Guilt Tipping: How Much Will It Cost You This Holiday Season?

Tip jar in coffee shop or restaurant.
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More than half of adults ages 18 to 25, classified as GenZ, tip out of guilt or confusion. In general, 35% to 38% of people across all generations say they have guilt tipped out of confusion, according to a recent survey from The same survey found that 75% have tipped for over-the-counter services out of guilt.

The Growth of Guilt Tipping

Penny O., in St. Paul, Minnesota, told GOBankingRates, “I do [tip out of guilt] when there’s a tip jar out that I’m not sure warrants tips. Coffee shops, food trucks, Chinese take-out, sandwich shops, pizza places. When I made pizzas, I didn’t expect anything but a paycheck,” she said.

Dawn Blanchard in Miami, Florida, agreed. “Some smoke shops have their register request a tip at checkout. I find that presumptuous and insulting — that 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 — coerces consumers to tip out of guilt, confusion, awkwardness, or a sense of obligation. Penny O. said that she will often tip as much as 20% in these situations if she’s feeling generous.

Make Your Money Work for You

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 every 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 being provided.

When Should You Tip?  

In the CardSnacks survey, 62% of people 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 skip it. For instance, 45% of people viewed food delivery as the “most tip-essential service.” It’s also pretty important to tip servers in restaurants, the study showed. Twenty percent of people surveyed said that restaurant workers deserve “more than the average tip,” according to CardSnacks.  

But it gets confusing when you are considering tipping for services where people already receive a salary and tips are a perk, rather than the bulk of their income.

A representative from CardSnacks, the online e-card and gift card platform that spearheaded the tipping survey, pointed out, “Tipping shouldn’t be viewed as optional if the worker relies on tips as a main source of income. This is true even if you’re unsatisfied with the service — offer what you can afford and what feels justified for the service… We feel 20% appears to be a good standard to set. Based on your perception of the quality of service received, that number can be adjusted.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Should Quality of Service Determine the Tip?

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

The CardSnacks spokesperson pointed out that GenZ, whose members are just entering the workforce, may have less disposable income than older generations of consumers, which could affect their choices to tip.

However, the spokesperson also acknowledged — and the survey indicated — that “quality-of-service” is a big factor across the board when it comes to tipping today.

“For many people, tipping is seen more so as a reward rather than a thank you. If a customer believes they can do the job better, there’s a high likelihood that they expect a higher, perhaps unreasonable, level of quality service,” the spokesperson said.

Even etiquette experts agree that the amount of a tip can be adjusted based on 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 just to tip 20%,” the CardSnacks spokesperson told

Make Your Money Work for You

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

“I always tip extremely generously…regardless of the quality of service,” said Rob Cunningham, a teacher in Sacramento, California. “I would not take away someone’s rent money because I feel like they didn’t serve me well enough.”

Sarah Duvall of St. Louis, Missouri, agreed, “I always tip well regardless of 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 for take-out, dining in or various services in mind 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% each time — whether you are tipping for take-out or dine-in service — that adds up to an additional $606 per year.

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

When it comes to services other than restaurant dining, understanding who to tip, and when, can help you stay within your budget while recognizing workers who are often underpaid.


It’s a nice gesture to make someone’s day with a tip even if that money doesn’t represent their primary source of income. But if you’re on a budget, it may be best to save your money to tip when it’s truly warranted, needed, and expected.

Make Your Money Work for You

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