Holiday Tipping: A Holiday Bonus Guide for Your Caregivers

Even in a down economy, it's important to tip your family caretakers. Here's a guide on how much to give.

exchanging a holiday gift

When it comes to showing the love to those who love your kids, your pets, or your aging parents, don't be a Scrooge. Even in a challenging economy where companies have slashed or killed bonuses, downsized or frozen pay raises, one thing remains constant -- you need to tip your caregivers.

Yes, the holiday tip for nannies and caregivers is recession-proof. These are professions that rely on getting extra money around the holidays as part of their annual salary. Like hairdressers and housekeepers, they depend on bonuses. Some families tip out of fear that their caregiver will slack off, become ripe for poaching or even quit if they don't get their holiday windfall. Others feel compelled to tip out of obligation or good old fashioned holiday cheer. Whatever your motivation, appreciating those who take care of those most precious to you, is part of the holiday protocol.

But how much? If you want to make sure you're giving as much as your neighbor or you're new to the world of hiring caregivers, then heed our tipping guidelines below to make sure that you maintain the proper giving this holiday season. Happy tipping!

A full time nanny can usually expect a holiday bonus of one week's salary. Some will get more (or less), but one week is the norm. Other bonuses can include round trip airfare to the nanny's home for Christmas, a Caribbean cruise or an iPad. While those are generous bonuses, an extra week's salary is the typical tip. To learn the going rate for a nanny Christmas bonus in your area, check out our interactive map »

Aside from a cash bonus, a thoughtful gift from the children can go a long way. This doesn't have to be a purchased item; a card, drawing or something handmade and personal is a special way to show your appreciation. Baking your nanny's favorite cookies or cupcakes is also a sweet way for the kids to say thank you. A gift certificate to her favorite store or spa with a personal note from you expressing your gratitude is another way to show thanks. Get more ideas for homemade gifts for nannies with our article on 8 Creative Holiday Gifts Kids Can Make for Their Nanny »

What about vacation time? Most nannies do not work Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Years. Families should respect the holidays and give their nannies this time off. Should you need your nanny's services these days, plan to compensate them at least time and a half. Many nannies also take their vacation between Christmas and New Year's to coincide with family vacations or when children are off from school. Prepare for this in advance by coordinating to have backup care ready while your nanny is away.

Bottom line: Remember that the job is personal. Your nanny isn't your garbage collector -- although you should compensate your sanitation workers as well, they work hard. Your nanny is a part of your family; treat her that way (or better) and remember to show some love.

Part-time Babysitters
For the part-time sitter, depending on the hours she works, a $25-$50 gift certificate at her favorite store is an appropriate thank you. You may also want to get a gift certificate to a nail salon, Starbucks or iTunes. A card from the kids, some cupcakes or a drawing can also show your appreciation.

Pet Sitters/Dog Walkers
The average tip falls between $35-$60. Most pet sitters or dog walkers expect a holiday tip. They are picking up the poop, entertaining your pooch and keeping them healthy and happy when you're not around. Many people consider their pets their children, so make sure that you properly recognize the one who is caring for your four-legged child.

The range is 50 to 100 percent of their usual fee. A "thank you" card and a plate of cookies or a bottle of wine is also a nice gesture.

Senior Care Aides
For a caregiver who is employed by the family, a one week's salary tip is the rule of thumb. A thank you card or a gift certificate to her/his favorite store is an appropriate gratuity. You may also consider splurging for a massage, a mani/pedi or some other spa indulgence. A senior caregiver's job can be stressful and physically exhausting. Showing your appreciation, particularly during the holiday season is important.

