Kids And Finances

Teaching A Teen About Tipping


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When my son got his driver’s license, in many ways daily life became much more convenient for both of us. He could drive himself to work, friends’ homes, and to run errands. It also opened up the opportunity to teach him countless financial lessons, including how to tip.

Last night I gave him some cash, and sent him off to his haircut appointment. Before he left, I told him that he should tip the hair stylist about 20%. I could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t quite registering. I gave him some examples: If the hair cut cost $10, the tip should be $2, a $20 haircut would get a $4, and a $25 haircut gets a $5 tip. If nothing else, I told him to pull out his phone and do the calculation.

When he returned, he gave me the change. Curious as to how his transaction went, I asked him how much his haircut cost.

“I don’t know,” was his reply.

“How much did you tip?” I asked, confused.

“I don’t know. I just gave them all the money and this is what they gave me back.”

He had apparently expected the salon front desk employee to decide how much of a tip he wanted to leave. We got in the car, drove to the salon, and gave the stylist her tip for a job well done (she did an amazing job).

When we got home, we had a more detailed discussion about tipping:

  • Tipping is customary for many service industries, including hair stylists
  • It’s up to the customer to find out how much the service cost, then decide how much of a tip to leave
  • If you have exactly how much you want to leave for the bill plus tip, just hand that amount to the appropriate person, and say, “Thank you, no change needed.”
  • If you do not have the exact amount, hand your money to the appropriate person and tell them how much change you want back.


  • Get your change, and then hand back the desired tip amount.

As for how much to tip, I told him it that people have different views on how much to tip, but offered him my tipping scale:

  • 10% tip is for below average service
  • 15% tip is for adequate service
  • 20% tip is for good service
  • 25% tip is for exceptional service

For a teenager that is used to just handing over payment for goods and getting back change without much interaction, being in a situation where tipping is involved will be uncomfortable at first. But knowing when to tip, how much to tip, and how to complete the transaction is a skill that everyone needs to learn.   I’ll be watching for the next opportunity to put him in this situation, and see how much of our conversation stuck.

Have you had to teach a teenager about tipping? How did you do it?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock


About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I am 27 and I’m STILL uncomfortable about tipping! I feel like the rules vary so much based on the service – a meal vs. a haircut, etc. – and I just never quite know what is appropriate. I do like the guidelines for percents based on quality of service. Makes it much simpler!

  • We just had this conversation yesterday with our daughter. She was so proud
    she was the only one of her friends that remembered to leave a tip when
    they went out to dinner. A whole $1! We asked how much the bill was and
    explained that a dollar was not enough. It became apparent she thought a
    dollar was standard for any service – from coffee to a full dinner when out
    with friends. Math is not her strong suit, so we encouraged her to find a

  • Huh, I never even thought about this being an issue. But I guess I get it. I just never felt all that uncomfortable about tipping.

    Like you, we generally tip 15% if the person just covered the basics — usually restaurant stuff — and didn’t do much else to impress. Twenty percent for service that was personable and well-done. And 25% if the person really wowed us.

    We have one server at a restaurant that we always request because she’s amazing. I actually try to tip her closer to 30% because she’s just that good. Also, she likes to apply any freebie coupons there are to our order (even if we don’t have one). There aren’t always some, but it’s nice that she tries.

  • @Ali – I know exactly what you mean. the rules always seem to be changing, and tip jars show up seemingly everywhere these days. One of those things that makes life interesting I guess….

  • @Abigail – it’s worth tipping a great server well especially if you’re a repeat customer. I’m sure she remembers every time you come in….and I’ll bet she puts in extra effort because of it!

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