Tips for Holiday Tipping

To tip or not to tip – and if so, how much? Here, a general guideline.

Tipping is a personal decision, and a controversial one. Many people feel that tipping isn’t necessary — after all, isn’t it up to employers to determine how much a person’s labour is worth and if a holiday bonus is appropriate?

And we can’t ignore the budget constraints. When many people are cutting back on gifts for family and friends, does it make sense to give to service providers you barely know? And with charities and churches to consider, there’s already a lot of financial pressure to give.

On the other hand, many people do want to tip the service providers in their lives, especially ones with whom they have a personal connection like a care provider or teacher. It’s a chance to say thank you or express appreciation — or to reward good service and maintain a good professional relationship.

RELATED POST: Ask the Butler: Tipping the Concierge

If you do decide to tip, how much is appropriate? Here’s a general guideline from the Emily Post Institute.

Live-in help and personal caregivers: One week to one month’s pay in cash, plus a gift from you (or your children, in the case of nannies).

Babysitters: one evening’s pay plus a gift from the children.

Private nurse, home health care employees and nursing home staff: a personal gift.

Housekeeper or cleaner: up to one week’s pay and/or a small gift.

Barber, hairdresser or beauty salon staff: cash or gift equal to the cost of one session or haircut.

Personal trainers, pet groomers, massage therapists, etc: up to the cost of one session, or a gift.

Superintendent: $20-$80, or a gift.

Recycling/trash collectors: $10-$30 each (check with your municipality first).

Newspaper delivery person: cash or gift of around $10-$30.

Doorman and elevator operators: $15-$80.

Mail carriers: a gift, if allowed. (Check with your municipality.)

In addition, tips and gifts should ideally be accompanied by a brief, hand-written note. (Read the full guide from the Emily Post Institute.

Other factors to consider

– How often you receive the service. Experts recommend tipping the people you see the most often because they’re a more regular part of your life.

– How long you have been receiving service and your relationship with the provider.

– The quality of that service. A word of caution: experts don’t recommend holiday tipping as a way to promote better service in the future. If you’re not happy with the service, address the issue or change companies.

– What is the “norm” for your area. If you’re in a larger city, expect to shell out a little more.

– Previous tipping. Experts note that if you tip throughout the year, a holiday bonus isn’t necessary.

RELATED POST: Travel tips: Tipping

As you can see, these numbers can quickly add up. However, your biggest consideration should be your budget. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to give or spend more than your budget will allow. Also, bear in mind that tipping isn’t an obligation, and there are a lot of people who choose not to participate.


Alternatives to cash

If you do decide to include service providers on your list, many experts warn that cash is still king. However, there are some other options too that can add a personal touch without putting your budget in the red:

– Make some homemade goodies like cookies, squares or chocolates and package them up in a decorative bag. A large batch will cover many gifts, and won’t cost as much as buying pre-made items.

– When in doubt, a gift card to the local coffee shop is welcome (and appropriate for more modest amounts). For larger gifts ($20 and up) bookstore and grocery store gift cards are a safe bet.

– For teachers, find out if a gift to the school fundraising drive or a gift for the classroom (like books, art supplies or sports equipment) is appropriate. Teachers may also appreciate a donation to a cause they care about, so don’t be shy about asking.

RELATED POST: The Zoomer Report: Tipping Primer

– A card — especially one that is handmade — is an inexpensive and thoughtful gesture. If you’re not sure what holidays your recipient celebrates, a thank you card is always appropriate.

While some companies or providers don’t allow their employees to accept cash, gifts may be welcome if they’re under a certain value. When in doubt, call and find out first.

Ultimately, the decision to tip or not to tip is up to you — and your budget.

Gifts that give back
Holiday entertaining on a budget
When it pays to haggle
20 ways to trim your holiday budget
A holiday without gifts?