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Cheapskate Etiquette: Be Frugal While Still Honoring Others

  • Mary Hunt Debt-Proof Living
  • 2010 7 Jun
Cheapskate Etiquette: Be Frugal While Still Honoring Others

Face it. Living below your means requires a good bit of creativity from time to time. You have to get pretty clever to stretch a buck.

But just how far can you go in matters of etiquette before you cross the line? Ask yourself these questions:

Is my choice to be cheap going to harm or insult another person?

Will my action leave a fragrance or an odor?

Be cheap with yourself, not with others. When splitting the cost always round up. Never freeload in the name of frugality. If you cannot afford to pay your way, don't go. And when in doubt, always err on the side of generosity.

On what portion of the restaurant bill do I pay a tip?

Pay the tip on the total for food and beverages before tax. It is customary to pay 15 percent for good service.

I am invited to a bridal shower I cannot attend. Must I send a gift?

No. Respond with your regrets. However, if you are invited to the wedding and cannot attend, in that case you should send a gift.

Am I obliged to give a person who gave me an unexpected Christmas gift, a return gift even if he or she is not on my gift list?

No. A simple thank you note is all that is required.

Is it standard practice to tip your dog groomer? If so, how much?

Yes. Most pet groomers are paid on commission, not a regular salary or hourly wage. Typically your tip should be 15 percent of the bill or $2 per dog, whichever is greater.

Do I have to tip the bellman to carry my bags to the room? I really do think it is ridiculous but don't like that awkward moment when he just stands there.

Yes. It is customary in our culture to tip a bellman $1 per bag, or if the bags are heavy $2 per bag—but only if you choose to use the service. You could always carry your own bags and keep the tip.

I received a gift certificate for a very elaborate day at the spa. Am I obligated to tip the staff?

Determine in advance whether a service charge is included in your gift. Call ahead to ask if your certificate includes a gratuity. If not, you should tip 10 to 15 percent of the value of the treatment to be shared between those who provided services.

My former fiance broke our engagement. What happens to the ring?

The ring belongs to the person who paid for it regardless of who broke the engagement. And both parties should return any gifts received from the other during the relationship.

When using a two-for-one restaurant coupon how do we figure the tip?

Determine what the cost would have been for the meal without the coupon. Figure your tip on this amount, before tax.

What is the etiquette to follow when having a makeover at a cosmetic counter in a department store? There is no charge for this service, but am I expected to leave a tip?

You owe nothing if you buy product or take less than 15 minutes of the salesperson's time. Otherwise leave $15 minimum.

The pastor of our church will perform our wedding ceremony. Do we have to pay him since we are members of the church and weddings are part of his job? Maybe a little gift?

Performing weddings and funerals are typically outside the scope of a minister's regular duties. Yes you must pay the officiant a minimum of $100, more if travel is involved. No, a gift in lieu of cash would not be appropriate.

Must I tip a flower delivery person?

No. When the customer pays a delivery charge for non-food deliveries like furniture, flowers and balloons, a tip is not required. Flower delivery people do not expect to be tipped. However if the driver has had to return more than once to catch the recipient at home, a small tip of $2 to $5 is a gracious gesture.

When we eat out in a group, how can we ask to pay just our portion of the bill—not have it "split evenly" without seeming too cheap?

Ask the server for a separate check before you order. If this is not possible, position yourself to accept the bill from the server.

Check to see if the gratuity has been added to the bill (this is becoming more common when there is a group of say eight or more). Then accurately fully calculate what you owe including tax and fair tip (round up). Place your money on the check and pass it along.

Should one tip at a buffet dinner where you totally serve yourself? I have noticed that some people do tip the bus people.

You do not tip at a buffet unless there is some service. Tip 10 percent if the server delivers all or part of your meal or keeps your drinks refilled.

Should you tip your beautician if you are not pleased with the result?

No. A tip is a reward for good service. Do not reward bad service. And consider finding a new beautician or learn to do it yourself.

When you take a dish to a pot luck party who gets the leftovers?

The leftovers belong to the host because the dish was your contribution to the host's party. However if the host invites you to take what remains when you go to pick up your container, you are free to do so.

They're showing up everywhere—tip jars. Where is it appropriate to leave money in a tip jar?

No where.

Originally posted March 6, 2006

"Debt-Proof Living" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt. What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt. Today, "Debt-Proof Living" is read by close to 100,000 cheapskates. Click here to subscribe.