How much will it cost you this holiday season?


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More than half of adults aged 18 to 25 who are classified as GenZ switch over out of guilt or confusion. Overall, 35% to 38% of people of all generations say their guilt came out of confusion, according to a recent survey. The same survey found that 75% tipped for over-the-counter services out of guilt.

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The growth of guilt

Penny O., in St. Paul, Minnesota, told GOBankingRates, “I do [tip out of guilt] when there’s a tip jar that I’m not sure justifies tipping. Cafes, food trucks, Chinese takeaways, sandwich shops, pizzerias. When I was making pizza, I expected nothing but a salary,” she said.

Dawn Blanchard in Miami, Florida agreed. “Some tobacco shops have their register asking for a tip at checkout. I find this presumptuous and insulting, it would be like tipping the cashier at a supermarket or clothing store.

Sometimes seeing that tip jar on the counter — or being prompted by the iPad at the point of sale — compels consumers to tip out of guilt, confusion, awkwardness, or a sense of obligation. Penny O. said she would often tip up to 20% in these situations if she felt generous.

The average cost of a commercially prepared meal is $13, according to If you tip 20% each time, that adds an additional $2.60 to each bill. Just leaving those few dollars in the jar can add up to hundreds a year.

And it may not be necessary, depending on the service provided.

When to tip?

In the CardSnacks survey, 62% of respondents said they don’t tip if someone is “just doing their job.”

In some cases, it’s pretty clear when to tip and when to ignore. For example, 45% of respondents rated food delivery as the “most essential service for tips.” It is also very important to tip waiters in restaurants, the study showed. Twenty percent of respondents said restaurant workers deserve “more than the average tip,” according to CardSnacks.

But it gets confusing when you consider tipping for services where people are already paid a salary and tipping is a benefit, rather than the bulk of their income.

A representative from CardSnacks, the online e-card and gift card platform that led the tipping investigation, noted, “Tipping should not be considered optional if the worker relies on tipping as main source of income. This is true even if you are unhappy with the service — offer what you can afford and what you feel is justified for the service… We think 20% seems like a good standard to set. Depending on your perception of the quality of service received, this number may be adjusted.

Should the quality of service determine the tip?

More than half of survey respondents (55%) said they don’t tip if they think they can do a better job themselves. According to the survey, members of the GenZ cohort were 16% more likely to withhold tips based on quality of service.

The CardSnacks spokesperson pointed out that GenZ, whose members are new to the workforce, may have lower disposable income than older generations of consumers, which could affect their choices about tipping.

However, the spokesperson also acknowledged – and the survey indicated – that “quality of service” is an important factor across the board when it comes to tipping today.

“For many people, tipping is seen more as a reward than a thank you. If a customer thinks they can do the job better, chances are they will expect a higher, possibly unreasonable level of quality service,” the spokesperson said.

Even etiquette experts agree that the amount of a tip can be adjusted depending on the service. “The consensus…seems to be 10% for poor service, 15% for average service and 20% for above average service. But when in doubt, a safe rule of thumb is to simply tip 20%,” the CardSnacks spokesperson told

Some of the consumers independently surveyed by GOBankingRates said they tip 20% or even 30%.

“I always tip extremely generously…no matter how good the service is,” said Rob Cunningham, a teacher in Sacramento, Calif. “I wouldn’t take someone’s rent money out because I feel like they haven’t served me well enough.”

Sarah Duvall of St. Louis, Missouri, agreed, “I always tip well, regardless of the service. We all have bad days.

Keep your budget in mind when determining who – and how much – to tip

However, it’s important to keep your budget in mind for takeout, dine-in, or miscellaneous services and tip according to what you can afford. The average consumer spent $3,030 on food away from home in 2021, recently reported. If you tip 20% every time — whether you tip for take-out or restaurant service — that’s an extra $606 a year.

Tip just 15% and you’ll save over $150. Better yet, cook your meals at home and you can cut your food bills by about two-thirds, experts tell

When it comes to services other than restaurant meals, knowing who to tip and when can help you stick to your budget while recognizing workers who are often underpaid.

Explore: Answers to your most important financial etiquette questions

It’s a nice gesture to please someone with a tip even if that money isn’t their main source of income. But if you’re on a budget, it might be best to save your money to tip when it’s truly warranted, needed, and expected.

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This article originally appeared on Guilt: How Much Will It Cost You This Holiday Season?

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