Every article on tipping always follows the same formula.
- Step 1: Someone writes about tipping.
- Step 2: A commenter says, “Omg, that’s so ridiculous! We shouldn’t have to tip. WE should pay them a livable wage!!11!”
- Step 3: Another commenter replies, saying, “If you can’t afford to tip, you shouldn’t be eating out!”
- Step 4: Comment section dissolves into a socioeconomic pseudo-intellectual argument on the politics of tipping.
- Step 5: My eyes roll so far into my head I go temporarily blind.
That’s because the subject of “how much to tip” is loaded with strong opinions, cultural values, and passionate debate.
Controversy Heated debates Personal finance
It’s the perfect IWT topic!
That’s why we decided to poll our readers on the subject of tipping. We’re going to take a look at what we learned, the psychology of tipping, and give you the truth about how much to tip — and why.
But first, let’s talk hard numbers.
- How much to tip for 17 scenarios
- The 3 tipping golden rules
How much to tip for 17 scenarios
We polled our readers on how much they tip for specific practices. Some were common (wait staff), some not so much (tattoo artists).
For these services, we gave them five choices on how much to tip:
- I don’t tip for this service
- 10% or less
- 20% or more
If they didn’t use the service or didn’t tip for it, they chose “I don’t tip for this service.” If they used another payment method besides percentage, they chose “Other” and commented how they tipped.
Note: We’re going to be taking a look at this from the perspective of North America, where tipping is the norm. The vast majority of our survey results (98%) came from this region.
Let’s take a look at how much our readers tip now — as well as our suggestion for how much you should tip.
How much to tip: 10% and / or one week’s pay at the holiday season.
- I don’t tip for this service: 49.37%
- 10% or less: 3.80%
- 15%: 4.43%
- 20% or more: 3.16%
- Other: 39.24%
While it’s not absolutely necessary to tip your babysitter, 10% should be more than enough if you decide to tip them. Also, a week’s pay at the holiday season would make a very nice gift for, you know, ensuring the health and well-being of your child.
Most of our respondents didn’t have babysitters — but the ones who did tended to pay a higher premium to make sure their kids were taken care of. “With our babysitter, I consider their fee to be what we agreed upon, but if they did something extraordinary, I would tip them a few extra dollars,” one reader wrote.
How much to tip: $1 per drink is good but anything is appreciated.
- I don’t tip for this service: 42.69%
- 10% or less: 23.98%
- 15%: 8.19%
- 20% or more: 11.70%
Unlike other food service people like bartenders and wait staff, there’s no clear cut answer for this one — but it’s generally agreed that you should tip something.
I remember I went to a coffee shop with a friend of mine a while back. He saw that I tipped a dollar when I paid for my drink. So when he went up to pay, he said to me, “Nah, dude. The trick is to leave a huge tip your first time. That way, they remember you and you don’t have to leave a tip for a while after that.”
It was MIND-BLOWING. I had never heard of a tipping strategy like that before — and it’s definitely a great way to get your barista to remember your drink order next time.
How much to tip: $1 – $2 per drink. 15% – 20% if the drink is complicated to make.
- I don’t tip for this service: 11.49%
- 10% or less: 13.79%
- 15%: 17.24%
- 20% or more: 36.21%
- Other: 13.45%
Now there are two schools of thought to tipping bartenders: 1. Tip a dollar or two per drink no matter what. 2. Tip based on percentages. So which do we go with?
Answer: Both. Or at least that’s what one anonymous bartender working out of a popular bar in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood said:
“If it’s just a beer or easy cocktail like rum and Coke, tipping a dollar per drink is fine,” she says. “However, if I’m putting time to craft a nicer — and more expensive — drink, like a Manhattan or Cosmopolitan, tip as you would for a meal.”
How much to tip: 10% – 15% or more than $2
- I don’t tip for this service: 26.29%
- 10% or less: 22.29%
- 15%: 26.29%
- 20% or more: 15.43%
- Other: 9.71%
You should always tip your delivery person. There’s just no question about it. After all, they’re risking life and limb so you can sit on your butt while your extra large cheese pizza makes its way to you.
But how much to tip? Anywhere between 15% to 20% is good — or a couple of bucks at the very least.
