Tipping Etiquette Guidelines – How Much to Tip Hairdressers, Movers, Hotel Staff, Valet, Cab Drivers, Food Delivery, Waiters and More

Ever wonder who you should tip, when you should tip, or how much you should tip? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone – not even close. Most of us take a guess at the amount and hope for the best; hoping we left enough to be remembered in a good way rather than a bad way! And while most of us tip for service in restaurants and bars, there are a lot of other places where tips are a way of life. Like them or not, tips can make or break the service you get for your money or even more importantly, help people make ends meet due to the low pay at their jobs. I am of the mind to tip most of the places we are “supposed” to tip, out of courtesy and thanks to those I am tipping, while some friends of mine only tip if service is exceptional. These opposite ends of the spectrum on tipping seems to account for the majority of people, so who really knows what the “right” way of doing things is? For me, that means tipping well for many different services. So for those of you looking for advice on when/who/how much to tip, I went and did some research and found out a bunch of info that I hope is helpful to you next time you are out and about. Let’s take a look…

  • For waiters at a restaurant (not fast food) a standard tip is 15%-20% of the final bill.
  • Buying a drink at a bar? $1 a drink is pretty standard.
  • Staying in a hotel? I leave between $3-$5 per night for the housekeeping crew.
  • If you are checking your bags curbside at the airport, $1-$2 per bag is fair.
  • Getting your car washed at one of those “top to bottom” car washes? $3-$5 is a good tip for the main guy working on your car.
  • While I rarely see this anymore (although that could be because I don’t hang out anywhere “nice” anymore!), an attendant in a coatroom should be tipped $1 per coat.
  • Seeing a massage therapist to work out the knots from the day job? Between 15%-20% of the massage cost is standard.
  • I tipped my tattoo guy 20% of the cost for his work because, well, if I go back I want him to spell everything correctly!
  • Get your hair cut at a salon? Tipping 15%-20% of the haircut cost is good, and maybe a little more around the holidays.
  • If I ever have to valet my car, I usually tip $2 to the valet driver when he or she brings my car back around.
  • When in need of wheelchair service at the airport, a tip of $5-$10 would be nice to give to the “driver”.
  • Pizza delivery drivers, on average, get between $2-$5 depending on weather, your neighborhood, and distance driven to get there.
  • When taking the shuttle from the rental car place to the airport, most people tip the drive $1 per bag (if they help you with it).
  • For movers, I always tip $20 per guy. This comes in especially handy if you are like me and move often using the same company!
  • If you use a hotel concierge, you should probably tip them at least $5 for getting you tickets or reservations to a show. Give more if they help more, as you never know when you may need them.
  • For taxis, a pretty standard tip is 15% of the final bill.
  • For limo drivers, 20% of the bill is fair.
  • Ever travel overnight on Amtrak? I have, many times – and the sleeping car attendants can make or break your trip. A tip of $3-$5 per day/per passenger can make all the difference.
  • While I am not a gambler, most blackjack players will tip a $5 chip upon leaving the table – more if at a high stakes table or you won a ton of money.
  • The ladies at the nail salon would truly appreciate a 15% tip for cleaning up your fingernails.
  • When getting your shoes shined, a good tip (on top of the bill) would be $2 per pair of shoes.
  • Got a young kid in school? While you don’t need to tip, per se, a small token of appreciation is nice at the end of the school year. That being said, as someone who was married to a teacher, please avoid giving personal pictures of your child, home decorations, or body lotion. A gift card to a bookstore or Starbucks is a much better gift… trust me.

A few other things to keep in mind that I just thought of that may be useful:

If you purchase goods/services with a coupon of any sort, tip on the full amount of the bill – not the discounted price. Otherwise you just look like a cheap bastard and it’s not fair to the server, who has no control over the prices of the restaurant or the value of the coupon.

And lastly, if you are traveling abroad, pretty much throw this entire list out the window. When people from other countries come visit the US, they don’t understand why we tip everyone so much money. In France (the only country I have spent any amount of time in), tipping was generally frowned upon, especially in professional jobs like being a waiter or a taxi driver. We Americans still tipped a little, but locals tended not to tip because they know that these jobs are paid professional wages, and tipping can be seen as insulting by some.

Got any more tips about tipping? Do you tip often or rarely? How much do you tip? Please let us know in the comments!


