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November 23, 2021

Will the downturn cause you to tip less this holiday season?

As an overall blanket excuse, “What, in this economy?” works pretty well:

-Fill up my tank with premium fuel? What, in this economy?
-Send the in-laws gifts on top of a card? What, in this economy?
-Hire someone to watch the kids while I’m at the strip club? Are you nuts? In this economy?

Yet, one place where that line of interpretation might not fly is the world of tipping.

Logic stands to reason that, during a time when money is tight and penny-pinching is in vogue, tipping should suffer in turn.

But is that the case and, more importantly, is that fair?

A good analysis of the recessionary tip is set to reveal itself this holiday season. While reports suggest the downturn has ceased, that doesn’t mean our spending ways have reverted back to the free-wheeling styles they were.

So with that, how much will we pay? Around holiday time, we usually tip housekeepers, doormen, babysitters, personal trainers, etc.

According to Reuters, the “general rule” on tipping here is to give the equivalent of what you’d usually pay each week for a single session. If one house clean costs $50, toss a crisp red one to your maid – that kind of thing.

Whether such consistency will exist this holiday, though, is anyone’s guess. If you believe a recent U.S. Consumer Reports survey, it sure looks like it won’t.

The study found 26 per cent of Americans who usually tipped would do so in a lesser amount this year; only 6 per cent plan to give more.

And some people aren’t liking that math one bit.

“In this economy not all of us have the cash we once had,” Mary Mitchell, author of ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Etiquette,’ told Reuters. “But if you are in a position where you have the funds it is almost a moral imperative to be generous.

“We all need to be really authentic and consistent,” she continued. “We can’t keep saying how poor we are then rush out and buy a new Porsche. Don’t use (the economy) as an excuse to save money then buy some Prada boots.”

So, which tipping camp do you side in?

Has now become an “every man for himself”-type world, where we need to hoard what we can just to eek by? Or is tipping still an important part of society, and – at the very least – shouldn’t we offer a homemade meal or something this year if we can’t come through with cash?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...