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A Holiday Tipping Guide

The holidays are traditionally a good time to tip those who have made your life easier over the past year. Think of all the people in your life who have performed jobs to the best of their ability to provide a service to you. Not only is tipping a sign of appreciation, but given our tight economy, this is an excellent time to help people make ends meet, or make the holidays extra special for their families. In some cases, it may even provide an expected supplemental income.

Despite this, tipping standards can be confusing, and some workers may not even be able to accept tips at all. Following is a handy holiday guide to tipping standards compiled from news sources at the Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, Emily Post, and Real Simple magazine.

Who to Tip
There are no hard and fast rules on who to tip, but a holiday tip will always be welcomed by your providers. Do whatever you can—cut back on other expenses for some gifting wiggle room, give baked goods or gift cards. Whatever works for your budget will be fine…and very likely appreciated.

A poll on holiday tipping by found that 45% of those polled say they give bigger tips to at least one of their service providers this time of year. You may end up with a long list of people you would like to tip. As a general rule, it’s appropriate to tip the following people at the holidays (but you are under no obligation to do so). The tipping standards below can help you decide and budget:

  • Restaurant delivery drivers: 20% of the total bill or $5, whichever is higher. A flat $10 -$20 works too.
  • Babysitters or nannies: One evening or one week’s pay, respectively.
  • Hairstylists, barbers and nail salons: Equivalent to one visit.
  • Door attendants: $20 to $100, depending on the level of service provided.
  • Maintenance workers such as housekeepers and landscapers: $25 – $50 or the cost of one week’s pay.
  • Repair people: $20 to $100.
  • Newspaper carriers: $10 to $30.
  • Trash collectors: $10 to $25 per person, if allowed.
  • Dog walkers: One day or week’s pay.
  • Dog groomers: Equivalent to one visit.
  • Massage Therapist: Cost of one visit.

If you think these suggestions are too much or you can’t afford it, remember that it’s just a helpful guide. Perhaps don’t think in terms of dollars and cents but rather in the spirit of the season, a chance to show gratitude to those who provide great service all year long.

Options for Tipping and Gift Giving
Sometimes a cash tip isn’t appropriate for several reasons, such as the company doesn’t allow it. Generally, you shouldn’t tip people you don’t usually pay directly. So a group gift, baked goods, gift cards or something else may be appropriate. Some examples are:

  • Bosses, supervisors and co-workers
  • Teachers, principals and school staff
  • Long-term care facility workers
  • Public service or government workers, like mail carriers
  • Health care workers: if you have a regular trusted provider, thank them with a card, gift card or homemade gift
  • Accountants and financial advisors
  • Sanitation workers – $25 to $30 each, if it is allowed by the company. A gift card for lunch may be a safe alternative.

And don’t forget about the old-fashioned greeting card with a special handwritten note—this will never be unappreciated. Small “thank yous” can go a long way to show you appreciate what someone has done for you, and to help them provide a great standard of care in the upcoming year.


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