How to Get Rid of Roaches – Cockroach Control

Ever had a problem with cockroaches in your home? I have, and it’s not fun.

Back in college (which feels like 1000 years ago at this point) I lived with another guy in an old duplex we shared with another couple of guys (parties were great!) that had bullet holes in the back door. And yes, you could still see through them to the outside… good times.

But anyway, we had a serious roach problem in that place in that if you either came home when it was dark and/or got up in the middle of the night and turned on the kitchen light, a flurry of activity would take place on the floor as about a billion roaches scattered for the comfort of darkness under the appliances or behind the walls. It was thoroughly disgusting and we tried everything we could to get rid of them – to no avail. We found out later that the guys next door had rotting food left out, water leaks under the cabinets, and several other problems which only encourage roaches to stay, so by the time we moved out we still had the extra roommates living in our kitchen which we never wanted in the first place.

In the spirit of thinking back about those crazy days, and knowing that people still have trouble with roaches in their house, I figured a post about getting rid of cockroaches could come in handy for some.

Did you know that cockroaches have remained literally unchanged for more than 300 million years now? I didn’t – but it just shows you how resilient they really are. They hung around with dinosaurs just the same as they are hanging around with us humans! Thus, they can be difficult to kill or get rid of at your house, but there are certainly different ways that you can try to get them to leave for good.

The first thing you want to do is to try to figure out where they are coming from. Cracks in your foundation, holes in the drywall or behind appliances, drains that don’t have mechanisms to block critters from the outside from coming in – these are the types of things you should be checking for. Cockroaches will use almost any entrance into your home to look for water and/or food, so you need to make sure that the only entrances are the doors and windows that the humans use! One you find out the where, if you can, you may want to try a few of these ideas:

  • Coffee grounds. These can do a good job of repelling roaches, but it will not kill or keep them away for good.
  • Bay leaves. Cockroaches hate the taste of bay leaves, so crumble some up and sprinkle them near any openings.
  • Spray soapy water on them. Not sure how well this works, but I did read somewhere that roaches breathe through their skin and this can stop them from breathing… at least for a while. Dispose of them before they “wake up” again.
  • Make your own roach food that you can feed them. Combine boric acid and sugar together, and put it around the house (be VERY careful though if you have kids, you don’t want them eating it!) where you think the roaches are coming in. The sugar should attract them and the boric acid should kill them. Hopefully.
  • Buy some cockroach traps. Pretty self-explanatory, but you won’t catch or deter all of them this way.
  • Pick up cockroach spray. Spray it everywhere they could be hanging out, inside and outside of your house.

However, even better than trying to kill a horde of cockroaches is to keep them from entering your house in the first place. It can be difficult if you live in an area prone to a thriving world of roaches, but there are some steps you can take to try to stop them from getting in your house:

  • Stop any and all water leaks. Roaches can go a very long time without food, but not more than a day without water. Stop offering them a free drinking fountain.
  • Keep your house clean of all clutter and messiness. I know, this is hard for some people, but clutter and dirt gives cockroaches a place to hide and hang out until you go to bed.
  • Move all firewood or anything else stored next to your house, away from your house. Don’t provide free housing for the cockroaches while they try to figure out a way inside.
  • Don’t leave any open food laying around. Cockroaches love a free meal.

Cockroaches are a major nuisance and can even carry diseases that your family could get from them. And above all that, they are pretty gross creatures which are unnerving to watch scattering for cover when switching on a light in your house. If you are having problems at your place, hopefully some of these tips will help you get rid of the cockroaches forever!

(photo credit: Spider.Dog)


9 Tips to Maximize Free Shipping Codes & Coupons

The phrase “free shipping” is a siren song to many online shoppers. For whatever reason, a “free shipping “coupon that saves shoppers $6.99 can be more appealing than a “$10 discount.” There’s something about the word “free” that’s oh-so appealing. With a touch of know-how and research, however, you can take full advantage of the “free” in free shipping.

As free or nearly-free offers become more commonplace, it really pays to know your stuff. More than half of online merchants offered free shipping without conditions during the 2009 holiday season. Four out of five offered free-shipping deals with some conditions (i.e. a minimum purchase or for specific products only). That’s a lot of money saved. (Of course, the popularity of Free Shipping Day didn’t hurt.)

