My Flat Tipping Rule: Everyone Gets 20%

5 years ago I decided to try out a new tipping rule. Instead of always trying to figure out how much to tip someone, I decided it will be a flat 20% no matter what to save me both time and frustration. Even when I get shitty service.

The results so far?

I’m a Freakin’ Genius.

5 years down and I honestly couldn’t be happier :) I imagine this is the way minimalists feel – not having to worry about stuff anymore because their internal rules solve everything! (“Less or more? Less!” “Buy something? Sure, but then get rid of something!”).

Not only do I never have to think about tipping anymore, I feel like it’s a strong, fair, amount to leave making all parties generally happy. I hate trying to gauge what someone is owed based on service or what the standard rates are/etc. I just want to eat my food, drink my drinks, get my tattoos, and then leave an acceptable tip and move right along with my life.

And I think 20% does that pretty well. It’s higher than what seems to be the average of 15% these days, but lower than the rockstar tippers at 25% and up. It’s smack in the middle and so far I haven’t heard any complaints :)

Here are the pros and cons I came up with when first announcing this. You tell me if it sounds like a good idea afterwards?

Pros of a Flat 20% Tip:

  1. You NEVER have to think about it again! You get to relax and move on after your scrumptious meal, beer*, haircut, etc. No more wasting time whipping out calculator apps or getting all stressed out. It’s always 20% and that’s that! (The one exception is when buying beers/mixed drinks from the bar. That’s always a $1 per drink dealio – except when I mess up and tip $10, ugh.)
  2. You come off as a fair tipper, no matter what. I believe I had “exceptional tipper” in the original set of pros/cons, as well as “being a baller,” but now that I’m older (and/or hanging out with a different crowd of people?), 20% doesn’t sound *as* sexy as it used to. It’s still fair, but not like overly awesome. I guess at some point we’ll have to tweak it for inflation though, eh? (Nevermind – Kipp below in the comments brought up a good point – the food costs will rise on their own due to inflation, so no need to tinker with the tip %)
  3. It’s easy to calculate! This is probably the best advantage of them all. All you have to do is add $2.00 for every $10.00 of service/food/etc. that you spend – that’s it! Drop $4o bucks, tack on $8! Spend $47, round up and add $10 or round down to $45 and make it $9 – done deal.
  4. It just feels great over all. Again, I can’t express enough just how freeing this rule is. It’s not like tipping is the most annoying or time consuming thing in the world, but it’s really not that fun either. And the less you have to think about non-fun stuff, the better. I need a rule for everything in this department actually :)

Cons of 20% Tipping:

  1. You will over tip for horrible service. There’s really no way around this – you will, on more than one occasion, overpay for shit service. You can make an exception of course if you can’t stomach it, but for me it’s all about habit and again *not* thinking about tipping whatsoever. It’ so engrained in me now that I actually don’t register any type of service whatsoever – good, bad, average, none of it. I just carry on my merry way dropping the 20% which continues to strengthen Pro #4 above. They may not deserve it, but I concentrate on what *I* deserve – a stress-free environment.
  2. You may have less money in your pockets. This is definitely true if your number is usually 15% or 18% or, God forbid, 10%. You will pay way more in the end as the visits add up over time. This would have been a problem when I was living paycheck to paycheck, or even back in my poor college days (though, the easy fix there would be to just STOP EATING OUT so much!), but for now it’s money well spent. And I can afford it. Yet another perk of being financially stable!
  3. You could make your friends look bad. If you were ever a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, you may remember an episode where Jason Alexander (aka George Costanza from Seinfeld) and Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld, and main star of Curb Your Enthusiasm) go to split the check evenly, but then Larry has trouble convincing Jason to tip evenly too. It’s a rather frustrating one, but goes to prove how everyone has their own methodology for this stuff. And if you don’t all agree on the same tip ahead of time (and honestly, who does??) you either walk away as the “good guy” in the transaction or the “cheap guy” – even if you split the check evenly. I’ve since come to terms with not caring either way at this point, but still – it can make for some awkward situations.

{Pardon the Spanish subtitles… Heard you wanted to brush up on it anyways? ;)}

Now is this rule for everyone? Of course not. In fact here are 6 people who will probably hate it:

  • Those who don’t find tipping a burden
  • Those living paycheck to paycheck
  • Those who don’t like rules
  • Those who feel tipping is voluntary
  • Those who like using money to voice opinions
  • Those who feel 20% is too gratuitous

Tipping will always be one of those things never universally agreed upon. Similar to religion, politics, the best way to do _____, you name it. In either case though, it’s an idea to consider. You can always make up your own number or exceptions to the rule too – you might find it freeing?

As for me, I’ll be rockin’ this tip for many more moons to come… There’s not many things I’ve figured out in my 34 years, but this is definitely one of them. Perhaps next we’ll experiment with the “tipping AHEAD of time” idea too? I’m sure that would help skew the service you’re about to get ;)

Whatchy’all think?

[Photo cred: kirstyhall]

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  1. Jon @ Money Smart Guides July 21, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    I typically tip 20% as well. To me, it’s not worth it to sit there and reflect on my service and decide exactly what amount I should leave the server. I just give 20% and go about my day.

