.
This relative of mine left a trail of tips in the following places in one week:
- The dry cleaner ($5)
- The coffeehouse ($2), three days of this
- The waitress at the restaurant (on a $20 ticket she left a $10 tip)
- Subway ($3), two days
- $10 taped to the garbage bin for the month’s service
- $10 to the guy from the home improvement store who delivered and installed her new dryer (after she’d paid extra for delivery and installation)
- $8 left on the table at a buffet restaurant where we served ourselves everything, including drinks.
- $10 to the hairdresser
- $5 to the dog groomer
- $10 to the TruGreen guy who comes to spray the yard for weeds
- And the capper: $10 to the cable guy who came to fix the broken cable service.
The waitress and the hairdresser were the only ones in the group that I thought “deserved” tips because they were providing personal attention or working a job where the salary is reduced to compensate for tips. But I would not have left the waitress a 50% tip. Twenty percent if she were very good, 15% if she were average and 10% for lackadaisical service. If my relative tips like this every week, she’s spending $90 per week in tips. That’s a big leak in the budget of someone who needs to get their spending and debt under control.
I’m all for being a giving person, but if you’re in financial trouble I don’t think you can afford to tip everyone just because you feel like you should. Tipping in America has gotten out of control and we are now expected to tip for every service or job, even if the person is well compensated for performing that job. In some cases, such as at a buffet or fast food restaurant where there is no “service” I don’t think a tip is necessary. People like the cable guy or the TruGreen guy are paid for their work; a tip is not necessary. Tips have also become inflated. The standard used to be 10%, then 15%, and now 20% or more. Where does it stop? Where do you draw the line and say, “I wish I could give tons of extra money to every person in the world, but my budget just won’t allow it.”
Obviously it’s up to you to tip or not to tip. I’m sure tips are appreciated in any circumstance. And in some circumstances it is considered rude not to tip, as in a full service restaurant or the pizza delivery guy. If you can’t afford to tip those people, then perhaps you need to rethink going out to eat or having food delivered. But in other cases, tipping is not required or expected and tipping when you cannot afford to do so only contributes to your financial problems. If you’re having trouble coming up with enough money every month, take a look at your tip trail. If you’re leaking a few dollars here and there to everyone you come in contact with, it might be time to rethink your tipping strategy.