Holiday Tipping Guide: Don’t Break the Bank Showing Your Appreciation

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holiday tipping guide

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Anyone who relies on tips to make ends meet will tell you that the extra generosity of holiday tipping is central to make their holiday budget work.

“Holiday tipping is about saying thank you and showing your gratitude to those who offer you a service year-round,” says Analee Leonard, a financial professional, and owner of Mainstay Financial in Pensacola, Florida.

But with your holiday budget to stick to, figuring out what to tip and to whom can be difficult. Tip too little, and you’re considered stingy. Tip too much, and you could put the recipient in an awkward spot.

That’s where our holiday tipping guide comes into play. It’s a starting point for anyone trying to gauge what’s appropriate etiquette for tipping this holiday season.

Holiday tipping guide: give what you can

“It gets tricky because we should be tipping more during the holidays than we do the rest of the year, but often times we’re unsure of the amount,” Leonard says.

However, she adds, “With a little creativity, you can show gratitude to everyone on your list without blowing your budget.”

It’s also appropriate to keep in mind the cost of living in your area when deciding how much to tip.

Some suggestions in this guide might be a little too high for places where costs of living are cheap. And in cities and other areas with high living costs, it might be appropriate to give a little more.

While tipping is an important holiday cost to plan for, it’s also important to adjust the amount to your budget.

That could mean giving more if you can afford it. Or less, especially if you couldn’t give a standard tip while still meeting your other financial obligations.

Holiday tipping at home

Whether you’re a homeowner or rent a unit in an apartment complex, it’s customary to give holiday tips to those who make your home life a bit easier.

Home-care experts

If you hire experts to help you with house upkeep, a general guideline is to give a cash gift equal to a week’s worth of pay, suggests Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert with The Protocol School of Texas.

If you have a house cleaner that comes once a week, tip an amount equal to one session. And if they come daily, tip what you’d pay for the whole week.

Following this guideline is also appropriate for tipping a gardener or landscaper, pool cleaner, or home cook.

Apartment complex attendants

If you live in an apartment complex, you should also keep in mind the people who keep your building running smoothly.

For a doorman, for example, Gottsman suggests $20-100 as appropriate, or “more if they provide heavily for you during the year.” If you have multiple doormen, try to keep tips equal.

Gottsman also advises tips of $10-50 for garage attendants, $20-100 for repairman or handyman, and $50 or more for your building manager or superintendent.

Trash collectors and delivery carriers

Keep public workers in mind during the holidays too, folks. However, Gottsman suggests checking regulations for public service employees before doing so. Some might have rules on accepting gifts.

Regarding handing them their tips, Gottsman advises to “give it to them personally or drop off the gift at their corporate office.”

Consider giving trash collectors $10-25 a person. But when it comes to postal workers and mail carriers, it can get “a little tricky,” Leonard says.

“By law, U.S. Postal Service mail carriers cannot accept cash, checks or gift cards,” Leonard explains. “You can give your mail carrier a small gift, snack, or beverage that costs less than $20.”

You should also tip delivery drivers for private companies but check their corporate policy first.

UPS drivers don’t have any strict rules on accepting gifts, but the company suggests small or nominal gratuity. FedEx drivers can accept gifts valued up to $75, but not cash or gift cards.

And regarding tipping your newspaper deliverer, $10-30 is considered appropriate.

Holiday tipping etiquette for teachers and caregivers

As a parent, I am truly grateful for the caregivers at my daughter’s preschool. And for our babysitters who care for her at home. Most parents and people with pets share that feeling.

For these important people in our lives, holiday bonuses or tips are an ideal way to show your deep appreciation for the vital roles they play in your families.

Here’s a breakdown of how much to give to the people who take care of your children or pets.

Public school holiday tipping

If your child attends a public school, tipping should be more along the lines of gifts rather than cash.

For your child’s teachers, Gottsman suggests you “contribute to a class gift, or a gift certificate,” along with a handwritten note of appreciation. Make sure you include teacher’s aides and other helpers in your child’s classroom, too.

What if your child has different teachers or class periods?

