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Tips on Tipping

I never know how much to tip.
Sure, like most Americans, I know how much to tip at a restaurant. But what do you tip the European tour guide? Is it okay to give tips to the kids who volunteered to help your child move into his college dorm room?

What about the person who drives the airport bus from the long-term parking lot to your terminal? Does it matter whether he or she helps you with your bags? And how about the gal who washes your hair before your stylist cuts it -- or the one who sweeps your hair off the floor? Do you just walk around the salon handing dollar bills to everyone you see?

The economic malaise has made tipping even more important because so many people now rely on these gratuities to make ends meet, said Kate Forgach, editor of Coupon Sherpa. But there are also times when tipping goes too far, as my friend Liz Weston discovered last year when she went for a discounted massage. By the same token, you don't want to tip so little that you end up in the lousy tipper database. (It's the waiter's revenge.)

Need tips on tipping? Coupon Sherpa just posted suggested tips for 63 different services. And it's not the only tipping guide on the web. CNN/Money offers a tipping guide too. has a whole story about how to tip your movers. Travel Sense has a guide to tipping while traveling. Even The Frugal Bride acknowledges that some wedding vendors also must be tipped. Holiday tipping is an art form of it's own.

The short version for day-to-day use?

  • The standard tip for somebody taking time with you -- that goes for waiters, hairdressers, taxi and limo drivers, wine stewards and manicurists -- ranges from 15% to 20%. If they're good, hit the top of that range and don't be afraid to go over.
  • Furniture delivery people should get $5 to $10 per item, depending on what they're delivering.
  • Movers get $10 to $40 each -- depending on whether you've got them unloading a UHaul or a semi.
  • Valet: $2
  • Shuttle driver: $1 to $2 per bag, if they help with them.
  • Porter/Bellhop: $1 to $2 per bag.
  • Housekeeping: $1 to $5 per day, depending on the service
  • Concierge: Directions are free, but tip $5 to $10 if he or she gets you show tickets or hard-to-get dinner reservations.
  • Blackjack/poker dealer: $5 chip per gambling session
  • Dog groomer: $5 to $10
  • Grocery baggers: $1 - $3 if they help lug your bags to the car
When in doubt, tip more than you think you should as long as you can afford to. Remember than an extra dollar or two can turn an okay tip into a tip-to-talk-about for your server. If that extra couple bucks won't hurt you, it can make a valet's day.

Do you have tips on tipping? Feel free to add them here.

Photo courtesy of Joe Marinaro on Flickr
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