If I'm making cupcakes for kids, who are going to demolish them in short order anyway, I just spread the frosting with a knife and then provide cups with toppings like sprinkles and so forth, and let the urchins decorate their own! They're a pretty uncritical audience.
If I'm taking the cupcakes somewhere not kid-oriented, I'm more apt to use the big tip and pipe the frosting on top. It does look nicer. I don't know how having professional decorating results from a home kitchen got so all-fired important, anyway.