i The Frugal Law Student | 2007 | October

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Personal Finance

The Ultimate Tipping Guide

Written by Brett McKay


Skipping out on a tip is not frugal. It’s cheap. Not sure when it’s appropriate to tip or how much you should tip in certain situations? Here’s your ultimate guide on how to tip. (Note: Tipping guidelines differ from country to country. This guide is intended for those who will be tipping in the United States.)


  • Housekeeping at the hotel. A good tip for housekeeping is between $2 to $5. Don’t just leave cash on the nightstand. It might not be clear to your maid that the money is for them. Make sure to leave the tip in an envelope marked for housekeeping.
  • Tour guide. Tip between $1 to $5 per person in your group.
  • Skycap or bell hop. $1 to $2 per bag they lug for you. If you’re running late and the skycap books your luggage to your plane so you can get their on time, bump up the tip.
  • Doorman. Only tip the doorman at a hotel if he gives you a hot tip on the best places to eat or visit while in town.

Personal Services

  • Massage Therapist. Give 10 to 20 percent of the total cost.
  • Nurses. Usually tipping nurses at hospitals are not permitted, but don’t tell that to my wife’s grandma. She’s a retired nurse and believes you should definitely tip nurses and other health assistants. Any time she’s at the hospital you can guarantee she’s getting the best service because she gave her nurse “la boost.”
  • Garage parking. $2 for your car. When you valet park, tip the person who brings you the car, not the person who parks it.
  • Baristas/Smoothie Makers/ice cream scoopers. It seems like all these types of establishments have tip jars now a days. Spare change is always appreciated. If the barista starts making your order as soon as you walk in so that its ready for you by the time you get up to pay, tip a little extra.
  • Hairstylist. Tip 15% of the cost of the haircut.
  • Takeout. If you order takeout from a restaurant make sure to tip the cashier a bit. While they weren’t waiting on you hand in foot for, they did have to bust their butt to get your order together and ready. If they help you take your order out to the car, tip a bit extra.
  • Car washer. $3 bucks is good for a basic car wash. If they take extra time in your detailing, give 10% of the cost of the wash.
  • Manicure. 10 to 15% is a nice tip.
  • Tattoos/body piercings. 15% of what the total cost is. If the tattoo artist does an amazing job of capturing what your mother looks like on your arm, tip extra.
  • Tow truck. It depends on what services the person provides. If they jump your car or change your tire, tip about $4. If they tow it, $5 is good tip.
  • Bagger at the grocery store. Now a days people no longer tip grocery baggers. It’s not necessary, but definitely a nice gesture. $1 is a good tip.

Delivery Services

  • Newspaper deliverer. During the holidays, give them a card with $20. My in-laws do this every year and as a result, they have their paper delivered straight to their door instead of just thrown on the driveway.
  • Pizza/Meal delivery. 10 to 15% is customary. If the weather is bad, i.e. there’s snow and ice or a tsunami, tip extra.
  • Furniture/large appliance delivery. $5 per person. If they stick around and help you assemble or rearrange your furniture, tip extra.

Out On the Town

  • Waiters. 15 to 20% is customary. If they do an exceptional job, pay more. If you come in with a large group make sure to ask if gratuity is added into your check so you don’t tip them twice. (Of course, as a former waiter, I always appreciated it when someone give me a little extra in addition to the gratuity.)
  • Bartenders. 15 to 20%. Again, if they do an excellent job give more. If you come during happy hour and down 20 $.99 cent draws, don’t just leave 15%. Bartenders have to bust their butt to get those things poured for you and deserve more than just your change.
  • Casino. There lots of people you could be tipping at a casino. First, you have cocktail waitresses. 15% is customary. Many people tip dealers when they have a successful run.
  • Taxi. Standard tip is 15%. If they get you to your destination quickly, tip extra.


During the holidays, it’s customary to give a little more for the everyday services we receive. Here is just a short list of people you should consider giving “la boost” to during the holidays.

  • Mailman. It’s against federal law to tip to federal employees, but they can accept gifts of less than $20. During the holidays, give your mailman a non-monetary gift valued at less than $20. Baked goods are always appreciated.
  • Garbage/recycling man. These guys have a dirty job, recognize their work around the holidays by giving them a tip. $10 per person is nice. You can also just give gifts.
  • Teachers. If you have kids in school, its usually customary to give their teacher a small gift at Christmas time. It doesn’t have to be big. I remember when I was a kid, I usually gave candles.
  • Babysitter. A gift in addition to their normal pay is nice. Gift cards are always appreciated.
  • Cleaning person. An extra week’s pay or a nice gift.

