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In these financially demanding times, it can sometimes get difficult to pay for the services we normally would. Moreover, you want to compensate the service provider by tipping him/ her adequately. All of these costs add up quickly.

I want to share a story with you on tipping when on budget. When my grandparents first visited US from India in the 1960’s they were allowed to bring only $80 cash per person with them and credit cards did not exist at the time (at least not in India). My grandmother brought tons of souvenirs and gifts with her to give away as tips. She would leave a pair of earrings (artificial costing less than 25 cents) or a scarf for the waitress after a meal and the waitress would be so grateful. She would think that a queen has just left her a tip! Sometimes, my grandmother would take off the (inexpensive) jewels she was wearing and leave them behind…How classy! Her suitcase was full of goodies like these that she would use whenever a tipping need existed. America wasn’t exposed to ethnic wear back then so it they were much appreciated exotic gifts.

Fifty years later, I seem to carry some of her habits. Just the other day, I gave away two tickets to a comedy show (which I got for free) to my Barista at Starbucks. (I did ask him before if he would like them). Also, I brought back very unique key chains from Morocco during my last visit (with designs of good luck, ethnic shoes, blessings, etc.) which I have given as tips and thank you gestures too. During Christmas, it can get very expensive to give cash to service providers, so I usually go on a baking spree. I make biscotti, apricot breads and plum or fruit cakes for my hairdresser, manicurist, mail delivery lady, massage therapist, etc. They seem to appreciate it a lot. 

It’s a funny story but by no means am I propagating substituting cash for goods to your service providers. They work hard too and deserve to be paid for it. But if the cash value of your gift is more than what you can afford to pay then, I believe it’s ok to do once in a while. Just make sure you are genuinely thanking them.

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