  2. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog July 21, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    20% is my standard too, but I have a system, so it’s not always 20% like this. I tip 20% as a general decent service tip. If the service wasn’t that great, I tip 15%, If the service was exceptionally good, I will tip anywhere from 30% to over 100%, but that also depends on the server’s back-story once my wife and I start talking to them. One time at IHOP, we had great service and we began talking to our server. He was 52 and back in college trying to get a degree. He was working 3 jobs to do so…needless to say, he was one of the tips over 100%. lol

    I view tipping as another way to give to others, which is one of my favorite things to do.

    If I was going to set a flat tip rate, 20% would be it!

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      Well that’s awfully kind of you :) I think I broke the rule once or twice over the years for similar experiences, but they’re far and few between. Most of the people I encounter always seem “checked out’ for some reason and just putting in the bare minimum? So then when you get some who just kills it it’s so refreshing! Haha… At least they help make them look better ;)

      1. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog July 23, 2014 at 6:44 AM

        HAHA true story. It’s rare to find the really good ones, but they are out there.

  3. Anne July 21, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    I stick to 20% too, pretty much always. It’s easy math and it’s a fair number. Luckily for the most part when I’m out with friends or family we all agree on 20%, but I have been met with backlash a few times for being too generous which I think is totally crazy. 20% is not at all overly generous. I was with a party once and our bill was over $400. When someone suggested we tip our waiter $50 I was completely mortified!

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      Those are so tricky! Do you just speak up and then tip more, or leave it be? Or go back to the table and add more once everyone leaves and sneak it in? I feel like that was a Seinfeld episode actually, haha… Elaine’s Dad being stingy or something?

  4. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life July 21, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    I’m a 20% tipper across the board but I still struggle with the random occasion where I’m not sure what to do- bellhop at a hotel (I mean seriously, I’d rather just carry my own bag), cabs (20% seems excessive for some reason), even spa services (I feel like more than 20% is insufficient when I get an hour massage for $45).

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      I know, I hate paying for stuff when I’d rather do it myself like bell hops, etc. I rarely come across that anymore (guess my life is much less glamorous? ;)) but if I did I’d probably just whip out a $2.00 bill and tip that. Not sure if it’s “enough” or not, but the cool factor would hopefully overcome that ;)

  5. Catina July 21, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    20% is my go-to tipping rate as well…simply because it’s easy to calculate. Once in a blue moon, I’ll do more if it was insanely awesome but 20% is generally it for me.

  6. a terrible husband... July 21, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    I totally agree. I’ve been doing the same thing for a while and it is great. If I get crappy service I leave my 20% and just don’t go back… Fortunately I haven’t had that issue at my favorite places or else I may have to think of a different strategy like sitting in a different section or something… perhaps requesting a server who I had a great experience with and becoming “their” regular.

  7. John @ Wise Dollar July 21, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    I typically stick to the 20% route as well, but I like to gauge it based off the service. If it’s just normal, which it is the overwheming majority of the time then I’ll just go ahead and leave the 20%. However, if I think their service was above and beyond I’ll give more, especially if I know the majority of their income is tip-based. I hear you though, tipping is definitely something not agreed on universally. I’ve seen some interesting arguments within my family over it, which is sort of crazy when you think about the fact that someone has done something for you and you’re just looking to compensate them for it.

  8. Laurie @wellkeptwallet July 21, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    Although we don’t go out much, this is our standard rule too – except I will absolutely not pay 20% for bad service. :-) It is such a stress reliever knowing we’ve given more than the minimum 15%. I have an innate fear of waitpersons secretly hating me for being a cheap tipper. :-)

  9. Brian @ Debt Discipline July 21, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    18% is our norm. Do like the 20% for calculation sake. Interesting call when bad service has been given, hate rewarding stupid.

  10. Retired by 40 July 21, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    The part about tipping for shit service sucks, but since I was a waiter for 7 years, I totally appreciate this. The reality is that if the few dollar difference between a 10% and 20% tip is going to break you financially, or cause you stress for tipping a shitty server, then you probably should be eating out! On a side note: I hate how the system is set up so servers depend on tips, but that’s the way ti is and I don’t see it changing.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      I swear if you started a restaurant that forbade tipping at all it would bring in incredible profit! Even if you lose money by paying all your staff more (which you would) I bet the repeat business and precedent you send would more than make up for it. The amounts of tips are so small compared to the meals anyways but it’s such a perceived annoyance that people would come just to not have to worry about it! At least in theory anyways…. I’m no professional ;)

      1. Jed July 21, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        It’s interesting that I read this post and this article in the same day. It’s a long read but gives a history of how the tipping culture developed in the U.S. The author also references a restaurant that does exactly what you propose – no tipping allowed. I must say, now that we live in Europe I don’t miss tipping at all…

        1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:22 AM

          Very cool – bookmarking it now to check out later this afternoon, thx man! Loving the updates from Granada too – sounds like a helluva adventure :)

  11. Jen @ Jen Spends July 21, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Yep, 20% is my default for most things, too. Mental math isn’t my strong suit, but 20% is super easy to calculate — move a decimal point, double it, bam! Actually, I think your way is even easier :) Maybe it’s because we eat out less frequently now, but I can’t remember the last time I had service bad enough to make me think twice about tipping. The only time I’ll do less than 20% is when tipping is truly optional and a lot of people don’t do it at all.