  • For a caregiver who is employed by an agency, check with the agency about its holiday tipping policy. You can also consider a gift or donation to the agency.
  • For a caregiver who is employed by a facility, check about its tipping policy. You can consider giving a gift to the facility's staff as well.
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Comments (37)
Photo of Anne A.
Anne A.
In response to the caregiver who wanted to know if one gifts the employers and child(ren). I do and I did. For the birthdays and for Christmas. But I certainly did not do it to get something in return, I did it because I care for the child and I like the employers! Why not? A gift is just that. My employers are lovely, they express their appreciation to me, and in return, I look after their daughter as if she was my own. I appreciate them!
Posted: January 17, 2014 at 2:57 PM
Photo of Anne A.
Anne A.
I have been a babysitter/nanny for years, have always received both a very nice bonus and a birthday bonus or a gift or card as well. I would say that it is completely up to the couple your work for. Don't expect it, but it's very nice to receive. I have been very pleasantly surprised by the generosity of my clients over the years regarding holidays and birthdays. That said, I feel it is the couples' choice. If they are happy with you, they will gift you and let you feel appreciated. If not, then not. I go the extra mile for my couple and their child as 1. It is my JOB to do so and 2. They've been very nice to me (at Christmas, they do not "do" birthdays) and I love their child. Hope this is helpful!
Posted: January 17, 2014 at 2:52 PM
Just Me
@Jocelyn A. You are sooooo right. Not being shown appreciation for the hard work one does as a caregiver certainly kills the motivation. Being a caregiver is a "real" job. If anyone working in any other kind of job was never shown appreciation through raises, bonuses, etc, they'd eventually quit. I've been with a family for a year, taking care of TWO completely dependent elderly people, they are a couple. I do EVERYTHING for them. I got a whole $50 bonus this Christmas, which amounts to $25 per person, never anything throughout the year, not even a card for my birthday. Can't tell you how much this hurts. It's like giving a waitress a dime tip.
Posted: December 24, 2013 at 10:10 AM
Photo of Doris
I am a nanny with 10 years of experience. I have one year working full time for this couple taking care of their baby since she was 2 months old. Last week, my boss told me she was going to pay the week for Christmas as one of my two week vacation because she was not going to need me. I was shocked since they never asked me if that was ok with me. She didn't give me any bonus or anything. I feel really disappointed because beside taking great care of the baby I am always very flexible. Many time they need me to stay one or two hours later or even got home 10 or 15 passed my time to leave and I am always understanding.
I was not expecting $5000 since they are hardworking people, they are not rich but at least one week bonus would have been nice instead of deciding without consulting me what my week of vacations would be. She always says how happy they are with my work and how blessed they feel having me working for them, but that's it. I felt bad when she told me that since they just moved into a new house they are "trying to settle down" and that "hopefully" their economic situation will be better. Like saying: "we can't pay you because we have no money" but then, I saw her coming everyday with tons of bags with presents for everyone (except me of course!)
When things like these happen is that I feel tey don't appreciate my job and maybe it would be better to look for a more fair family.
As much as I love the baby with all my heart I really don't like to feel like they just don't care about me.
Posted: December 22, 2013 at 2:57 PM
Catherine K.
Another view on the matter of tipping/gifting during the holidays.
Gads I don't know where to go with this. I have been in the tipping world as a waitress. Tips were my salary and I was disappointed very often. I cleaned houses and I did get some "tips". I also got cookies or a card. I was not expecting these gestures.
I was private with decent salary.
Years later, I am my mother's caretaker. We have an agency provide aides to care for my mom. Geriatric business is booming in my area. My experience with the many levels of this industry is like being preyed upon by vultures taking advantage of vulnerable situations. We are not happy with the agency (our third )and many of the parade of aides in and out. After some time we finally got some consistency in caretakers and performance. The management and aides all drink their own kook-aide...
I get tired of being promised certain level of care and paying astonishing amounts of money for people who are underpaid, deserve more money. Where employers do not pay decent salaries because they can get away with it. Where aides are defensive and angry for fear of being taken advantage of...who do not represent themselves nor do they represent the agency..they know that if I dismiss them the agency will reassign within days. The aides tell me that there is no bonus from their management.... but I am expected to tip/gift cause it's Xmas. My family does not expect gifting as they know we are bleeding money. FYI... I have a number of aides covering 24/7. So I tip each one! I can't. Actually my holiday will be spent covering those hours as I pay time and 1/2 for the hourly wage of which the greater amount goes to the agency. Yes the aides deserve time and 1/2 and more but I am paying time and 1/2 on a fee much greater than what the aides receive....
I m looking for private duty...I am in the black hole of geriatric care.
Posted: December 10, 2013 at 8:24 PM
Photo of Linda O.
Linda O.
As a nanny for over 13 years I have almost always received a Christmas/year-end bonus up to a week's pay along with other gifts. I have also experienced and felt that the families who appreciated me most expressed their appreciation throughout the year with smaller gifts including gift cards or flowers or something they knew I like or wanted. When I received a small bonus I felt insulted not only due to the amount but also the attitude of the parents in general. One family gave me no bonus at all, and I believe they 're-gifted' a small item which was also an insult. But for the most part I worked for families who expressed their appreciation in many ways, not just with a bonus. The bonus was... well, a bonus. I expect a bonus but do not ask for one. Some families have a bonus (even stating the amount) written in the nanny agreement, reflecting what some companies do for their employees.