“Anything more than $2 and I’m happy with my tip,” says Thanh Tran, a Chinese restaurant owner and delivery driver of more than 20 years. “If the house is farther away from the restaurant, more money is always appreciated though.”
If you’re ordering online, be sure to throw on an additional 15% to 20% on top of the bill. If you have cash on hand, at minimum you should give them $2. Gas isn’t cheap, you know.
Hair stylists / barbers
How much to tip: 15% – 20%
- I don’t tip for this service: 11.17%
- 10% or less: 7.82%
- 15%: 21.79%
- 20% or more: 55.31%
- Other: 3.91%
Getting a fresh cut from your stylist or barber? Be sure to put a 15% to 20% tip on top of the bill. If your service was especially detailed (e.g., neck massage, warm foam shave), feel free to add a few dollars more.
Our readers are very generous with their hair stylists, with the majority of them paying out 20% or more for their tip. A lot of respondents have gone the extra mile on a tip to show their appreciation for a job well done. “A couple times, I have tipped my hair stylist 100% when they go above and beyond to make the experience relaxing and enjoyable,” wrote one reader.
How much to tip: $2 – $5 per night
Respondents’ answers: N/A
The survey options weren’t applicable here. After all, you’re not going to tip the housekeeping 20% on your hotel bill. You should tip them something though — and in this case, $2 – $5 a night would go a long way in showing your appreciation for keeping your hotel room tidy.
“[I tip] hotel housekeeping usually $5 a night,” said one survey respondent. “More if I’m at a nice hotel.”
How much to tip: $10 – $20 per cleaning and / or one week’s pay at the holiday season
- I don’t tip for this service: 38.22%
- 10% or less: 3.82%
- 15%: 5.10%
- 20% or more: 8.28%
- Other: 44.59%
They’ll pick up your laundry, polish your furniture, and scrub the places you wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. The least you can do is tip them too. For housekeepers, most of our respondents choose to tip anywhere between $10 to $20 per house cleaning session. Around the holidays, you can get even more generous with a week’s pay as a gift — which many of our respondents who had house cleaners opt to do instead of a tip.
“I give our housekeeper $200 at Christmas,” one respondent wrote. “We normally pay $80 every two weeks [for their service].”
How much to tip: 15% – 20%
- I don’t tip for this service: 14.63%
- 10% or less: 8.54%
- 15%: 16.46%
- 20% or more: 37.20%
- Other: 23.17%
Nothing beats a massage to get rid of the stress on your body — and nothing beats a tip for a job well done. Be sure to add 15% to 20% (or more) on top of the bill for your masseuse or masseur.
And massage therapists must leave our readers in a giving mood because the majority said they tipped more than 20% for their services. “I typically over-tip my massage therapist,” one reader wrote. “My appointment is supposed to be for 60 minutes but it always turns out to be 70 – 75 minutes.”
If you’re reading this and want to give me your massage therapist’s contact info, that’d be awesome.
How much to tip: $20+ per mover (plus food and drinks)
- I don’t tip for this service: 25.90%
- 10% or less: 15.66%
- 15%: 15.06%
- 20% or more: 13.25%
While pizza and beer were all you needed to convince your friends to help you move into your first apartment, it’s cash that professional movers are going to really want.
Many of our respondents are generous when it comes to tipping movers, with the majority of them telling us that they’re willing to pay anywhere from $20 to $100 per mover.
“Each mover gets $50,” told us one respondent. “Plus lunch and cold beverages.”
So be sure to keep the pizza and beer around still.
Nail salon technicians
How much to tip: 15% – 20%
- I don’t tip for this service: 21.52%
- 10% or less: 4.43%
- 15%: 14.56%
- 20% or more: 31.01%
- Other: 28.48%
Like your hair stylist, be sure to give your manicurist a 15% to 20% tip. Feel free to add on more if they go above and beyond with those awesome calf and hand massages.
“Sometimes I’ll ask for last minute appointments when I’m in a rush,” said one respondent. “So I try to tip 30% for nails when that happens.”
A lot of our respondents said they tend to over-tip if they use these services.
How much to tip: One week’s pay at the holiday season
Respondents’ answers: Tipping a nanny isn’t based on a percentage, so respondents’ answers are not applicable.