Wash Your Hands Like A Doctor

Written by Brett McKay


Yesterday, I wrote about 13 ways to kill a cold without killing your budget. Washing your hands was number one on that list. That got me thinking. Most people really don’t wash their hands like they should. Next time you’re in a public bathroom watch how people wash their hands. First, you’ll notice that many people just don’t do it (eeewww). Second, those that do stop at the sink just run their hands under water quickly. That’s not going to do anything to get rid of those germs. If you want to get the germ fighting benefit of hand washing you have to do it right and no one washes their hands better than doctors. Here’s how you can wash your hands just like them.

When To Do It


  • preparing or serving food
  • eating food
  • inserting or removing contact lenses
  • treating a cut or wound
  • brushing and flossing your teeth
  • picking your nose (just kidding! But seriously, most bacteria from our hands infect us after coming into contact with our nose)


  • using the bathroom (no brainer)
  • being around someone who is sick
  • blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing
  • handling uncooked poultry
  • changing a diaper
  • picking your nose

How To Do It

  1. Wet your hands with warm water.
  2. Get some soap and rub your hands together vigorously for 20 seconds. A doctor friend of mine said 20 seconds is about the amount of time it takes to hum “Happy Birthday” twice.
  3. Make sure to wash all the surfaces of your hands, including wrists, palms, fingers, and underneath fingernails.
  4. Rinse hands thoroughly with warm water.
  5. Dry hands with a clean paper towel. Turn off sink with paper towel to prevent reinfecting your hands.

Bonus Tip: When you’re in a public bathroom, dispense your paper towel before you wash your hands. The handle on dispensers is probably one of the most germ infested areas in a bathroom. By having the towel ready before you wash, you can avoid touching the dispenser with your clean hands.

Bonus Bonus Tip: When you’re in a public bathroom, don’t throw the paper towel away immediately. Use it to open the door.  Door handles in public bathrooms are covered with bacteria, so protect your newly clean hands by opening it with the paper towel.

13 Ways To Kill A Cold Without Killing Your Budget

Written by Brett McKay


Cold and flu season is upon us. You don’t have to let getting sick get in the way of your financial goals. Here’s a list of 13 things you can do to save money this cold season,


The best way to prevent spending money on treating a cold is to avoid getting sick in the first place.

Wash your hands. Most germs, viruses, and bacteria are spread through our hands. Sick people wipe their runny nose with their hand and go on to touch their infected hands with other hands or places where other hands will touch. Wash those germs away by washing your hands frequently.

Get enough sleep. When you’re not well rested, your immunity system wears down and makes you more susceptible to sickness. Make sure to get your 8 hours each night.

Exercise. Studies have shown that exercise can build up your immunity system. But don’t over do it. Too much exercise can wear you out and consequently your immune system. All you need is 2o minutes a day to get the health benefits of exercise.

Eat Right. If you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap. Stop eating junk food and start bulking up on whole grains and fresh produce. Produce is full of immunity strengthening vitamins.

Stack up on vitamin C. If you don’t think you’re getting enough vitamins from your diet, try taking a supplement. My favorite is Vibrant C. Just add to water and drink!

Fluidize. Most people are walking around dehydrated. Proper hydration will make you feel better. Get your recommended 8-9 glasses of water a day.


Sometimes no matter what you do, you still get pegged with a cold. Here’s how you can treat it without spending a fortune.

Spice it up. If you’re congested, spicy foods are great way to unclog your nose. Rummage around your spice rack and bust out the curry and cayenne pepper on your food. Add some jalepenos to your potato or eggs. You’ll be breathing easier in no time.

Linger in the shower. When you’re feeling under the weather, jump in a hot shower. The moisture from the steam will help reduce throat inflammation. It also helps break up mucus in your sinuses and lungs which helps ease congestion.

Tea time. If you’re coughing up a lung, try sipping on some tea. The hot water will help reduce mucus in your throat making you less likely to cough. Bump up tea’s cough suppressing ability by adding lemon and honey. The honey will help soothe sore throats and the lemon has vitamin C and antioxidants to help fight a cold.

