From unhealthy tricks to monetary infidelity, America’s cash secrets and techniques uncovered

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Few subjects are harder to talk about than money—but money speaks volumes about who we are.

“When it comes to money, our character shows,” says Cassie Alongi, real estate agent and co-founder of We Buy Any House in California. “Whether we are smart or wasteful, rational or a spendthrift, selfless or selfish. Just give a man money and see what becomes of him.”

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Alongi is not hypocritical – she also throws herself into this assessment. “At some points I’ve caught myself saying ‘keep the change,’ as if I was programmed to say that all the time. Other days I just don’t see any reason why my money should stay in your hands or tip you.”

In a survey of more than 1,000 American adults, GOBankingRates examined the nooks and crannies of money etiquette, and the results of what people were willing to share about this taboo topic might change the way you think about your own money manners.

Eating out: Should the quality of service determine the tip?

To say that waiters in restaurants rely on tips is an understatement. While the state minimum wage is still a ridiculous $7.25 an hour, the hourly minimum wage for tipped workers like servers is a ridiculously low $2.13. That’s about $17 for an eight-hour shift.

The good news for servers is that the majority of the population wants to reward them when they do a good job. About 75% of those surveyed tip at least 18% for good service, which is three percentage points higher than the standard 15%. About 41% tip 20%, and more than a quarter give extra generous tips of 25% or more.

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In the case of bad service, on the other hand, around one in three still tips at least 18%. However, 44% give up 10% or less—or nothing at all—if they’re not impressed with their server.

While the service is abysmal, we are told the Scrooges are wrong in this case.

“It’s never recommended not to tip at all,” says Rachana Adyanthaya, business etiquette and image consultant and founder of cr8mychange.

Remember, you’re not just punishing the server. Waiters typically tip busiers, who typically work harder for less pay, and sometimes dishwashers, who are even further down the totem pole. Also, you’re often punishing the wrong person – the waiters have little control over when the food arrives or if the kitchen gets the wrong order.

“Personally, it would be better to discuss the issue directly with the server or the manager to find a solution,” Adyanthaya said.

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Take our poll: Do you tip for service?

Other workers with tips are often left out in the cold

Approximately 95% of respondents to the study reported tipping waiters, 58% bartenders, and 53% carpooling and taxi drivers. But less than half of respondents leave tips for:

  • pages
  • hotel cleaning
  • Hotel room service
  • valet driver
  • Spa and salon staff

You only have to earn $30 in monthly tips to get dropped to $2.13 an hour instead of the less-awful standard minimum wage. The professions listed here tend to meet all of these criteria, so why do people close their hearts and wallets to them, but not to those who serve them food and drink?

“There is some confusion about how much to tip and when to tip services such as bartenders, taxis, valet, spa/salon and room service staff,” Adyanthaya said.

It may also be that these types of professionals are victims of time.

“In an increasingly cashless society, people may not carry cash,” Adyanthaya said. “And so these services can be overlooked.”

So what are you doing?

Asking a friend or colleague how much money they make has always been one of the biggest social faux pas. That’s still the case today, although about 1 in 5 now think it’s okay to ask the question to both co-workers and buddies.

With nearly identical 80/20 splits, vast majorities still consider salary requests taboo. According to cognitive psychologist John F. Tholen, Ph.D., author of Focused Positivity, “It’s all about how you ask.”

“While it could be a breach of etiquette, asking a personal question is always at least acceptable, so long as the asker is willing to respond gracefully if the person being asked declines the information requested,” Tholen said. “Normal sensitivity would also require that the request for such personal data be preceded by a qualifying phrase such as: ‘I know it’s really none of my business and I totally understand if the answer is ‘no’, but… ‘”

The reason for the request often has as much to do with how you phrase the question.

“Although a person’s financial affairs are personal and it would normally exceed a line of etiquette to make such a request, there are at least two circumstances that would warrant doing so,” Tholen said, citing the following:

  • When a close friend or relative complains about their income or asks for financial advice or support.
  • If you suspect a wage inequality or want to use the information to negotiate a higher wage.

What is a wedding worth?

Someone else’s big day can be a big expense for guests, so how much should you spend on a wedding? Just over half of the study’s respondents cap it at $75 – under $50 for about 1 in 4. About another 30% will go up to $150, but most of them are even at $100 -Dollar. About 8% go up to $200 and much smaller percentages spend $200, $250 or more.

“While no formula can accurately determine the most appropriate amount for a wedding gift, careful consideration of all of these four factors should help most make an informed decision,” Tholen said.

  • How close you are to the couple to be married and their immediate family members: For example, an aunt of the bride is expected to spend more on a wedding gift than a neighborhood friend of the bride’s mother.
  • History of previous wedding gift exchanges between your family and the family of the newlyweds: If another family has been particularly generous in giving, we may want to reciprocate to show the same appreciation.
  • How much you can spend: Reasonable people understand less expensive gifts from those with limited disposable income.
  • How much you would like to express special affection or appreciation to the couple to be married and/or their parents: The greater the value and attention given to a wedding gift, the greater the respect and belonging that is being signaled.

Other insights

When dining in a large group, nearly identical percentages — about 41% each — either split the check evenly or split it according to each person’s order. About 18% take turns covering the entire bill.

When it comes to lending money to family members, only about 62% expect the person to actually pay it back. Around 38%, on the other hand, cannot be forced by family relationships to treat a loan as a gift.

After all, 3 out of 4 people in a committed relationship have never hidden a major purchase from their spouse or partner. Of course, that means 25% did – although it’s unlikely they did so because they believed they were practicing good money etiquette.

A note on age and gender

Gender differences appear in almost every study GOBankingRates conducts. However, this study was different. With few exceptions – men tend to spend slightly more on wedding gifts, for example – men and women answered the same questions in almost identical percentages in almost all categories.

Different age demographics were also unusually close, although younger respondents were more likely to break the pattern. For example, 25-34 year olds were the least likely to tip badly for poor restaurant service and most likely to give anything when service was good.

Not surprisingly, older generations are the most likely to adhere to traditional etiquette norms. The likelihood of asking friends or colleagues about their salary, for example, gradually decreased with age – around 40% of Gen Zers agreed, compared to less than 5% of those over 65.

More from GOBankingRates

GOBankingRates surveyed 1,004 Americans 18+ from across the country between July 21 and July 24, 2022 and asked nine distinct questions: (1) How much do you tip when restaurant service is poor?; (2) How much do you tip if the service in the restaurant is good?; (3) How much do you usually spend on a wedding gift?; (4) If you’re going out for dinner with a large group, how do you split the bill?; (5) Have you asked your closest friends how much money they make?; (6) Have you asked colleagues how much money they make?; (7) If you lend money to a family member, do you expect them to actually pay it back?; (8) Have you ever hidden a large purchase from your partner or spouse?; and (9) Which waitstaff do you tip regularly? (Choose all that apply). GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the survey.

About the author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning author, Andrew Lisa was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the country’s largest newspaper consortium, the Gannett News Service. He has worked as a business editor for amNewYork, Manhattan’s most widely circulated newspaper, and as an editor for, a financial publication at the heart of New York City’s Wall Street investment community.

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