As to the questions about nannies giving gifts to the family, I always give a gift to my employer(as a nanny or in any other position). As a nanny I always place a lot of thought into gifts/cards for the parents and their children at Christmas and birthdays. Sometimes these were homemade gifts such as an intricate drawing of their baby (with photo used for drawing). I believe they framed it and had it at the father's workplace. I gave another family a "Parent Survival Kit" and "Baby Survival Kit" which included items such as microwave popcorn, snacks, chocolate etc. The Baby Survival Kit included toys, books, and baby safety latches. Another family: It was difficult to buy something they didn't already have, but the father LOVED Almond Roca and 'old fashioned' pop corn, so one year I gave him those two items. It was simple and inexpensive but he grinned from ear to ear and loved the thought that went into the gift.

SO... I do expect a gift and bonus but also take into account the family's situation. Some families give what they can afford and say "I wish it could be more" or (concerning salary or bonus) "You are worth every penny and more." So it's not so much the amount received as much as the attitude in which it is given.

There is still the employment factor, but there is always a close relationship between the nanny and the family (be it positive or negative). A nanny should be considered part of the family but not all families treat their nannies as such. There's a fine line between keeping the business aspect and the personal relationships, and all must be kept in perspective.
Posted: September 21, 2013 at 3:42 PM
Photo of Neisha A.
Neisha A.
I have been a nanny for 6 months. Should i expect a bonus and if so how much?
Posted: December 21, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Photo of Sylvia I.
Sylvia I.
To Erin C. - I would figure out how much tip that you are willing and able to pay...and give it to the owner with the instructions to have her distribute among everyone. Let her figure out the % per person. Most likely, she will give more, if not all to her helpers. I have done this once before with other non-child care related services, and the owner asked if I had any preference if it get split equally among his helpers or if I felt that one person deserved more. I did tell him slightly more for one person because he worked more hours on our project than the others. Anyway, the owner didn't take any of the tip.
Posted: December 08, 2011 at 1:26 AM
Photo of Colette R.
Colette R.
I have been on both sides. I am a mother of six children who has "gifted" my babysitters and have been the babysitter or nanny. I have never expected a bonus, tip, or gift from any family I cared for children. I have received without expectation gifts and/or bonuses. My thought for being the employer was always gifting the value of importance this person was to my children. One year I had gifted our teenage sitter of two years who watched my children for 3 hours once a week a $50 best buy card and my children made her cards and cookies. This I felt showed her we appreciated her services. Being on the receiving employee end of the table have received kid made gifts such as cards or homemade crafts which are priceless all the way up to a weeks pay. Again never expecting it but definitely appreciating it. Parents of these children keep in mind that a homemade holiday gift from the kids can melt your care providers heart. I have a scrapbook of pictures made by and from my "babysitting families". I as a caregiver care about each and everyone of the children I have the pleasure of taking care of. I hope this helps.
Posted: December 08, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Photo of Dawn C.
Dawn C.
I personally do give "bonuses" or "gifts"... however you want to word it, but I think if I was asked for it.. I might not do so. They are merely a "bonus" meaning "extra, not part of your pay". I look at it as they are gifts and I don't feel it would be appropriate if I went to my boss, family members or any of my friends and asked them if they were going to give me a gift this year and told them that I expected one from them... it's just not right. Do I think they should get bonuses or gifts? Yes. Just do not ask for one.
Posted: December 07, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Photo of Jennifer G.
Jennifer G.
Diana: as a parent, I would feel weird about accepting anything but just a SMALL gift from my nanny. As for the kids, I think it is your discretion, but something small (less than $10) would be appropriate.
Posted: December 06, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Photo of Diana S.
Diana S.
I would like to know from experienced sitters if it is appropriate to give gifts to my employer and to each child?
Posted: December 06, 2011 at 12:14 PM
The Proper Nanny T.