Savor some soup. Your mom was right. Chicken soup is good for you when you’re sick. Like tea, soup can help reduce mucus and help suppress coughs. Additionally, a study from the University of Nebraska Medical Centers found that chicken vegetable soup reduces the activity of inflammatory white blood cells, called neutrophils, that can cause cold symptoms.

Gargle Salt. Is your throat feeling tender? Put a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into some water and gargle it. It will help reduce inflammation in your throat.

Fluidize. When your body is sick, it needs more fluids to get nutrients to cells faster. Increased water can also help reduce the thickness of mucus, which can help ease up congestion.

Suck a mint. If you don’t have a cough drop on hand, substitute it with a mint. Sucking on the mint will help reduce the coughing reflex when you’re having a coughing fit.

Featured Resource

The best way to beat a Cold is not to get it, because despite advancements in Modernized Medicine a there is still no cure for a cold. The best things you can do it take proper preventive Health care. If you catch a cold, visit Medical Sites for tips on getting better faster.

What If I Were Debt Free?

Written by Brett McKay

I’ve been tagged in the “What if I Were Debt Free?” meme by Rocket Finance.

What if I were debt free? Man, that’s a heavy question. I sometimes forget the reason that I’m doing this whole frugal living thing is so I can become debt free as soon as possible. I focus so much on the process of becoming debt free, that I really don’t think about why I’m doing it.

After pondering on this question for the past few days, the conclusion that I reach is that I wouldn’t do anything different from what I’m doing now. 

Even after the debts were paid off, I’d probably continue living frugally. Saving money isn’t the only thing that attracts me to frugality.  Frugality forces me to be creative and come up with new ways to do things. It’s something that oddly excites and entertains me.  So, I think I would have a hard time leaving that behind as soon as my debts are paid off.

I guess there is one change that would occur. With the extra money no longer going to pay off debts, I would increase the amount I’m currently investing to build up my retirement even faster. It would be nice to retire early and devote time to volunteering, my family, or a hobby.

OK, I guess its my turn to tag some people. Let’s see…. who to pester?

What about you all? What would you do if you were debt free? I’d love to read your visions of a debt free future, so drop a comment in the comment box.

Are You Going Broke Applying For Jobs? 3 Easy Things You Can Do To Save Money & Time & Still Get the Job

Written by Brett McKay

Right now, it’s interview season for law student across the country.  During the first week of school, I was busy sending out resumes, cover letters, and transcripts. What I discovered during the process is that sending that stuff out gets expensive when you have to buy paper, envelopes, and postage. It also takes a lot of time. In the high stakes game of law school, you often don’t have enough time in the day to fit in sending out resumes. Here’s a list of 3 things I learned during the process of sending out resumes that can help save you time and money.

  1. Don’t buy the fancy resume paper. Most people think that if you want to get the job, you have to get the nice thick marbled resume paper. This stuff can cost something like $13 a box for 100 pieces of paper. While $13 isn’t that much for 100 sheets, I wasn’t planning to send out 100 resumes. I sent just out 9 to different firms in Oklahoma City. So those nine pieces of fancy resume paper would have cost me about $1.44 each. (That’s $13 divided by 9). No way The Frugal Law Student was going to do that! I just use the normal white printing paper my school has in the library. It was free (I guess it wasn’t technically free, my tuition paid for it), and it was convenient. “But Brett, won’t printing on just normal paper leave a bad impression with your future employers?” I haven’t had a problem with it. In fact, I’ve heard that many employers prefer just normal paper because it copies better. When you send your resume in, employers are going to make copies of it. When the background is some marbled, ivory color, it doesn’t copy as well. Also, white paper makes reading text easier. Employers skim resumes, so making your resume as easy to read as possible will them out. So just stick with normal white printing paper. You not only save time, but you also save money. Also, consider making a PDF file of your resume. Most of the firms that contacted me asked that I send them my resume electronically so they can easily distribute it to the attorneys that I’ll be interviewing with. You never know what kind of word processing program other people are using. Because PDF is universal, you won’t have to worry about someone not being able to open up your resume. Being able to create a PDF also shows you’re tech savvy, which is a plus when looking for a job. I use CutePDF to create my PDF files. It’s free and super easy to use.
  2. Buy envelopes in bulk. Last year when I sent resumes out for summer internships, I would just buy manila envelopes as I needed them. But the problem was that each package cost $5 and only had 5 envelopes. Not only did I use these envelopes for resumes, but I would also use them to send books to people on Amazon. It started adding up quick. What I did during the summer is I bought a box of 100 Office Depot Brand manila envelopes for $7. I’ve used almost half of them already. I’m sure I’ll use them up by the of the year. Let’s say I’ve used 50 envelopes so far in the past three months. That comes out to around $.14 an envelope. That’s much better than $1 per envelope I was paying before. I’ve also saved time because I don’t have to drive to the store anymore when I need an envelope. I just go to the closet where I keep them, pull one out, and address it. Easy.
  3. Buy printable labels. I didn’t do this, but I wish I did. Instead of addressing your envelopes by hand, just buy a package of printable address labels. You can get a good deal on these if you buy them in bulk. Like manila envelopes and unlike the resume paper, you’ll actually use these latter on, so it’s worth it. You’ll save yourself a ton of time by doing it. Plus, it just looks better than handwriting. I had to spend a lot of time carefully writing the address of 9 different firms. I wanted everything to be nicely centered and clearly legible. Let the computer do that for you.

