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How to Tip in All Situations

Someone offers you a service—bringing you food, giving you a sweet haircut, or carrying your luggage—and the time comes when you’re just starting at each other. Your brain is frantically trying to remember. . . Do I tip? How much? Do I have cash?

Skip the awkward frantic moment. We’re about to cover it all, including how to calculate a tip, who you should tip, when you should tip, and how much you should tip. Because here’s the deal: Those movers could be working to pay their way through college. And your favorite barista might be working extra shifts to pay the light bill this month. When you know how to tip, it can really make a difference!

Here's what we’ll dive into:

How to Calculate Your Tip
Tipping at Restaurants
Tipping for Grocery Services
Tipping Other Common Services
Tipping at Salons and Spas
Tipping While Traveling
Holiday Tipping Guide

How to Calculate Your Tip

One of the hardest things about knowing how much you should tip is knowing how to calculate the dang thing. But all you really need is a little elementary school math and your fingers—or, let’s be real, the calculator on your smartphone.

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Here’s an easy way to calculate a tip: 1) Figure out the percentage you want to tip, 2) scoot the decimal in that percentage over two places, and 3) multiply that by the price. Does that sound complicated? It’s really not!

Here’s an example: Let’s say your total at the local Shake Shack was $28. Your server did an outstanding job of making sure your fries were piping hot and your was milkshake ice cold, so you decide to tip her 20%. (Good call!)

All you have to do is move the decimal two places to the left (.20) then multiply that by the cost of the meal ($28). And voila, you have your tip: $5.60! You can do the same for any other percentage, whether it’s 15%, 20% or 25%!

So, there you go! You’ll be an expert at tipping in no time.

Tipping at Restaurants

Server or Waiter

When you go out to eat at a restaurant, leave a minimum of 15%—but preferably 20%—for good service. And if you really want to be generous, go for the 25% mark. Does that sound a little steep? Here’s a reality check: If you can’t afford to leave a decent tip, then you can’t afford to go out to eat.

Remember, most servers make around $2 per hour, so they’re counting on those tips to make ends meet.1 You should consider the tip part of the overall experience of dining out.

Buffet Restaurants

Things can get a little tricky here—but stick with us. Servers at a buffet may not bring food to your table, but they still refill your drinks and clear your plates. So. Many. Plates. Think about it: You’ve got to grab a new plate for every visit back to the buffet, so you’re making a lot of work for that person. Tip them!

A good rule of thumb here is to tip at least 10%. Also feel free to raise that if you get stellar service. Again, these servers make very little per hour. Think of it like this: If everyone tipped just one extra dollar, it would make a big difference for the server.  

Takeout

Whether someone brings the food out to you or you go in to get it, you should still tip around 10% when picking up or carrying out from a restaurant. Just think about how thankful you are that you didn’t have to cook dinner yourself—and show your gratitude by adding to the tip jar.

Pizza Delivery

You should absolutely tip for pizza delivery! Someone had to bring that piping-hot, delicious pizza to your front door. Without them, you’d probably be eating cold mac and cheese leftovers and that salami that’s been sitting in the fridge for a month. Plus, you don’t have to leave the house (or change out of your pajamas).

Be generous and give them a few dollars. Somewhere in the range of $2 to $3 per pie is a good go-to. Hey, they’re doing the hard work to make sure the crew at your kid’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles party gets fed—so say thank you with a tip.

Fast-Food Restaurants

There’s no hard rule on how to tip at these types of casual places (wouldn’t it be easier if there was?). Generally, folks who work at fast-food joints don’t work for tips. If they’ve got a jar or something at the cash register, or if the receipt has a spot for it, feel free to tip. But it’s not expected here.

Carhop

Whether you’re a regular at Sonic or another mom-and-pop drive-in, tipping your carhop is up to you. Did they bring out your meal (and drinks) on roller skates with ease? Yup—that deserves a tip in our book. Just like with other fast-food restaurants, a tip isn’t expected, but it’s always appreciated.

Coffee Barista

You’ve seen the little tip jar on the counter when you pick up your morning cup of java. It usually has a cute phrase on it like “alms for the pour” or “thanks a latte for your tippaccino.” So, what do you do?