Merchants make these offers because research has shown studies show free shipping deals score big points with shoppers. Shipping costs play a primary role in consumers’ choice of e-retailers. Surprisingly, it also greatly impacts customer satisfaction. As a result, footing shipping bills can result in thousands, if not millions of dollars in new sales for e-retailers.

This trend has led to many major merchants offering some sort of shipping discount. Here are nine tips to help you get the most out of free shipping coupons:

1. Check Customer Reviews
Hear the truth from the horse’s mouth. How did the shipping process go? Was the product of good quality? Did it get ruined in transit? By and large, customer comments and reviews serve as an excellent guide. Remember, however, you’ll always find a small percentage of customers who are never happy or simply like to blame others for their mistakes. If an eBay seller has a 95-percent positive rating, you can likely ignore the small percentage who gave them a thumbs down.

2. Bundle Purchases
More merchants are moving towards requiring a minimum purchase before a free shipping deal kicks in. These policies naturally tend to increase the total amount shoppers spend per visit. Consider waiting until you have several products to order that will fulfill the minimum required.

3. Nearly-Free Shipping Deals
Some merchants offer a fixed-rate shipping and handling fee, no matter the actual shipping cost. This encourages larger orders but can also prove to be valuable when you’re purchasing heavier items. In these cases, like I suggested earlier, you’ll get the most out of a “fixed-rate” shipping fee if you wait until there are number of different items you need to purchase (especially if you find there are no heavy items you need).  This way you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

4. Research the Shipping Agent
Some merchants outsource their shipping so it makes sense to also check the record of the actual shipping company. Ask the merchant if they honor delivery guarantees or if the outsourcing company is responsible.

5. Track Your Shipping
Reputable merchants offer some form of tracking system so consumers know when they’re package will arrive and how it’s being shipped. Keep an eye on the progress of your purchase and contact the merchant if you experience any irregularity.

6. Who Pays for Return Shipping
If the shoe fits, wear it. But what if it doesn’t? While outbound shipping may be free, some merchants require customers pay return shipping costs. Among the 850-plus stores tracked by FreeShipping.org, a surprising number always or occasionally offer free return shipping. For example, UniqueHomeStore always offers free shipping and returns. (Also look for re-stocking fees on returns.)

7. Handling Fees
Some stores may advertise free shipping and then tack on a handling fee. Review your shopping cart for such charges before completing your purchase. The majority of handling fees tend to apply to furniture and other large shipments.

8. Use uShip For Large Items
uShip is an online shipping marketplace that connects customers with transportation service providers. Essentially, uShip operates as a free online auction where you create an account, post your shipment details and let service providers bid for the privilege to ship your purchase. Creating an account and listing takes no more than 10 minutes and you can request email, phone or text alerts to keep an eye on bidding.

9. When Free Isn’t Free
Some merchants offer free shipping then kick up their prices to cover the expense. That’s not to say this is a crooked practice. Packaging, credit-card processing, shopping-cart fees and the actual delivery cost a pretty penny, so it’s understandable e-retailers want to recoup some of this investment. Make sure free-shipping offers are really free by comparing prices between at least three merchants before finalizing your purchase.


Lost Wallet? What to Do and How to Prevent Identity Theft

Although I’ve never lost my wallet nor had my identity stolen (knock on wood), it has happened to a very good friend of mine. And when it did, her identity was hijacked and was being used within 3 hours of her purse being stolen! Time is of the essence if your wallet or purse goes missing, and there are a few things you should do right away before even worrying about replacing what you may have lost, which I will get to later in the post. So, without further ado…

First things first – If you had credit cards in your wallet, call the companies and report them as stolen or missing. This will cancel the numbers, and you can tell them you will call back later to get replacements, since you have more to take care of ASAP. If you don’t have the individual phone numbers for each card, you can visit the Help pages for the different credit card companies:

Once you have reported your cards as stolen or missing, you should file a police report at your local police station. This is for two reasons: 1. So if the police get any information about your wallet or purse, they can notify you, and 2. so that you have a letter stating you filed a police report in case you run into any issues with creditors of yours.