“Give a small gift certificate to each [like to a coffee shop, for example] or baked goods,” says Gottsman. Or, contribute to a class gift pool.

In addition to teachers, keep in mind other school personnel. For example, a small gift or gift card is appropriate for a school secretary and school nurse.

Gottsman also suggests $25 tips for school bus drivers and lunch providers. And for the principal, some home-baked goods with a greeting card are ideal.

Tipping at private schools and for early childhood caregivers

If your child is in preschool, at a child care center, or attending a private school that you pay for out of pocket, cash or a gift card holiday tip is a good idea.

“I see parents usually take a 1-2 week’s worth of […] tuition and divide the cash between the teachers in the classroom based on how much their child is in their care,” says Holly Flanders, a childcare consultant in New York City.

So, Flanders suggests, you might give their primary teacher a half a week’s worth of tuition in cash, and give $25 gift cards to other caregivers who work with your child.

A holiday bonus is standard for a nanny, too.

“I see the average holiday gift for a nanny to be a cash bonus of 1-2 weeks’ pay along with a small personalized gift from the family or kids,” Flanders says.

So if you’ve had your nanny less than a year, you might pay a little less — but still provide a cash tip.

Babysitters or after-school instructors

“Today, most babysitters are paid a pretty competitive hourly wage, more than I was earning back in my babysitting days!” says Candi Wingate, president of babysitting service Care4Hire in Nebraska. “But they’re also responsible for our most valuable commodities – our kids.”

If you’re hiring a babysitter to watch your child on a holiday, such as New Year’s Eve, it’s fair to pay more than your usual rate.

“Tip your sitter if she went ‘above and beyond’ for you – she stayed late so you could attend a last-minute meeting or watched your kids while you went on an overnight trip,” Wingate suggests.

On top of paying a higher rate for added value, babysitters will likely welcome a holiday bonus. A bonus equal to a babysitting shift’s average pay is an excellent holiday tipping guide to follow.

Tips are also a thoughtful gesture for anyone involved in your child’s after-school care or extra-curricular activities, such as tutoring, sports, dance classes, music lessons, and so on. Tipping around $25 is a good amount.

Pet care

The people who help care for your pets also deserve a little something extra for the holidays.

If you have a pet sitter or dog walker, a bonus equal to a day’s worth of pay is generous. For your pet groomer, Gottsman recommends cash equal to the amount of one service they provide.

Holiday tipping guide for work

When it comes to the office, holiday tipping with cash is not typical or appropriate. Instead, small and thoughtful gifts are better.

Baked goods, $5 gift cards, coffee mugs, or fun office items are all great gift ideas for coworkers, including your manager or boss.

If you have an assistant or administrative helper, that is the primary person you need to remember at work.

“If a bonus isn’t on the radar, give a gift card or gift you are confident your assistant will enjoy,” Gottsman says. How much you spend should follow the relationship and tenure.

To show your appreciation to clients, it is also customary to send a gift or food basket with a card thanking them for their business this past year.

Holiday tipping for personal care professionals

For the people who help you look and feel your best, it’s proper holiday tipping etiquette to show your appreciation with cash.

Give an extra tip equal to the cost of one visit or session to the following:

  • Hair stylist or barber
  • Manicurist
  • Personal grooming specialist
  • Personal trainer
  • Massage therapist

Tip extra during the holidays

For any service for which you’d usually give a tip, try to up that amount during the holiday season — especially if you require their services during the holidays.

Waiters, baristas, bartenders, valets, and others all rely on tips for a living, so give a little more if you can.

Tipping more is a particularly good idea for spots you regularly frequent, as you’ll probably see those people again. And, tipping up to twice as much as you normally would is an excellent holiday tipping guide.

If tipping simply isn’t in your holiday budget this year, you can still make an effort to show appreciation in other ways.

“If money is tight, you can always give homemade goods with a handwritten thank-you note,” Leonard suggests.

The bottom line of holiday tipping (if you can afford it) is to make some room in your budget to pay a little more to the people who make your life easier and more enjoyable.

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