When it comes to coffee, you’re not obligated to tip. But if you feel like being generous, or if that kind barista went out of their way for you, why not leave a tip? Put a dollar in that punny tip jar as a sign of thanks for the work they put in to help you perk up.

Bartender

You didn’t think we’d want to talk about this one, did you? But it’s something some of you are wondering, and the answer is yes. Tip the bartender, especially if the drink requires mixing, shaking or stirring. A dollar or two per drink is perfectly fine tipping etiquette here.

Restroom Attendant

This can be an awkward one to talk about (for more than one reason). First of all, you might not realize a place has a restroom attendant when you walk in to use the bathroom. Secondly, you might not have cash on you in that moment.

If you’re in an overly elegant establishment, a restroom attendant might be part of the ambience and tipping them shouldn’t feel out of the ordinary. If you’ve got anywhere between 50 cents and a couple of bucks, offer it. If you have nothing on you, then just smile and say thanks. 

Valet

When making use of convenience services like valet, remember that convenience often costs money. And that’s okay—when it’s in the budget! So, if you treat yourself to using this service instead of parking your own car, you should absolutely tip a few dollars. And if the valet service itself is free, then definitely don’t skip the tip. Have you seen how fast valets run to serve you promptly? The Flash couldn’t do better. It’s worth $2 to $5.

Tipping for Grocery Services

Grocery Store Bagger or Order Pickup Runner

A lot of grocery stores ask you not to tip the people who bag or carry out your groceries. Some will even flat-out tell their employees to refuse tips. You don’t want to get them in trouble, so if the person is kind enough to carry your bags out to the car, show gratitude with some kind words. Look at their nametag (without making it creepy) and say their name as you say thank you. You’d be surprised how few people do this—and how much it could mean to the bagger. 

And the same goes for people who prepare your drive-up or pickup orders at stores like Walmart and Kroger. Technically, they aren’t allowed to accept tips either—so again, don’t get them into trouble. Just offer a kind and heartfelt thank-you. These people are basically doing what’s now become a regular part of working at a grocery store.

Grocery Delivery Services

When figuring out how to tip for grocery delivery, remember most of the gig workers who work with companies like Shipt and TaskRabbit rely on tips as part of their income. Once you factor in gasoline use, wear and tear on their car, and independent contractor taxes (not to mention time and energy spent doing the shopping for you)—they really don’t have much base pay left.

So be kind. Be generous. A 15% to 20% tip is a good rule of thumb for someone who braved the store, shopped for the best produce, waited in line, fought traffic, and brought groceries right to your front door so you didn’t have to do any of that.

how much should you tip

Tipping Other Common Services

Flower Delivery

If you’re sending flowers, tip $2 to $5 per arrangement. On the flip side, if you receive a beautiful display of flowers (or a tasty fruit bouquet), it’s most likely a wonderful surprise. We don’t think you have to tip when receiving a gift, but take the time to say thank you. And if you get excellent service, refer that company to others—a word-of-mouth referral could bring them more business!

Professional Movers

No doubt about it—if your movers go the extra mile and help you bring in and set up your furniture, they deserve a tip. (Think about all that hard work!) Or if they did an excellent job moving your exotic fish tank or your grandmother’s old piano up three flights of stairs, they definitely deserve a tip. We suggest $10 to $50 per mover, depending on the level of difficulty, attitude of the crew, and amount of stuff they were lugging around for you. Every situation’s different, so use your best judgement.

Cable Guy or Satellite Installer

Technically, your cable guy or satellite installer is doing their job when they come over to your house. It’s not a service they’re going out of their way to do for you.

That said, if it’s a blazing hot day, go ahead and “tip” them a refreshing glass of lemonade or a bottle of water. And if it’s the dead of winter, why not offer them a nice hot cup of coffee or tea?

Contractor

Since your contractor is there to do the job you hired them to do—whether it’s marketing for your small business, helping you with your website, or filing your taxes—you don’t have to tip them. Now, if they’re making you dinner, picking up your dry cleaning, and cutting your hair—that’s a different story.

Wedding Officiant

Your priest, your pastor, a guy at the courthouse, an Elvis impersonator—whoever officiates your wedding, you should tip them. If it’s not already required as part of the wedding fees, hand the officiant $50 to $100 in a nice thank-you card at the rehearsal. If they absolutely refuse to accept it, offer to make a donation to their church or their favorite charity instead.