There you go. Those are my three things I learned during the job application process that can save you money and time. What do you all do to save money when sending resumes out? Drop a line in the comment box and add to the conversation.

11 Cheap Date Ideas

Written by Brett McKay

Last week, I asked my amazing readers for ideas for cheap dates and the readers really came through with some great ideas. As usual, I’ve included the name of the submitter next to the idea, and if that that submitter has a site, I’ve included a link as well. Thanks to all those who participated. If you have any more ideas, let me know, and I’ll add it to the list.

1. Depending on where you live, making use of scenery is a great tool for cheap dates. I adore buying a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and walking on the pier. It’s traditionally terribly romantic and you get fresh air. One of the best dates my boyfriend and I ever shared was when I took him to a creek near my house and we had a picnic. After a little bit of hiking, we found the perfect spot and spent hours beneath the canopy of the foliage laughing and drinking wine. [Vixen]

2. My wife and I enjoy being at home, we live just out of the city so after a week of being busy with work and running around town we really don’t feel like ‘going out’. We have fun on a Friday night staying home and watching our favorite shows from the week on our DVR and I make dinner. Here is an interesting touch I added last week- my wife really loves the Pasta Milano dish at Macaroni Grill. I spent some time Googling and found the recipe and made it for dinner. It turned out really well (helps if you like to cook anyway). That’s like a frugal ‘night out’ instead of spending $20 at the movies and $50 at dinner. [Financeandfat]

3. Restaurant.com. We use that often, as well as finding out which restaurants have specials on certain nights. The movie theater near us has a $5 movie card – it makes it cheap enough to see a movie. There are also things like HotTix that offer half-price tickets to plays and other shows in our area. [christine]

4. My husband is still in school, and I have only been out for a few months. He has long days at school, so we try to figure out things to make his “school nights” more bearable. We have the Blockbuster Total Access deal, where you get movies in the mail and can trade them in for store rentals (instant gratification!). Its a good deal for us because we were renting a couple a week anyway. [Jamie]

5. One of our favorite weeknight dates is easy and fun-the Baskin Robbins by our apartment has $1 scoops on Tuesdays, so we walk over there and each get a scoop. Delicious and fun, and it gets us out on a walk so we can talk to each other.[Jamie]

6. Amateur sporting events are usually a cheap date…high school football, Little League Baseball, etc. Typically little to nothing to get in, concessions are reasonably price, and you could even take your own snacks. This is all given your wife/girlfriend enjoys sports. [Jeff]

7. My boyfriend and I like to cook dinner and watch a Netflix movie together as a cheap date idea. We get quality time to chat while we’re cooking, and we enjoy it on the coffee table in front of the TV to watch a movie. [strangebird]

8. We also try just going out for ice cream instead of a meal on a weekend night, or going to a restaurant happy hour for a drink. [strangebird]

9. Sometimes during the daytime we’ll go to the park, each with a book, and sit and read together. [strangebird]

10. Brett and I like to go to Borders together and sit and read the magazines and books. Fun and free. [Katie]

11. Making pizza is always a fun date. Pizza and a movie. [Christine]