Since your nanny plays a full-time role in your family, it’s not necessary to tip them every day. On average, they get paid around $42,000 / year — tipping 10% to 20% on top of that would be pretty pricey! Instead, give them a nice bonus around the holiday season in the way of a week’s worth of pay.
“My nanny gets cash at Christmas, plus gifts for exceptional service like her work after my baby was born,” told us one respondent.
How much to tip: 10%
- I don’t tip for this service: 36.00%
- 10% or less: 28.00%
- 15%: 17.14%
- 20% or more: 9.71%
- Other: 9.14%
It’s not actually necessary to tip takeout servers. But if you’re going to, 10% is a solid amount — especially if you ordered a lot of food, it was complicated, or if they carried it out to your car for you.
Tattoo artists / piercing technicians
How much to tip: 15% – 20%
- I don’t tip for this service: 38.00%
- 10% or less: 4.08%
- 15%: 4.76%
- 20% or more: 12.24%
- Other: 40.14%
Sweet ink, bro. After spending hours having someone permanently place a work of art onto your skin, the least you could do is tip them. In this case, 15% to 20% is a great gesture.
“[I over-tipped a tattoo artist] because the artist was meticulous even though it was just a simple tattoo,” a respondent said.
How much to tip: 10% – 20%
- I don’t tip for this service: 15.98%
- 10% or less: 23.67%
- 15%: 26.04%
- 20% or more: 17.16%
- Other: 17.16%
While these are going out of vogue for the ease of Ubers / Lyfts, you might find yourself in the backseat of a taxi one of these days. If that’s the case, 10% to 20% should suffice on top of your fare.
However, many of our respondents also opt to go with a dollar or two if it’s a smaller fare — which is just as fine.
Uber / Lyft drivers
How much to tip: 10% – 20%
- I don’t tip for this service: 30.00%
- 10% or less: 20.00%
- 15%: 20.59%
- 20% or more: 10.59%
- Other: 18.82%
Now this is interesting. According to our results, people are less willing to tip on Uber / Lyft rides than they are for taxi rides. Ironic considering the ease of tipping via the app. In spite of this, you should still tip 10% to 20% on top of the fare. Rideshare apps are still making their way to the mainstream and users are adjusting to tipping here as they do in taxis.
“We were out with a group of ladies and the Uber driver anticipated every need, told us about the city we were in and was hilarious!” one respondent told us. “We tipped him $25 for a 15-minute ride.”
How much to tip: $2 – $5
Respondents’ answers: Tipping valets isn’t based on a percentage, so respondents’ answers are not applicable.
Unless you got the joyriding guy from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you should absolutely throw a few dollars your valet’s way when you go to pick up your car.
“The average tip is $2.50,” a valet from Red Top Valet Services in Chicago told us. “My ideal tip though is around $5, which is always really nice.”
How much to tip: 15% – 20%
- I don’t tip for this service: 4.37%
- 10% or less: 7.65%
- 15%: 14.75%
- 20% or more: 70.49%
- Other: 2.73%
Tipping service people at restaurants is pretty much a no-brainer. The vast majority of our respondents said they tip 20% or more for waiters and waitresses, followed by 15%. That range represents the gold standard for tipping wait staff.
“The range for a tip is still 15% to 20%,” said Steve Dublanica, a former waiter and author of Waiter Rant — a NYT best-selling book on his experiences in restaurant service.
The 3 tipping golden rules
When you’re out and aren’t sure about your tipping situation, here are three rules that’ll help you navigate the situation:
- Start at 15%. This is a good percentage to start with most services that come with a bill at the end. Anything lower than this and you might end up being branded as a crappy tipper by the wait staff.
- When in doubt, just ask. If you’re ever unsure about whether or not the country you’re in tips or if you should slip a repairman a few bucks after fixing your sink, just ask the person you’re dealing with. A simple, “Hey, do people usually tip you?” works just fine.
- Cash is king. While a lot of people typically deal with credit cards when they tip, cash is nearly always a preferred method when it comes to tipping. It’s a good habit to keep at least $20 in small bills on your person just for these situations.
Follow those three rules, and you should be able to get through most any tipping situation.
I get it though: Sometimes even the extra $2 seems like a lot. To help with that, I want to offer you something that can help free up some of the cash:
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