Babysitter

If your babysitter really helped you out (like agreeing to watch your little ones on short notice or cleaning up the aftermath of your child’s stomachache from the carpet), then yeah, maybe you should tip them. But this isn’t an absolute must. It’s just a nice gesture acknowledging the trouble they went through. This can look like adding a little extra to their hourly rate or rounding up that half hour to a full hour when you’re figuring out what you owe.

Tipping at Salons and Spas

Hair Stylist or Barber

Do you need to tip your hair guru or your barber? Yup—after all, you’re trusting these people with your hair! Your. Hair. After marriage, it’s one of the strongest levels of trust there is. Tipping around 15% to 20% is standard, depending on their profession and the service you received. But feel free to go higher, especially if you get a scalp massage or the best color job of your life.

Manicurist

When it comes to nail services, tip like you’d tip your hair stylist. With 15% to 20%, you can’t go wrong!

Tattoo Artist

It takes some pretty incredible skills for someone to draw permanent art on your body—and do it well. A good tattoo artist deserves a gratuity of 15% to 20%.

Tipping While Traveling

Hotel Housekeeping

A lot of people don’t even realize they need to tip at hotels. You should leave a couple dollars a night at a budget-friendly hotel and around $5 a night at a swanky spot. And remember to tip daily since you might not get the same housekeeper throughout your stay.

Concierge

If the concierge has secured impossible-to-find tickets to a Broadway show, then yes—slip them a $10 or $20 bill for going above and beyond with their connections. If they just gave you quick directions to the nearest coffee shop, you can skip the tip and offer a thanks instead.

Cab Driver

We all know to tip the cab driver for taking us safely to our destination. But how much is too much? This depends on the length of your trip and your driver’s ability to handle the road.

If you feared for your life during the ride, that tip is going to be a big fat zero. If it was an overall safe trip, go ahead and tip 10% to 15%. Add an extra dollar or two if they helped you with unloading any luggage.

Uber and Lyft Drivers

You can easily tip your Uber or Lyft driver by using the app on your mobile device. Yay, technology! Since you can rate your driver, most of them go out of their way to win you over with perks like snacks, drinks and phone chargers. And while both companies say you’re under no obligation to tip, we think the same tip amounts for cab drivers apply to Uber and Lyft drivers.

Tipping Outside of the United States

If you’re traveling outside of the States, find out ahead of time if tips are expected for particular services. Other countries’ cultural norms are way different than ours, and you don’t want to offend anyone by leaving (or not leaving) a tip when you shouldn’t (or should).

Holiday Tipping Guide

Don’t be a scrooge. Tipping with intentionality means something—all year long. But when it’s the most wonderful time of the year and Santa’s watching your every move, you may be a little more in the giving spirit.

So, when it comes to tipping during the holidays, it’s up to you. You don’t necessarily need to tip more than usual—unless your stylist or plumber was able to squeeze you in at the last minute during the holiday season. But adding a “Merry Christmas” or including a card with your regular tip can make someone’s day.

And really, an extra $5 or a coffee gift card on top of your regular tip is a great way to make the day more merry and bright for someone who serves you well all year long. And hey—people often give presents to the teachers, manicurists and hair stylists in their lives. You can too.

When in Doubt, Be Generous

No matter what, it’s important to remember that you can’t go wrong with being generous. In fact, if you’re in a good financial position, why not be outrageously generous? Remember, your tip says more about you than the person you’re leaving it for. Tipping well doesn’t just mean you’re good at tipping—it shows that you’re grateful for the service and have a generous spirit. 

And don’t forget the golden rule of tipping: If you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford the service. Period. Don’t go to a restaurant with servers if you can’t cover the extra 15% to 20% on top of your food cost. And don’t set an appointment with your stylist if you can’t add the tip into your final payment. These might seem like extras at first, but tipping is a big part of life—and you’ll need to budget for it.

Speaking of budgets, have you met our favorite budgeting app, EveryDollar? The groceries, the pizza, the rideshares, the tips: Budget for all of it in the app ahead of time—so you’re telling your money where to go (instead of wondering where it went). Start your EveryDollar budget for free today. (No tip necessary.)

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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