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By Elizabeth Gravier, CNBC featuring Vincent Birardi, CFP®, AIF®, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove

Do you really need to tip on that to-go coffee? We have some financial guidance for you.

Just last week, a CBS News article asked the question many Americans confined to murmurs within their inner circles: “Are tip requests getting out of hand?”

While the pandemic brought about a new tipping culture to support service workers and businesses early on, there seems to be a more notable shift with the emergence of digital kiosks at checkouts prompting customers to tip on to-go coffees, takeout orders and other transactions previously free from tipping culture.

But what was once a question of etiquette is becoming for many Americans a question of affordability. Inflation still lingers, and just last month nearly two-thirds of Americans reported they’re already living paycheck to paycheck, according to a report from PYMNTS and LendingClub.

Ultimately, how much you decide to tip depends on your own personal finances, but to offer a guideline, CNBC Select asked financial professionals their advice. Below, they weigh in on today’s tipping culture, who gets a gratuity and how much.

“It helps to understand how people are paid”

Dr. Jaime Peters, assistant dean and assistant professor of finance at Maryville University, has a quick solution for those who need help determining when and if it is appropriate to tip: “It helps to understand how people are paid,” she says.

In other words, your waiter at a restaurant is not paid the same minimum wage as a cashier at a grocery store or coffee shop. “The lower hourly rate is justified by the opportunity for the waitstaff to earn generous tips, which should — theoretically — bring their wages to or above the state’s minimum wage,” Dr. Peters explains.

Leaving a gratuity for your waiter at a restaurant has long been standard practice for this very reason. Other situations where tipping is standard include taking a cab ride or getting a service done at a salon. This differs, however, when you think about the kiosk at Starbucks now asking you to leave a tip on your morning coffee.

What to tip on the kiosk at checkout

“One situation in which you should not be compelled to tip relates back to the automated kiosk,” Vincent Birardi, a CFP and wealth advisor at Halbert Hargrove, says, adding that there shouldn’t be this pressure on customers.

Examples of this situation include ordering a to-go coffee or picking up a takeout order. “In this case, 20% is not the new minimum,” Dr. Peters says. If you have excellent or extremely fast service and want to leave something, consider adding a few dollars to the tip jar. “Some suggest that 10% is a good amount, but others say $1 or $2 is reasonable for good service,” she adds.

Vanessa Martinez, a wealth management professional and co-founder of Em-Powered Network, offers a good tip for those who want a quick, affordable solution when ordering a coffee or picking up takeout: “A simple round-up to the dollar is sufficient,” she says.

Who else gets a gratuity and how much?

Waitstaff, taxi drivers and salon workers aren’t the only workers traditionally tipped. Dr. Peters adds that tipped employees may also include most front-of-house restaurant employees, bellhops, parking attendants, airport service workers and food delivery workers. ”[Customers] should consider each one of them an independent contractor that [they] are hiring for the moment,” she explains.

Dr. Peters and Birardi both agree that a 20% tip is the minimum appropriate for the standard tipped workers and that larger tips (more than 20%) should be done to recognize excellent customer service.

In a world where prices for everything are still generally high, however, you may feel you can’t afford the standard 20% for workers relying on tips. In that case, Birardi urges you to give as much as you can.

“You can always decide to tip a little more or less based on your financial situation and your appreciation for the service provided,” Birardi says. “The thought still counts the most.”

For industries that are not reliant on tips, such as car services (think routine oil change) or a visit from a handyman, Birardi suggests that tipping is optional, “but you can tip 10% to 20% if you felt they went above and beyond with their service.” Dr. Peters agrees that this range is appropriate for good service.

For cash-strapped consumers, Martinez suggests an alternative way to show appreciation for an all-day job at your home from a handyman or movers is picking up a pizza or some sandwiches for their lunch if easier on the wallet.

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