  12. Addison @ Cashville Skyline July 21, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    I’m also a default 20% tipper. I spent many years working as a server and I see 20% as the bare minimum. Honestly, I wasn’t always the greatest waitress, but most people still tipped me 20%, so I try to pay that kindness forward. I try to give servers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to bad service. Maybe the restaurant is under staffed or they are having an off day. The difference between 15% and 20% isn’t going to break the bank for me.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      Hah! At least you’re honest with yourself. So many servers/service people are delusional and think they’re rock stars… Hell, even in corporate 9-5s they do. And then they ask for raises just because they’re doing the job they’re getting paid to do anyways? And averagely/suckily at that?

  13. Natalie @ July 21, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    I am a flat 20% tipper, too! For all of the reasons you mentioned, it makes the most sense for me.

  14. EL July 21, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    I feel anything above 15% and you can’t go wrong. It makes up for those college kids who are selfish, with no income and think its cool leaving a penny. If you can’t afford to tip do not go out to eat. Have a good day college students.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      “If you can’t afford to tip do not go out to eat” – Exactly, it’s all a part of the game. Unfortunately it takes us (all) a while to understand that – usually much past the college years :)

  15. Even Steven July 21, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    20% if fair. Anyone who has worked for a tip knows that nothing feels worse than getting a bad tip and nothing better than getting a great one.

    We stick with 15% for normal service and 20%> for Muy Bueno service, I feel like any job well done should not go unnoticed.

  16. Will July 21, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    It must feel like you live in a culture that doesn’t tip since you’re so used to a fixed amount to pay.

  17. Elizabeth July 21, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    I waited tables for about 2 years and I agreed with the tipping system. I made way more that way than if I were paid an hourly wage. There were times I got really awesome tips and times that I got horrible tips (like that generous 10 cents a high school kid going to prom left me). I always sent a silent thanks and blessing towards those who tipped 20% or more, but if I got less than that there was usually a reason. There are certain people who just have a flat tipping rule, and then others who were never taught how to tip.

    What makes my tipping opinion different than all the other servers I’ve talked to and read about online is that I would agree when I gave bad service and got a bad tip. It was understood in my mind that I do not get paid just for showing up, I have to earn my tip. If I didn’t earn it, I couldn’t get mad that I didn’t get it.

    I use 20% now as a starting point. I look at other factors affecting my service when I go out and I realize that there is a stigma against us (2 young kids) that automatically means we get worse service. It takes a lot for me to penalize with a tip, but I do not keep a flat tipping rule. On the other hand, if we get exceptional service, I have left up to a 50% tip at a restaurant. So the flat tipping rule isn’t for me, but I don’t get stressed about tipping either.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      “It was understood in my mind that I do not get paid just for showing up, I have to earn my tip. If I didn’t earn it, I couldn’t get mad that I didn’t get it.”

      BAM! You are one smart woman, my friend.

  18. Jon July 21, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Same here, and a little more to make the math is easy. I round to the next tens-place ($57 becomes $60), then double the tens place and that’s the tip ($12). If I rounded down ($23 -> $20), I just add a dollar for the tip (2 * 2 = $4 + 1 = $5).

    I also tip for take-out, and figure it’s a small price to pay in exchange for not paying for drinks.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      I’ll tip for take out if it’s a place I visit often, but usually not for one-timers… And I don’t include them in my 20% rule – I usually just drop a few bucks (or a $2 bill).

  19. Green Girl Success July 21, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I also tip 20%. It is very easy to calculate and as a previous server, I appreciate the generosity. However, I cannot stomach blatant bad service. It is one thing if a place is slammed, then it is not their fault, but when I see them sitting down or playing on their phone instead of tending to their customers, they won’t get a fat tip. It is just not fair to the servers who work hard and it gives them no motivation to do a good job.

  20. Million Dollar Ninja July 21, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    I do 20% for the most part because it’s very easy to calculate, but when I get terrible service I knock it down to around 15% (I say around 15% because I can’t do the math).

  21. Rick July 21, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    I’ve always try to pay my “CASH” tip directly to my server. Many have indicated this is a far better outcome (greater ROI?) than leaving same on a card.

    Regardless, everyone pays taxes on those cash tips – Right?

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      That’s a good idea! There’s hardly anything better than someone handing you cold hard cash along with a “thanks” :) I 100% believe it’s more rewarding than a digital line item.

  22. Holly@ClubThrifty July 21, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    I always tip 20% too, and sometimes more if my kids rearrange all the sugar packets or spill something! The only way I wouldn’t tip that much is if someone was really rude to me. I don’t mind bad service that much. Sometimes it can be funny! I know one time Greg and I ordered food at a Thai restaurant and were delivered entirely different food then we ordered. We ate it all without drinks because we never got a refill. We tried tell our waitress that we got the wrong food at first but there was a language barrier so we gave up. What made the situation funny was the fact that we really liked what they brought us! =)

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      Hahahaha now THAT is awesome :)

  23. Done by Forty July 21, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I find tipping 0% is even simpler. Though I notice my food tastes funny the next time I come in. Weird, right?