What should you do next? File a Fraud Alert or Credit Freeze on your credit file to all three of the credit bureaus. This will let creditors know that something may have happened or is happening to your identity, and they should take steps to verify anything that gets applied for in your name. Here are the numbers of each agency:

  • Experian: Call 1-888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
  • Equifax: Call 1-800-525-6285
  • TransUnion: Call 1-800-680-7289

Once you have set up a credit freeze, you should contact your bank. They will advise you on closing your account, changing account numbers, preserving any auto-bill pays you have in place, getting you a new debit card, etc.. They may also have extra advice for you on what else you can do to help you recover from this incident.

Next up, call your local Department of Motor Vehicles. I know, I know, nobody likes dealing with them. But you need to place an alert on your file that your ID is missing and order yourself a new driver’s license or ID card. Just Google “DMV” and your local office should pop up.

You have now taken care of all the major stuff that most people have in their wallets and purses. But don’t forget all the other items you may have lost as well! This could include your library card, social security card, ID cards for work, a military ID, rewards cards, insurance cards, etc.. These will all need to be replaced as well.

While losing your wallet or having your purse stolen can be traumatic, there are a few things you can do to prepare in advance…just in case:

1. Make copies of the contents of your wallet and keep them somewhere safe.
2. Note the phone numbers/company names for your credit card companies with these copies.
3. Be fully aware of what you are carrying around with you. You don’t need to carry your Social Security card, birth certificate, or every single one of your credit cards.
4. Know your bank account numbers by heart or have them easily accessible.

Being prepared is half the battle!


Used Car Values – How to Sell Your Car at the Right Price

Just a month ago I completed the sale of my 2008 Subaru Forester. After making payments on it for 2+ years, I decided that I wanted something different, something that I had owned before. So I bought myself a 2007 Mini Cooper S that is still under the factory warranty with just over 40,000 miles on it. I couldn’t be happier with my decision! But I digress – I want to talk about selling my Subaru and the steps I went through in order to discover what it was worth, what I could possibly get for it, and then finally deciding on a buyer.

The first thing I did was find out how much I still owed on the car – this was my “I must at least get this for the car so I can pay it off entirely and then buy something else” price. Luckily, I made a heck of a deal on the car when I bought it, paying just $19,000 out the door including taxes/fees – this for a car that had a sticker price of almost $24,000 plus tax. So right away, I knew that my “what I owe to residual value ratio” was pretty good. Add in the fact that I always paid more than the minimum payment on the loan each month, and my final dollar amount that I owed as of a month ago was $13,109. This was how much I had to get for the car in a sale to break even and walk away clean. It was my bottom price point.

The next thing I did was start looking up the residual value of a 2008 Subaru Forester. There are many places on the internet to do this kind of research, but my personal favorites (and the ones I find come closest to the truthful price) are Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds. All you have to do is go to the sites, enter your zip code, make/model/year of the car you are learning about, how many miles you have on it, and check off any extras that your car may have been sold with. For the record, my car was a 2008 Forester with 40,000 miles in very good condition. Trade-in value is what you can expect to get selling it to a dealer and Private Party value is what you can expect to get selling it to an individual. This is what each site told me that my car was worth:

Kelly Blue Book:
Trade-In Value in Good Condition – $13,550
Private Party Value in Good Condition – $15,815

Trade-In Value in Good Condition – $13,982
Private Party Value in Good Condition – $15,856

Thankfully, both the trade-in and the private party price is above the “what I owe” dollar amount of $13,109, so I knew I could sell the car and at least walk away without owing any money – and possibly even pocket a little extra. I went ahead and listed it on the local Craigslist here in Colorado, received a few emails and had some local interest – but no sale. So I took it to my favorite last resort car buying company – Carmax. I have bought and sold cars to them before, it’s a very painless and seamless process, and they will give you a fair price on the car you are selling. After they appraised my car, they came back with their offer:


Sold. I get to walk away with a few extra hundred bucks back, I get a fair price for my car, and I don’t have to haggle or deal with individual people trying to get the best price or arrange financing. As an added bonus, my car was still registered in New Mexico, and thus I didn’t have to pay to have it transferred here for a private buyer. I handed CarMax the keys and walked away. Sure, they will sell it on their lot for a lot more than that, but I just wanted to sell the car for a fair price and pay off the balance. Goal achieved!

As you can see, finding out the value of your car and then selling it can take you on many different paths. The key is to explore several different ways of finding out (and running) the numbers to make any deal work for you. If Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds don’t work for you, you can also check out NADA or Cars.com to get even more information.

Good luck!

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