It's important for parents to prepare their kids for the real world by doing things like teaching teens when to tip and how much. -

Some things have happened over the course of the last several months that really made me think about how my girls are growing. Madison attended her first college fair and both girls took organized trips with their peers. During Madison’s multi-day All-State Music Festival experience and the National Catholic Youth Conference that spanned several days for Kennedy, each occasionally shared pictures of their activities. As I admired some of the pictures of them dining at restaurants with the group, I had a revelation about the bill. Would they know what to do?

In the same way that we discuss preparing our teens for driver’s education, rules for teen driving, making the most of a college fair, we also talk with our kids about finances. Once our teens started driving and venturing out without us, we felt the need to make sure they had access to resources in case of an emergency. So Madison and Kennedy have a (limited) credit card to ensure they aren’t stuck in a precarious predicament.

But this was different. Yes, the process of using the credit card to pay their bill is old hat. My concern was whether my teens knew when to tip and how much. I hoped this wasn’t a mom-fail moment.

After they returned home, I asked if they remembered to leave a tip for the waitstaff while dining out during their adventures. As if I was asking an outrageous question, both responded, “Of course.” 


Then we went on a family trip over the holidays and I realized it wasn’t as simple as whether or not they tipped. Our family was joined by my in-laws which made the group size eating together larger than normal. While dining at one of the restaurants, one of the girls questioned a note on the menu that said gratuity is automatically calculated on groups of six and over. Aha! Another opportunity to teach them a life lesson!

It's important for parents to prepare their kids for the real world by doing things like teaching teens when to tip and how much. -

This brought up the discussion about not only tipping, but that sometimes the tip is added to the bill without any input from the guest. I’ve seen people more than once add a tip to a bill only to later discover the tip was already included. Likewise, when you are at a restaurant with others and ask the server to split the bill, sometimes the tip will be added then as well. Since the girls have been attending events with multiple people – and receiving separate bills – they need to pay close attention to these details. As we’ve told them in the past, it’s important to check the bill or receipt to make sure everything is correct. Whether you’re shopping or receive a bill in the mail for school, utilities or registration for an activity, knowing that you’re paying what you expect is important.

Of course, restaurants aren’t the only place you should tip. They’ve seen us tip the staff at hotels, taxi drivers and the hairdresser also so they know it’s more than restaurant staff. Since they’ll be heading off to college in a couple years, I guess knowing they should tip for food that is delivered would be useful information. I queried friends on Facebook to find out what services I might be forgetting. They reinforced my thoughts while including a few I hadn’t considered. Here’s a comprehensive list of where you should teach your teen to leave a tip. Even if these aren’t places they frequent now, there will come a time that they might and having that information in the back of their head is valuable.

People you should consider tipping:

  • Restaurant staff
  • Bartenders and baristas
  • Hotel staff including bellhops and housekeeping
  • Valet
  • Taxi/Car service drivers
  • Salon and spa staff including for hair, nails, facials, massages and other spa treatments
  • Delivery drivers such as food, grocery and moving services. (I inquired about flowers and was told it’s not expected since these are usually gifts.)
  • Pet groomers (after all, they are salons for pets)
  • Artists – whether retail (tattoo, etc.) or street performers

In addition to tipping these people during one-on-one interaction, don’t forget that annual gifts around the holidays are appreciated by music instructors, postal carriers, package delivery drivers and even teachers. Growing up, I remember my parents leaving a gift for our garbage man, too!

It's important for parents to prepare their kids for the real world by doing things like teaching teens when to tip and how much. -

While you can tip whatever percentage or dollar amount you feel is appropriate, many restaurant receipts have gratuity calculations written on them as an aid. It’s worth noting that these recommended gratuity calculations typically include tax in their base. That isn’t the right way to do it. You should pay based on the total of your purchase, excluding the taxes. In addition, places that utilize modern point-of-purchase systems (such as Square) have a window pop-up before you sign that calculates the percentage for you or allows you to add your own amount. One of the most useful reminders that I received was that just because there’s a tip jar or a line on the receipt doesn’t mean you should feel obligated. (Thanks, Liz, for that reminder!) Likewise, if you have the opportunity to tip in person as opposed to on a receipt or through an app, do that. There’s something rewarding about feeling that appreciation directly.

Teaching your teens when to tip is an important life lesson and one that they’ll appreciate more once they are on the receiving end of the payment!

Do your teens know who to tip and how much?

20 thoughts on “Does Your Teen Know When to Tip?

  1. Once my kids started going out to the local diner with friends, I taught them about tipping. I also made sure they had singles for coat checks when going to formals with their school, or for valet parkers.

    1. That’s a great idea to make sure they have singles for coat checks. I seldom carry cash, but when I travel I make sure I have small bills. Never thought about encouraging that for my daughters!

  2. It is amazing to think how complex tipping can be for both teens and adults with needing to know when and how much. Good tip on checking to see if the gratuity has already been added – I have gotten caught on that a few times.

  3. This isn’t something I have honestly thought a lot about with my son but…it is a good thing to discuss! I believe that the standard tipping percentage has increased in the past number of years as well.

  4. While yes I taught my son about it, when, why and how much, I also taught him that the goal to shoot for is a change in our monetary culture where the businesses actually pay their employees instead of insisting their customers do it for them. Tipping culture SUCKS.

  5. What a great thing to teach. Although I see more and more teens just ignore or laugh it off. Only ones that ever appreciate are the ones that have experience as a server.

  6. My husband says that I am too generous. I was a waitress and bartender for a few years, so I know how important it is! I double the tax when we eat out. That usually equals 20% – i give more if they were really good. On holidays, we are really generous. We taught our kids the meaning of tipping and who. But I didn’t know about leaving a tip in the room for the maid who cleans our hotel room until we went on our European tour. We always tip our mail person and our newspaper delivery guy.

  7. My wife and i just had a conversion about this recently. Our plan is on our nephew’s next birthday, we’re going to take him out to a nice restaurant and give him money, instead of paying directly for him, so we canuse the opportunity to teach about tipping.


  9. My wife and I worked in two service industries (waitress and store management) and believe that it taught us so much about respecting people and recognizing excellent service. This and how to pick up after yourself in a store is well taught manners!

  10. This is such a helpful article. I would never think to teach my nieces about tipping but it’s so important. Especially nowadays when tipping isn’t just at restaurants and the girls may not be aware of when it’s appropriate to tip and how much to tip.

  11. Growing up my parents would have me or my brother figure out the appropriate tip when the bill came after a meal. It worked to ensure we knew what we should be tipping, plus the basic math skills needed to do it.

    It would also be good to enforce that tipping is often times the only money the waiter sees from the job. After taxes and insurance a waiters pay check could be literally pennys

    1. That was an awesome idea your parents incorporated. I hadn’t considered using this as a math opportunity – and learning experience with my kids.

  12. It’s great to start teens early to learn tipping and to look closely at receipts to see if gratuity is added and paying in person without a credit card is more rewarding and to appreciate your wait staff.

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