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The ultimate tips for holiday tipping on a budget

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, they say, unless you’re talking about your finances.

From a money perspective, the holidays put a huge strain on family bank accounts, especially when all of those extras – like year-end tips – push your budget past its breaking point.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit of giving, or feel pressured into having to financially reward everyone with whom you’ve come in contact.

But while you want to find a way to thank everyone at holiday time, you shouldn’t have to deplete your limited cash reserves to do so.

January (and its fearsome pile of bills) is right around the corner.

That’s why I’ve learned to set aside extra funds to cover all of the holiday tips I want to give and to be a little stingy about who I reward.

Well, put in a more positive way, I’ve become more selective about who gets end-of-year tips or thank-you gifts, and to place reasonable limits on the presents I bestow.

Here’s how I suggest you do that.
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 Culture Cents 

Should you tip your Uber driver?

Should you tip your Uber driver? It’s a big debate lately. And if you’re confused about it, you’re not alone.

But here’s the fact. With Uber, tipping isn’t required. Uber says so.

“There is no need to tip. Once you arrive at your destination, your fare is automatically charged to your credit card on file, making for a cashless and seamless experience,” Uber recently told MarketWatch.

What does everyone else think?

To find out I also asked family, friends, co-workers — even a few Uber drivers — and the general consensus is, no, you don’t need to tip your Uber driver, but you probably should in a few fairly rare circumstances (more on that later).

For those who aren’t familiar with Uber, or don’t have it in their city, Uber is a ridesharing app that’s taking over urban transportation.

You download the Uber app on your smart phone, request a car at your pickup location, and within minutes you’re on your way to your destination. Approved Uber drivers use their own cars to drive passengers around town – it’s peer-to-peer ridesharing at its best.
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 Personal Finance 

Holiday Tipping Guide

Holiday Lollipop Forest: Featuring Penguins & Snowman!The spirit of the holidays is about spending time with family and friends, being thankful for the things that we’ve accomplished and the lives we’ve led, and showing appreciation to everyone who has made the year possible. Sometimes the year ends on a high note, as we celebrate the achievements. Sometimes we simply want to turn the page on an otherwise difficult twelve months. For many, this year will seem more like the latter but it’s important to remember that as difficult as it was for you, chances are there were scores facing much tougher challenges.

It’s on this more somber note that I present to you the 2011 Holiday Tipping Guide, which hopefully will give you an idea of what is considered customary when it comes to showing appreciation to those in the services industry who have gone above and beyond. These are merely guidelines, it’s up to you to decide what makes sense for both your area and your own finances.

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 Personal Finance 

Your Take: Tipping, Taxes & Social Norms

Tip JarWhat do you think of Ron Paul’s proposal to stop taxing tips? I think servers everyone would love it but it might have some unintended consequences if it were to pass (which it probably won’t). If we were to stop taxing tips, the minimum wage laws would probably have to be adjusted to account for this law and tips would likely go down in the long run (since tips were suppose to supplement a much lower minimum wage).

I’ve personally never liked the idea of tipping because things are so inconsistent and subject to interpretation. The only general rule that has persisted throughout time is that you tip 15% for good service at a restaurant, 20% for great service (which has probably inflated over the decades). Then some restaurants automatically add 18% for large parties, so is 18% the norm or is 15%? What about great service at an inexpensive restaurant? What about at a coffeeshop? Or any number of places with a tip jar? I checked in at a golf course and my receipt had a line for a tip, am I supposed to tip the guy who swiped my card? (I didn’t, nor do I think I need to)

I think it would be great if tip was socially accepted as optional and should be given when service is above and beyond. Servers should get minimum wage, not a BS minimum wage that accounts for tips, and tips should be counted as compensation and taxed as such (and I expect people to fudge their tip numbers, just as they do now).


(Photo: juliejordanscott)

 Personal Finance 

How to Avoid Tipping Scams & Ripoffs

Restaurant ReceiptWhen I shared how I was taken by a Canadian fake DVD scammer, I asked you all what your worst scam was and the most common response was servers fraudulently putting more tip on the receipt. It’s such an easy scam because what’s an extra dollar or two on your receipt? It’s hard to discover in your credit card bill because the difference is so small. A 3 becomes an 8, a 7 becomes a 9, and all you’re probably looking for when you review your statement is whether you went to the place in question.

So here are a few simple ways to avoid getting ripped off.

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 Personal Finance 

Why Tipping Is The Best Investment Ever

Tip JarI’ve always found that tipping, by far, is the best investment you can ever make in almost any situation. Anyone who has ever bellied up to a bar knows that a dollar a drink is all it takes to get the speediest of service on even the busiest of nights. Want a nicer hotel room? I’ll tell you about a risk-free technique you can use to score complimentary upgrades, if they’re available.

I’m not an master of etiquiette nor do I have extensive experience with the benefits of tipping, but I think the insights I am about to share can change, or reinforce, your thoughts on going above and beyond, financially.

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 Your Take 

Your Take: Acceptable To Tip Less in a Recession?

Tip Jar at a CoffeehouseKimberly Palmer of Alpha Consumer asked her readers this week whether you should tip less during a recession. There was your typical philosophical discussion about the merits of tipping (think about the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs) but it seems as though, based on the callers into NPR’s Talk of the Nation, a show that Kim was on, people, based on empirical evidence, felt it was acceptable to tip less.

I don’t think it is. I worked once as a banquet waiter and so was not subject to per-ticket gratuities and I wasn’t compensated as if I were subject to per-ticket gratuities. I was paid a handsome $10 an hour for my banquet waiter duties and the only tips I ever saw were for getting drinks for people. I may be a little biased, but not terribly so.

I think that if you don’t think you can afford to tip fairly, you should be using the services are expect tips. You can cook your own food for far less than eating out, so if money were really the issue then you wouldn’t be ordering or dining out, you’d be cooking yourself.

As for the philosophical qualms people have about tipping, our society has made it a norm. Some food service staff are paid less because there is an expectation that they will be compensated by patrons for their service through tips. If you don’t like it, don’t blame the waiter or waitress, blame the system and blame the restaurant owner for perpetuating it.

What are your opinions about tipping? Do you think it’s acceptable to tip less when money is tight? What about the philosophical angle about how tipping has really stretched itself into other areas or how tipping in general is really a terrible compensation system?

(Photo: mwichary)

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