  24. Mysti July 21, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    I typically do 20% as well….except for really really bad service. Then I do $1.00. $1.00 says that I didn’t “forget” to tip you, or maybe I am a cheap-o and just do 10%. It says I intentionally am leaving you a bad tip.

    1. J. Money July 21, 2014 at 11:27 AM

      I would agree. Either that, or a penny. (ouch!)

      1. Emma Lincoln July 21, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        If it’s bad service, I generally leave no tip and a very friendly note explaining why I didn’t leave a tip. I worked in food service, and when I didn’t get a tip, I often wanted to know why (sometimes, it was something I didn’t even realize, like that the hostess forgot to bring out a side of sour cream, or that the food runner was late with their dishes…) and I’m a huge fan of feedback.

        1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:24 AM

          That’s an even better idea, Emma – good point.

      2. Christopher July 23, 2014 at 5:08 AM


        Only happened once. In high school, went in with a group so big we were divided up into two tables. Long story short, by the time we got our food the other table was already finished eating and we had to rush through our meal. We wanted to leave a penny tip but we didn’t want the waitress to think we were just cheap and/or stupid kids, so my friend Jim wrote on a paper napkin “Your Tip Baby”.

        Still cracks me up when I think about it!

  25. Shannon @ Financially Blonde July 21, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    I worked for 5 years in the food service industry while I was in high school and college, so I am a big fan of fair tipping and 20% is my normal. UNLESS, there is really bad service and no efforts to make amends for said bad service. I know that some things are out of a server’s control; however, they do have it within their control to fix it whether it is by giving extra service, extra positivity or extra food and drinks. If they don’t try to fix it, then I really can’t “reward” them. I also tend to give more than 20% if I am somewhere like IHOP and the bill is low. Those people bust their butts and their tip shouldn’t suffer just because they serve cheap food.

  26. connieK July 21, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Wait WHAAAT? You people on this blog GO OUT TO DINNER????? I thought we were all trying to save money over here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) …………………. Seriously, I really don’t eat dinner out that much (because it really IS twice as much as cooking in!), but when I do, absolutely, 20% – or a little more if the service rocks – then I get back to the house and edit my budget to account for spending $ frivolously like that…………. ;)

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      Haha… yes, and us bloggers make tons of DUMB mistakes too, imagine that? ;)

  27. jenlarson July 21, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    We also round up, then tip 20%. Unless the service is exceptional, and we had a really good time, or if we split something – then we’ll add more. If we’re with a group, we usually tip a little extra, figuring that will help make up for any lower tippers in our group, and for having to split up the checks :) My issue is when people come to our house to do different services (repairman, carpet cleaning, etc) – I’m never sure if a tip is appropriate/expected…

  28. Free To Pursue July 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Wow. I never knew people cared about tipping the same on a split bill. Huh!

    Well, I also go the simple route, but at 15%. Our provincial and federal sales tax total is 13%. So, I use that amount and round up another 20% of the amount which ends up being roughly a 15-16% tip. Except when the bill is $10 or less, then it’s an automatic $2. I guess we’re cheap…

    We’re pretty much on autopilot on that one, EXCEPT when there’s amazing service, like one meal in Portland two weekends ago at The Yard House. We gave our server 25% because she was AMAZING!!! She was friendly, attentive, engaged, made great suggestions and took extra care every step of the way, all without being in our face the whole time. That happens about once a year but I wouldn’t give up the “warm fuzzes” for anything in the world.

  29. Emma Lincoln July 21, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    I love the simple 20% rule…but how do you guys decide when to tip and when not to? It’s always hard for me to tip 20% for a $2 drip coffee, when I get handed an empty cup and pointed towards the coffee, or even when they fill it up for me. Also, do you tip for beer, when they just popped the top off the bottle?

    This feels especially true because I live in a state where everyone is paid minimum wage, regardless of tip potential.

    What about haircuts? If I spend $65 on a haircut, do I need to tip another $13? And a $90 massage? These are not employees, these are service providers who are already charging a fair price for their services.

    I feel like I’ve become so disenchanted with tipping that even while I love the idea of the simple and generous 20%, I’m not sure it would work for me. It’s not usually the amount of $$ that stumps me, it’s figuring out when I should be tipping and when not to.

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      I always tip $1.00 for any beer or alcoholic drink I order at a bar – no matter the cost of it. And if I buy them for my friends, I add a dollar per drink there too.

      For coffee I usually don’t tip anything except every now and then like if I visit a cafe frequently like I’ve been doing all this month. In fact, I just dropped a $1.00 bill in the tip jar about 30 mins ago! :) I don’t do it every single time…

      The other stuff I suck at tipping and knowing when you’re supposed to or not. Once I got a tattoo years ago and didn’t tip anything cuz had no idea you were supposed to??? Good thing I got the tat first *before* the tip part came! Haha…

      1. Springs1 July 28, 2014 at 9:41 PM

        You do realize coffee is more work than flipping a cap, right?

