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Everyday Cheapskate: Know Your Cheapskate Etiquette

Mary Hunt on

Face it. Living below your means and staying out of debt, especially in the inflationary times in which America finds itself, requires a good bit of creativity. We have to get pretty clever to stretch a buck.

But just how far can we go in matters of being cheap before we cross the line between good etiquette and outright rudeness? When in doubt, always ask yourself these two questions: "Is my choice to be cheap in this instance going to harm or insult another person?" and "If I proceed, will I be leaving behind a fragrance or an odor?"

My best advice is to be cheap with yourself, generous with others. When splitting the cost, always round up. Never freeload in the name of frugality. If you cannot afford to pay your way, don't go. And when in doubt, always err on the side of generosity.

Q: On what portion of the restaurant bill do I calculate a tip?

A: Pay the tip on the total for food and beverages before tax and before deducting any coupons or gift certificates. It is customary to pay 15% for good service.

Q: What about the counter tip jar?

A: This one is generally annoying, especially when that barista is staring you in the eye waiting for your next move. Here's my position: Contributing to that tip jar is optional, regardless of how mandatory it may appear. But let me be quick to add we should give extra for extra effort. If your coffee order sounds something like this: "half caf, two-and-a-half pumps of vanilla, half soy and half almond milk, light foam, a dusting of cinnamon, and extra hot," tip more generously than, say, "tall brew," in which case no tip is required.

Q: I am invited to a bridal shower I cannot attend. Must I send a gift?

A: No, advises etiquette expert Emily Post. Respond with your regrets. However, if you are invited to the wedding and cannot attend, Post's timeless common etiquette dictates you should send a gift.

Q: The pastor of our church will perform our wedding ceremony. Do we have to pay him since we are members of the church and weddings are part of his job?


A: Performing weddings and funerals are typically outside the scope of a minister's regular duties. Yes, you must pay the wedding officiate a minimum of $250, advises More if travel is involved. I will add, the same applies for presiding over a funeral. A gift in lieu of cash in either situation would not be appropriate.

Q: Is it OK to give cash as a wedding gift? If so, how much?

A: Cash gifts are perfectly acceptable, according to Post. As most millennials are getting married later in life and already have well-stocked homes, they prefer cash to put toward savings or a honeymoon over registry items. There is no minimum (or maximum) amount guests should spend, just guidelines. Post along with other etiquette experts mostly concur that the average wedding gift -- be it physical or monetary -- is $50 to $75.

Q: What is the etiquette to follow when having a makeover at a cosmetic counter in a department store? There is no charge for this service, but am I expected to leave a tip?

A: Here's the generally accepted rule of thumb: You owe nothing if you buy product or take less than 15 minutes of the salesperson's time. Otherwise leave $15 minimum.

Q: When we eat out in a group, how can we ask to pay just our portion of the bill -- not have it "split evenly" -- without seeming too cheap?

A: Ask the server for a separate check before you order. If this is not possible, position yourself to accept the bill from the server. Check to see if the gratuity has been added to the bill (this is becoming more common when there is a group of, say, eight or more). Then accurately calculate what you owe, including tax and a generous tip on your portion. Place your money on the check and pass it along.


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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