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Generous tipping vs. financial donations

There are many ways to give back. One way, instead of making a financial donation to a charity, is to just be generous in how much you tip. Sadly there are many non-profits, charities, and other organizations that do not use donations efficiently, and some non-profits out there have even amounted to scams. They took people’s money and blew it. Therefore another method to be generous is to just tip, and give back that way.

As we have noted in the past, there are ways to make financial donations such as the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign, organizations like Kiva, and many others. And if you can afford to do that, then that is great. But it is hard to ensure your financial donation is used wisely, as look at some of the non-profits that really amount to frauds in the past.

The Kids Wish Network raised millions of dollars, but less than 10% of what you donate actually does to help sick children. The rest is spent frivolously. Wounded Warriors took donations and spent money on partying, lavish meals for executives, and other unnecessary expenses…only 60% of donations actually went to help veterans. There have been dozens of other examples over the years of abuse by charities.

Now think about an alternative way to give back financially. If you tip, you know your money will go to help a person financially, maybe help a family pay their bills and take care of themselves. I have had a couple conversations about this in the past with people. Sometimes people are like why not donate more money to a charity, and I say I do donate, but I also like being generous in tipping.

You can tip anyone. Serving staff, hotel maids, mail man/woman, hairdresser or barber, Uber and Lyft drivers, and really anyone. There are so many jobs out there in which the employee relies on tips as a part (or maybe majority) of their income. Being generous may allow that person to pay the rent that month, buy a Christmas gift for their kids, or save money for their retirement or build up a rainy day fund.

You just do not need to tip for what you “think” is exceptional service either. Maybe in those cases the amount you give will be higher, but even when service is “average” many of those workers still depend on tipping. They depend on that money to pay their bills each month. The fact is a higher percentage of service workers do not have educational achievements, they may be immigrants, high school or college students, etc. They may not have the opportunities that others do, so the tipping is even more important to them.

I can’t stand people who don’t tip and I do not tolerate that. I will not go out to eat with someone like that. Also the couple times I have been out over the years and learned someone I was with did not tip, I later circled back to the restaurant, etc. and left money for them. Same thing goes for those who are stingy in tipping. It is wrong to not tip or be “cheap”.

If you can’t afford to be a good tipper

I totally understand that most people or families live within a budget, and maybe they can’t always afford to leave a decent tip for say a restaurant meal or another service. In those cases, what I think the person or family should is maybe not go out for as many meals over the course of the month or year, then the money they save by going out less can be used to tip more generously for when they do go out.
Using an example. Lets say a family goes out to eat one per week, spends $50 per meal and they tip very poorly at say %10, so $5 per meal. That cost them $2860 per year (52 meals x $55). If that is their budget and all they can afford, then that is fine. But 10% is a terrible tip.

The solution is I would suggest the family going out say “only” 42 times per year (which is not even one time less per month). If they do that, they can increase their average tip on the same $50 meal to $18 each time they go out. The net expenditure over the course of the year is still $2860. So what this involves is the family going out to eat less but increasing the amount of their tipping each time, which results them in being a little more generous in the amount of money they give back.

I think tipping is a great way to give back financially. It is arguably even better to tip than giving to a charity. the money can sometimes make a difference in the monthly income of a service worker. I normally do not get to see the recipients reaction as I am already out the door by the time a server, hotel staff, etc. sees the tip. But I also do not leave a good tip to see someone’s reaction; that is not what it is about.

That being said, there are some instances in which I see a reaction from the recipient, and I can see and “feel” how being generous can make a difference in their day or maybe allow the recipient to pay their bills that month. But then again I do not tip generously to see reactions from others or want praise from others but rather it is the right thing to do…to be generous tipping to people who work hard, who often give their all and who depend on that tip money.

So please be generous, pay it forward. We always note you can always volunteer (which does not involve tipping or financial donations), you can donate to non-profits, or another way is to just tip people for the services they provide, as they often depend on it. After all, studies show that giving to others leads to happiness and studies indicate that spending money on yourself does not lead to happiness, which we will comment on at some later post.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

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