        1. J. Money July 30, 2014 at 7:30 AM

          Of course. And sometimes I tip for it. I just don’t personally think it’s as mandatory as in other situations.

          1. Springs1 July 31, 2014 at 10:02 PM

            I don’t think it’s mandatory for example if I am not sitting getting service if I am let’s say at a nightclub getting a beer, I am not going to tip on someone flipping a cap. That’s not service. It takes MORE WORK at the mall McDonald’s for the cashier to fill a cup with ice and coke for NO TIP. So I go by comparing who gets tipped and who doesn’t for more or less work. If there’s more work, but no tip, I am not going to give someone a tip for less work, that’s just not fair. While I know McDonald’s workers get paid more per hour, but what they get paid per hour doesn’t matter if the work load is less than what they are doing. Flipping a cap is almost no work. Now if I am sitting down, then that’s different. I am only talking about if I am standing there only getting counter type service at the bar such as in a nightclub.

  30. Debt and the Girl July 21, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    I am all about tipping at least 20% for great service. I think a great server deserves that and more. I am not so much on tipping big when the service is bad though. I just don’t think its fair for servers who are really awesome. Luckily, I have had almost always had good servers so it has not been a problem.

  31. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel July 21, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    I tip based on what I feel I would deserve if I were in their position. For example, if I were to do a crappy job, I wouldn’t expect 20%. If, however, I did an awesome job, I would expect a nice tip. It doesn’t really bother me to make that decision and I’m not afraid to tip well, but I’m also not afraid to let the server know how I feel about crappy service either.

  32. Michelle July 21, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    We usually do 20% or more. We almost never dine at somewhere super nice, so tipping $5 or $6 isn’t something that’s going to kill us.

  33. Grayson @ Debt Roundup July 21, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    I am a 20% tipper. I can do the math extremely quick and it is easy. Now, I don’t tip it across the board. The reason? I can’t justify giving someone who can’t do their job right a tip. They live off tips. If they don’t get them, then they don’t make the wage. I feel that is the only lesson I can give them. If you suck at your job, why should you get tipped for it? You have to do some crazy stuff in order for me to not tip you.

  34. Erika July 21, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    I’ve been tipping right around 20% for years. Unless the service is truly terrible to the point where I feel like the waiter just doesn’t care at all, then I go down to 12 or 15%. Anyone can have a bad day, so I try not to be too harsh when it comes to poor service. Also, I worked as a waiter, so I get it. I also know that a lot of people are on the cheap side and tip 10% or nothing these days, which is just rude IMO. Only in very, very rare circumstances is it acceptable to not tip at all. So I figure my 20% is helping to bump up their average.

  35. Mortgage Free Mike July 21, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    I interviewed an etiquette expert for Clark Howard– who told me 20% is the new standard– so I think what you do is great.
    I tip 20% or more on the post-tax amount for good service.
    As you mentioned, it’s easy to calculate. It also seems like the right thing to do. I don’t worry about what my friends tip.

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      Nice! Some good proof right there, thx man.

  36. Kyle | July 21, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    I’ll never tip 20% for bad service. Kinda defeats the purpose of tipping in my opinion. If the service is great I’ll tip really well and if it sucks out-loud, maybe 5-10%. Gotta earn a good tip. I think if everyone tipped a flat 20% customer service would go down the crapper.

  37. debt debs July 21, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    I’m pretty much the same as you but with 15% not 20%. I guess I’m just not that $exy. It’s just as easy to calculate. Figure out what 10% is and then half of that to it.

  38. Kate @ Money Propeller July 21, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    It’s just very occasionally that we would dine out at a restaurant and I only give tips for only 10%. But it depends on the service that they gave, the better the service they show the higher tip I gave.

  39. Money Stubble July 21, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    I usually just double the sales tax (8% ish) and then just tweak it up or down to make things easy.

  40. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life July 21, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Almost always do I tip 20% or more. As a fellow waitress, I know what tips mean to me and how a low tip on a table you did everything for can leave you feeling. There was only one time where the service was bad, but that’s another story for another day. If it weren’t that food service workers were paid such low wages, a lot of attitudes would be different and people might not get the same service because people would be paid for ‘showing up’. Being able to make money based on how much effort you put forth sometimes is a good thing.

  41. DC @ Young Adult Money July 21, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    I think it’s a good idea. It takes the decision-making out of the equation, which is awesome. I do like to tip more when I get great service, so I’d probably still do that even if I subscribed to the 20% rule.

  42. B Simple July 21, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    I generally tip 20%. I worked in a restaurant during college so I know what it’s like to be on the wait staff and its easier to calculate. But I have a difficult time tipping 20% for bad service.

  43. Becky @ RunFunDone July 21, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    We always tip 20% except if the service is really bad. I used to be a server, so it really has to be super bad before I’ll give below 20% – it’s only happened a few times. One time I was with a group of girls and the (male) waiter said something super sexist to us – he got 10%. If you mix up my order, dump food on me, or ignore me, I’ll probably still tip you well, but if you offend me, you will not get a good tip from me!

  44. Cait Flanders July 21, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    Damn. We’d dine out well together, friend.

