I was always pretty frugal with money - I'd spend on good tools, lessons/training/classes for myself (including lots on books), on having unique or developing experiences, and on showing appreciation for people who make me successful. One of my good friends helped me finish an important business deal once that made me a lot of money, and I bought him a plane ticket to Japan to say thanks.
But I never liked spending money on comfort or luxury that doesn't serve a higher purpose. I eat very simply, I sleep simply, I don't need or want much.
Lately though, I've been thinking about how this conflicts with another goal I have - constantly improving my environment. I want every room to better because I was there. And not a little better - a lot better.
I was always a decent tipper, I'd go out of my way to tip great service in particular. But I'm thinking lately I should be an exceptional tipper, even at businesses where I don't want a long term relationship with the establishment.
Not sure why I'm starting to think this way, I'm just starting to think it's correct. I was going through Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics - in particular, there's sections on liberality and magnificence.
Liberality, from Wikipedia:
Stinginess is most obviously taking money too seriously, but wastefulness, less strictly speaking, is not always the opposite (an under estimation of the importance of money) because it is also often caused by being unrestrained. A wasteful person is destroyed by their own acts, and has many vices at once. Aristotle's approach to defining the correct balance is to treat money like any other useful thing, and say that the virtue is to know how to use money: giving to the right people, the right amount at the right time. Also, as with each of the ethical virtues, Aristotle emphasizes that such a person gets pleasures and pains at doing the virtuous and beautiful thing. Aristotle goes slightly out of his way to emphasize that generosity is not a virtue associated with making money, because, he points out, a virtuous person is normally someone who causes beautiful things, rather than just being a recipient.
Aristotle says that while "the magnificent man is liberal, the liberal man is not necessarily magnificent". The immoderate vices in this case would be concerning "making a great display on the wrong occasions and in the wrong way". The extremes to be avoided in order to achieve this virtue are paltriness (Rackham) or chintziness (Sachs) on the one hand and tastelessness or vulgarity on the other. ... The aim of magnificence, like any virtue, is beautiful action, not for the magnificent man himself but on public things, such that even his private gifts have some resemblance to votive offerings. Because he is aiming at a spectacle, a person with this virtue will not be focusing on doing things cheaply, which would be petty, and he or she may well overspend.
This is kind of alien to me still - I always believed in taking care of people, but I was always quite frugal. But going forwards, I'm going to be calling people and telling them that if they give me $5,000, my company can work to build them $50,000, and if they give me $500,000, we can work to build them $5,000,000. So I figure, it's time to start taking care of everyone a little bit more.
It's good to be in Vietnam when I decide to put this into motion - things are cheap by Western rates. I went to get a massage at the Saigon Star Hotel and they had really good service, I decided to tip two guys there that normally don't get tips here in Vietnam - the washroom attendant and the guy who serves noodles in the relaxation room after the massage.
Both guys were good, so I tipped 50,000 VND to each of them. The guy in the relaxation room that serves water, noodles, and fruit was kind of shocked - I said thanks for the good service and waved goodbye. He said, "Wait, wait!" and ran into a back area, ran back, and handed me four envelopes full of cards:
There was card in each one, for a 15,000 VND discount every time you came to their spa. So, that's pretty cool. I'd already been planning on bringing one of my friends there to say thanks to him for having me as a guest in his home - and now it's going to be 30,000 VND cheaper for the two of us to go.
So I'm starting to see - some liberality, some magnificence - doing beautiful things, taking care of people. Constantly improving the environment around me. Building wealth, taking a small fraction of what I build, making every interaction along the way positive with everyone friendly - yeah, I can do that. It still feels strange counting out a 50% tip at a restaurant, and I couldn't afford to do that in a Western country. So I figure this is a good place to start practicing - I'll work to become wealthy enough someday that I can afford to do this even in New York or London, in the meantime this is a good place to start learning how to take greater care of people, to signal that my presence means everyone nearby is going to benefit, to be grateful, to make everyone wealthy... yeah, I'm working on it. Still feels strange, I'm used to being frugal and ultra-conscious with money. But I'll practice. I think this is the way forwards.
Great idea Sebastian. My own experience as a waiter suggests tipping is a complex game where a) you're expected to tip within a predefined range and b) no one knows your maximum tip within that range. As a result, no one remembers the standard tips (10-25% in US), because they don't get feedback that says "this is the best tip I'm willing to give you."
So I'm experimenting with two tipping strategies:
1) Tip exceptionally well (like 50%) when its not expected
2) Tip exactly what is expected (down to the penny) and write a short note of gratitude on the receipt.
The second one is exceptional because it offers intangible gratitude to the recipient and can be combined with the standard tip. In other words, a 15% tip at a US restaurant, with a note of gratitude, will be more memorable to the recipient than a 20% tip without a note. But a 50% tip probably trumps both.