Eat Frugally, Tip Generously

I am pretty sure I am a server’s worst nightmare when I go out to eat. I order water to drink, opt out of an appetizer, order the cheapest thing on the menu (or worse–split it with a friend), and never order dessert or coffee. By the end of the night I’m probably the cheapest customer in the restaurant.

However I always redeem myself for my frugal meal by leaving a generous tip.

I used to be a server and know how it feels to receive a terrible tip. Once I got a $7 tip on a $100+ bill. Another time I had a very high mainteance table on a calm evening (aka: there were no issues with their food, etc.), and they actually wrote “Sorry!” in the blank area where you leave your tip. I couldn’t believe it. Who does that?

So if I am going to a seafood restaurant or Dine In Family Restaurant on a budget, I will make sure to order a small amount of food in order to leave a generous tip. If I cannot afford to tip well, then I cannot afford to eat at that restaurant. And it’s not that I tip unusually large, but I rarely ever tip under 20%, even if it was terrible service. I remember those hard days of waiting tables and couldn’t tell you how great it felt to get a generous tip. It meant the world to me.

One day, just for kicks, I want to leave a $100 tip on some $10 meal. Wouldn’t that be awesome to bless someone in that way? I can’t wait to do fun stuff like that with my money in the future. :)

What about you?
What percent do you tip? Any server/tipping stories? What cool ways do you want to bless others with your money?


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  • I almost always tip 20%; 15% if service isn’t great (a lot of the time at chain restaurants, they forget our appetizer — it’s amazing). And if I’m using a coupon of any sort (buy 1 entree, get 1 free, or similar), I tip on what would have been the full amount. Still saving money, but I would never want to gip the server out of his or her tip!

  • I, too, can’t WAIT to brighten people’s days with big tips, unexpected presents, etc. when I have the money. Won’t it be so fun?

    We sound so alike — I’m exactly like that in a restaurant. Water, no appetizer, no dessert. lol. Usually I tip 15% to 20%. The service has got to be HORRIBLE for me to tip less (i.e., I need to walk to the waiter’s station to get utensils, which has happened before).

    I actually just got a “one free lunch” coupon for Ted’s Montana Grill and I feel it’s only right to eat at the bar and not a table because of it. And of course my tip will be generous!

  • I’m like you in that I don’t get a drink and never order an appetizer (unless that appetizer is going to be my meal). I don’t get drinks because I think they are ripoffs. $3 for a cup of ice? No thanks. I’ll take my extra large jug of water with refills. I do pass on the appetizer and get a small entree because I love dessert. I would go to a restaurant and just eat dessert, but I don’t know if that’s ok.

    I double the tax, always. In NY that comes out to a little under 17%, so right in the middle, I guess. I’ve never been so moved by someone’s service that I’ve given them extra, but I guess if that happens I might just have to do that.

    That said, that was a small topic of discussion on the most recent Curb Your Enthusiasm. I can’t say anything without ruining the episode, but Larry David always brings up interesting topics.

  • I too am a former server. Way to many years to count and I started early.

    My main meal lately has often been an appetizer. Hubbster and I will split dessert.

    I also tip about 20%. I have never had ‘sorry’ written on the check but I have been stiffed.

    I also have gotten a hundred dollar tip on a small bill.

    So I’ve gone done both ends of the spectrum, no tip and overly generous tip.

    However because I waited tables for soo long I am very picky about the service I receive.

  • I learned from my cousin who was a former waiter – leave a decent tip – they work hard for their money.

    I double the state tax – about 16% here in CA. Unless it’s bad service – then I leave the 8%.

    I would love to leave a large tip one of these days.

    Everyonce in a while, seniors frequent this diner we go to – so we will secretly buy their meal on the way out the door. I’ve never known the reaction, but I picture it as a smile.

  • I do the “double-tax” + a little extra since I’m also in CA. If service is HORRIBLE, I still leave something. (I’ve never worked as a server but most of my friends have.)

    One July 4th, it was raining in the city I was visiting, so a friend and I went to a small restaurant. We sat at the bar for 3 hours and had some drinks and food and spent a lot of time talking/flirting with the waiter. We were the ONLY customers in the entire place for that time frame… I think we left him a 50-75% tip or something ridiculous. It was really fun! :)

  • I like to leave about 20% unless service is bad and then it goes to abotu 15%. My wife is a former server and I’ve heard the stories. Some day I would like to buy a strangers meal (someone who looks down on their luck or a young family with crazy kids, etc.) at a restaurant without them knowing.

  • I like to leave around 20% also, or at least 15%. I rarely eat out, so don’t mind paying.

    I also leave tips in hotel rooms cuz I worked as a chambermaid for a summer and know how hard the work is!

  • It’s strange to read that people from the US or Canada may leave tips of up to 20%. People rarely leave tips here in Spain (they don’t make up part of the waiter’s salary like in the US; and tips go to a tip jar to be shared among servers), and a 10% tip is considered extremely generous. I love to leave tips, people tend to remember you if you tip them and really appreciate it, since there’s no obligation. Service fees are already included in the bill, so most people don’t bother to leave that little extra; but waiters definitely treat you better if you’re a tipper, and since my boyfriend has been a waiter for years I know how much it pleases them to get a little extra, even if it’s just a few coins!

  • I actually noticed that when I was in Europe! It was so nice to just pay for my meal and not have to calculate tips afterwards. I wonder if US or European servers do better. I suppose it depends on the restaurant, but I did find it refreshing not to have to worry about tipping!

  • I once left a $20.00 tip on a $4.00 rum and coke. Let’s just say that wasn’t a totally conscious decision and I had had a couple of rum and cokes at a previous bar before that one :) The next day I felt like a doof, but at least it wasn’t wasted money, I’m sure it made someone’s day.