    Growing up, my dad always tipped 20-25%, so 20% has almost always been my go-to. I have had really shitty service a few times that made me go down to 10% (as I’d never do 0%), but for the most part everyone (servers, hairdresser, tattoo artists, etc.) gets 20%. It’s simple and just generous enough. :)

    When I moved to Toronto, I found it strange that most of the payment systems gave automatic tip options of 10%, 15% and 18%. 18% – how random is that!? But it seemed to be the norm in Toronto. Perhaps 15% seemed too cheap but 20% seemed like too much? Whatever, 18% is too weird to calculate! Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Haha… ain’t nobody got time for that indeed. Nice drop, there ;)

  45. Naomi @ RisingNetWorth July 22, 2014 at 1:56 AM

    I’ve recently (within the last year) converted my husband to the “20% tipper club”! He was one of those people that thought it was ok to just tack on only $5 on the receipt. After several deep side eyes and numerous discussions he’s finally caught on! I’ve never worked as waitstaff but I know its tough out there! I could imagine how much of a slap in the face it is to see a $5 tip on a $80 bill. Props to everyone that has compassion for all waitstaff on the bill!

  46. Christine @ The Pursuit of Green July 22, 2014 at 3:00 AM

    I try to do 20% but I do go down for bad and up for good. Most days it seems like that’s the norm though. It’s so hard to find good service in a big city that it’s nice to get good service.

  47. Kipp July 22, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    I guess I don’t understand why the tipping percentage needs to increase for inflation. The food prices already rise with inflation so they already get an increase as prices rise.

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      yes! good point… made an update up above – thx for the note :)

  48. FBIV July 22, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    It is terrible that a tip has become an expectation no matter how good or bad the service. No one has a right to a tip. 20% is in the new expectation? Why don’t we expect businesses to pay a regular wage. What makes them special?

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Hey, I’m right there with ya… Would love to see tipping go away for a better system, but unfort. if you don’t play along you end up screwing over the service workers – not the businesses. (Although I guess they are intertwined)

  49. Elisabeth July 22, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    I loathe tipping. I generally tip 18%, but I grit my teeth each time. (Honestly, I eat out way more often at fast casual restaurants like Paneras instead of casual sitdown restaurants because dealing with wait staff, waiting for food and refills, getting pressured to order and leave, and the whole tipping thing just drives me nuts. Plus it’s cheaper, although not really since I now eat out more than I would otherwise.)

    Broadly, I think tipping should be banned. Something like 70% of America works in a service industry, including me, but the rest of us actually get paid to do our jobs and report to our supervisors. My weekly pay isn’t determined on if I had ONE bad day, it’s based on whether I’m good at my job. Many times a bad restaurant experience is due to the kitchen and not the waiter, but its the waiters pay who suffers.

    I read an article last year about how a) restaurants with no tipping are better for owners, employees, and customers and b) tipping is very rarely based on the quality of service provided by the waiter. Individual diners will (almost) always tip the same – some will always tip 15, some 20, some 30, some nothing. There are demographic trends in tipping (old people, young people, women, and minorities tip less – middle aged white dudes tip the most, especially to young pretty white women even if they forget your order three times.) This means waiters will flock to some customers and not others “since they’ll leave a bad tip anyway.” Letting management instead of customers determine pay helps ensure more customers get equitable service.

    Also, this whole thing where people leave an anonymous message by leaving no or a small tip because they need that power trip of control is also crazy. The few times I have had enough of a problem to leave a 10% or less tip, the management knew about it. This makes the restaurant service better, since management can’t address problems they don’t know about (why would the waiter tell their boss they got a lousy top for doing a bad job?)

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      Well said! Very interesting about that article too – if you come across it again pass it on over to us :)

    2. Aaron July 25, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Thank you for saying this! Let’s ban tipping, but do it in a way that doesn’t penalize the workers that depend on it as a subsidy to their salary.

  50. Alexis July 22, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    Tipping 20-25% is what I generally do. I was once a server myself so I can understand how hard people work for their money. I actually have a friend who typically tips about 40-50% and doesn’t make much money to begin with, but she is a server herself so she feels the need to tip well because she knows exactly where others are coming from.

    1. J. Money July 23, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      Wow – that’s pretty generous! Good for her!

  51. MomCents July 23, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    When I was in NY I would “double the tax and round up” — since tax was 8% it worked out to an over 16% tip — which 14 years ago was completely acceptable.

    I completely disagree with the way tipping is regarded in our society but I play the game because I don’t want to be regarded as a stingy miser.

    I would much rather pay more for food than have to deal with the social stigma of stiffing someone on a tip that is *masked* as optional….but I digress….

  52. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance July 23, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    Well damn, now I feel cheap! I’m a pretty standard tipper. 20% for good service, 25% for knock my socks off service, 15% for could be improved upon… and 10% for when I have to spend 90% of my meal trying to get a refill of my drink. I don’t mind the spending money part of it, as we rarely eat out, but I still think you’ve got to earn it.

    But I might have to try this out so I don’t have to do as much math.

  53. JC July 23, 2014 at 6:46 PM

    I had a talk with my teenage daughter about tipping last week after she saw me leave a generous tip after what was mediocre dining service. My point was that it’s always appropriate to be generous to the poor. Let’s face it: people who are waiting tables for income aren’t living large. It’s hardly a career, and while it could be a fine gig for an 18 yr old kid, it’s actually kinda sad when you see a 40 yr old doing it. If someone is waiting tables, it’s likely they’re on the lower end of the income scale. So why be cheap with them? Also, a generous tip shows gratitude for the blessings I’ve received. I’m grateful for the ability to be generous in the first place. It’s never a mistake to be generous with those less fortunate. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with honorable work in the service industry. Just consider the worker’s circumstances, be grateful for your own prosperity, and choose to be generous.

    1. J. Money July 26, 2014 at 8:28 AM

      I like that outlook :) What a great mindset to pass on to your daughter too!

  54. Daisy July 24, 2014 at 12:35 AM

    I honestly don’t mind tipping. Figuring out a tip at the end of the meal isn’t a huge deal but I do sort of hate having to do the mental math when with friends or something. That being said, I have always been a fan of tipping more rather than less. At the end of the day, will you miss the extra $2? Probably not, but servers will appreciate it. Plus, karma!

  55. Brazilflyer July 24, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    Quite honestly, I’ve received far better table service on a consistent basis in foreign countries where the standardized tip is 10% than I ever have in the United States, and I’ve lived all over the world.
    I think there’s a culture of tip expectation now across many areas of US service, from taxis to coffee shops to restaurants and more, with many service workers putting in little effort to earn that tip/reward.

  56. Jim July 24, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    I pretty much tip 15% on a flat rate, rounding up to the nearest dollar — I enjoy seeing whole numbers in my banking ledger.

    In cases of exceptionally poor service I will tip less.

  57. Daniel July 25, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I consider myself to be a very good tipper and always tip 20% when I at least get adequate service. If a server remembers something I asked for and bring it out with the meal promptly, or automatically refills my drink without waiting til it’s empty, etc I will give more than 20% most of the time. If they did something exceptional, I will not only leave a very hefty 50% tip, but will also leave a note on the receipt letting them know I noticed what they did and appreciated it very much.

    I will not, however, pay for bad service. I’ve gotten service so bad before that I’ve literally gotten my drinks from a waiter who took our order and then we never saw them again the entire meal (or meal was brought out by the expo). My wife and I had to get up and walk over to the drink fountain to refill our drinks and we could hear both tables beside us complaining that they were waiting on things. Sadly situation like this are not something that has only happened once to us. At times like these I leave 1 penny, so they know that it’s not that I’m just a bad tipper and that it was intentionally small. I will again leave a note on the bill letting them know that I received terrible service and their lucky I did not report them to a manager.

    I guess I’m just not one of those people who can always give 20% when someone didn’t deserve it or when someone gives exceptional service.

    1. Springs1 July 27, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      “automatically refills my drink without waiting til it’s empty,”

      I don’t want refills automatically. I LOVE when they ask me, because it shows they *CARE* if they are wasting my time or not if I want something else. I have had to send servers back before, because they went ahead and ORDERED for me without my permission. Just because soft drinks or iced tea have free refills doesn’t mean the customer wants more of the same.

      So if you want this, why don’t you just *ASK* for it when you are greeted ordering your drinks(non-alcoholic ones)? This way, you won’t have to be asked or ask. I want to be asked. I do think I shouldn’t have to ask myself though, I think they should be OFFERING to do ALL the work they can for the tip, NOT me asking them for obvious things like I want at least SOMETHING else to drink(which may or may not be the same thing I am drinking).

      1. J. Money July 28, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        I like being asked too – else I’ll just keep drinking whatever’s in front of me which can be bad if it’s caffeine/coffee refill after refill, haha…

  58. Aaron July 25, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    How much do you tip at Burger King?
    I always tip 0% at fast food, but then I thought about why this is the case. For example, I go to a smaller, perhaps independently-owned establishment and tip 20% there. This sandwich shop did the exact same amount of work, but gets to have a tip jar out. Why? I think the practice of tipping is so weird and arbitrary. I wish we could do away with it completely, give raises to the workers it benefits, and perhaps raise prices at restaurants where it is place. I feel that is the ultimate no-brainer amount. If you’re going to over-pay by 20% everywhere you go, why not just put that price on the menu, tip 0%, and call it a day?

    1. J. Money July 26, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      Burger King?? I didn’t even know you *could* tip there! Haha… Or any fast food restaurant like that… For that reason I’ve obviously never tipped there myself, but for another they’re not waiting on you and bringing food/etc. You go up, pay, get a bag or tray of it, and then go on your merry way. I don’t feel the need to tip for cases like that… though I guess it’s the same going up to a bar and just grabbing a drink and then walking away, huh… tipping is weird indeed!

  59. Denise Rich April 28, 2015 at 12:33 PM

    Loved this article! I have done the same 20% thing for a long time because of the ease of calculation, and also because I was once a server and I know how it feels to get a crappy tip.

    I am not sure if anyone pointed this out in the comments, but tips are supposed to be calculated *before* tax. Many people don’t know that these days, but it’s true. Because of the ease of calculation on the total, if you are tipping 20% after tax, you are *actually a rock star tipper*! So now you can feel really great about yourself.

    This minor monetary difference makes a huge impression on waitstaff, delivery folks, etc. You become a favorite customer very quickly. I was once told that TIP is an acronym for “to insure promptness.” This doesn’t make sense because of the grammatical error (should be ensure) and because you don’t tip ahead of time, so it wouldn’t make a difference on that visit. However, if you are a repeat customer, you’ll notice that waitstaff in various restaurants will clamor to take your table. One minor downside is that sometimes they can be too chatty and friendly on a day when you just want to de-stress and quietly eat your meal.

    Exceptions to the 20% policy and other thoughts:
    * drinks at the bar get a buck apiece. Sandwiches at the sub shop used to get a buck apiece. I am *not* tipping 20% of the total for a sandwich being made when I did not get table service. Now that I place a weekly order for 4 subs, I make sure they see me drop $5 in the jar. Hardly anyone does that, judging from the fact that I never see $5 bills in the jar. It makes a big impression.
    * That brings me to the power of $5. This is usually for manual labor situations where it doesn’t make sense to tip a percentage on the price of an item or service (i.e. sod delivery, septic tank pumpout, non-food delivery service, house cleaning, mulch delivery, etc.). People love getting a five dollar bill. It’s a really nice gesture. They’re putting their back into something I don’t want to physically do. It shows them they are valued. I sometimes do this even if the owner of the company is the service provider, but in that case I say, “I know you are the owner of this business and it’s not considered necessary to tip an owner, so I hope you won’t consider it an insult if I give you a little something for yourself.” They almost always grin and accept the five bucks and look quite pleased. They are happy to come back and help me again. The exception to this is contractors who are also proprietors on expensive jobs. Then they just get the rate we negotiated.
    * There’s something gauche about just throwing money at people if you’re not connecting with them and treating them like humans. Sometimes tipping people can make them feel like a piece of meat and can be construed as an insult. Sometimes when I feel funky about tipping I try to get clear on why it may or may not be appropriate. What are your thoughts here? I like to take a deep breath, look the person in the eye, thank them once, say in one brief sentence why I found value in what they did, and say thank you again.
    * My haircuts here in FL cost $12. I used to pay $45 before tip in NJ! I give my stylist a $10 tip. She is really talented and does an incredible job, and I still come out way ahead. That’s nearly an 83% tip. I know I am high maintenance and picky when it comes to my hair, and I want her to be glad to see me coming. I also can’t figure out how anyone can possibly be making a living wage at a place that charges $12 haircut, so I want her to know she is valued and supported.
    * it makes me angry that employers don’t pay a living wage and we are expected to make up this shortfall. Food delivery folks do get the 20% tip from me because they have crazy sidework and wear and tear on their cars, and the bigger my food order is the more they have to struggle to get it to my door.
    * tipping does seem like throwing money around, especially if you are budget conscious. This might actually be a plus, because it could help in deciding if an expenditure that requires a tip is really necessary. If it hurts too much to give that extra buck or five bucks or 20%, maybe you should be finding a way to get your needs met that doesn’t require labor and tipping.
    * tipping in an age where people don’t carry cash anymore can be really challenging. When you write a tip on a charge slip, the recipient has to pay taxes on it. The plus side is that they notice the exact amount that you tipped. The downside is that an a service worker is further marginalized.
    * When I give a buck to the homeless guy, I am tipping him for reminding me that life can be really hard and compassion is important and that money has real value and that I am in a place where I can afford to be a little generous.

    1. J. Money April 29, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Denise! Wow! What a thoughtful, and interesting, comment – thank you!

      I did not know about the tipping before tax part, nor thought about a lot of this stuff you dropped here. I will say that I do change my tipping rule when it comes to a beer or other random tip jars and do $1.00 flat myself. And especially when the beer is free like at weddings or events, etc.

      I actually wrote an article once about the idea of tipping BEFORE being served just to see how the service would change, haha… let me go dig it up for you…

      Here we are:

      I might have to copy your comment here into a new blog post and revive this tipping talk :) Always a juicy one in the personal finance community! So thanks again taking the time to share today – enjoyed reading.

    2. Ginger October 7, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      “Tips are supposed to be calculated ”before’ tax”. Correct.

      “People love getting a five dollar bill. It’s a really nice gesture”. Totally agree”! That’s why it’s my default tip amount, unless it works out to less than ten percent.

      “When you write a tip on a charge slip, the receipient has to pay taxes on it”. I don’t see that as “marginalizing” anyone: it’s the way the system is supposed to work (servers will always tell you that they pay taxes on their tips. And why not; taxes pay for all the social services we benefit from.


  60. Ginger October 7, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, isn’t there? That’s why I always go with 10% (or $5 flat rate, whichever is lower).

    20% would be crazy!

  61. Nick May 15, 2017 at 11:51 PM

    I didn’t leave a tip today at all. I had gotten a $70 facial as an alternative to seeing a dermatologist. I feel awful now after reading this. God I hate tipping but i’ll have tip next time.

    1. J. Money May 16, 2017 at 6:05 AM

      I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it – it’s always hard to tell who gets tips and who doesn’t, at least for me! I’ve forgotten to many a times and I’m sure many people here have too :)