I have been working as a professional full time nanny for the last ten years. I strive to give the best care for every child I care for and my clients know that I do. All of my families give at least one weeks salary and a gift basket filled with goodies for Christmas. It is definite motivating factor for me for those bad days. Also my employers all offer 2 weeks paid time off and major holidays paid time. Next year I am entering corporate world and my husband and I are planning to start our family. We plan to hire a nanny and with no regret I will be offering all of the above to my nanny.
Posted: December 06, 2011 at 11:35 AM
Photo of Christine B.
Christine B.
Wow... I had planned on giving a little gift to the teachers at my daughter's daycare, but certainly nothing extravagant (we are only even doing a pollyana with our family this year!). I'm surprised by those who say they would bring up the topic (seriously, you reviewed this protocol with your employer??) and seem to expect a tip/bonus. I would never do this at my job, and I know my employers view a bonus as just that - something extra - not part of my owed salary. I find it troubling when we as a society start expecting things that used to be "special" as the norm. If a bonus or tip was deemed "necessary," then build it into your salary - otherwise, it should be taken graciously if offered and appreciated as something extra. I certainly hope my daughter's teachers like what I give them, because it's being given sincerely as a token of my appreciation with hopes that they have a great holiday season.
Posted: December 06, 2011 at 11:19 AM
Erin C.
Tipping guides only ever talk about in-home nannies. I take my daughter to an in-home daycare while I work full time. They take care of 12 kids and the caregivers consist of the woman who owns it and two helpers. If I am supposed to tip one week's pay, then how does it get divided between the three of them? I can't afford to give them each a week's pay, but I want to be fair. Do I give the owner more than the two helpers? This is so difficult!
Posted: December 06, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Photo of Jocelynn A.
Jocelynn A.
I have been a caregiver for a long time. And I think that family members don't realize how stressful a job it can be. They want the best for their parent/or loved but don't understand that it takes a special kind of person to work in this profession. Be kind to your caregiver. Remeber that if you or your spouse work outside of the home and your employers did not reward you for your hard work how you would feel.
Posted: December 05, 2011 at 4:42 PM
Kathryn S.
I have been a caregiver in Brooklyn and I always got a tip from my families especially my favorite family.I never had a family who never tipped me.A babysitter or nanny really feels a sense to protect and help nurture these little lives.{I hope parents appreciate that]So I feel it should be only natural that we get a tip. To all who dont think as I do I understand That u dont appreciate my effort.Thanks,
Kathryn S.
Posted: November 26, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Photo of Samantha G.
Samantha G.
I am not sure how I would take it is my nanny asked for a holiday bonus -- I love the element of surprise and would LOVE to surprise my nanny with a bonus! I think asking for it may be a little much - for me at least - because I am the one to give a nice big bonus to my nanny and I would not want her to know it was coming (element of surprise). Afterall people, we leave our children with these loving people every day, they deserve the bonus around the holidays. They save our lives and our children's as well. I do not have a nanny at this time, my kids go to day care, but we will have one starting in January. Even now, the day care workers all get a bonus and/or a gift to show how thankful I am for them! I would rather call it a "bonus" than a "tip". A tip goes to a waitress who you don't even know. A nanny is your family and a bonus is a much better term for how you would compensate your extended family. This forum was very helpful. Shows you how the world is turning out - and it is not pretty.
Nanny's - keep up the great work! You deserve the best for all that you do. (Believe me, I know you do a lot! Kids are hard work)
Merry Christmas everyone!
Posted: November 23, 2011 at 1:43 PM
Photo of Kaitlyn W.
Kaitlyn W.
I didn't realize there was such a math to giving out holiday "tips". The family I used to full-time nanny for gave me a small Christmas present and a little bonus, but other than didn't seem mandatory. After reading this article, it seems that more and more people should be trying to do things out of the kindness of their hearts and not for a reward. However, it is nice :)
Posted: November 23, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Photo of Jennifer G.
Jennifer G.
I agree with Alexandra G; I don't think it is professional in any job to ask for a bonus. Families should show their gratitude in some way, but that way is at their discretion. Nannies walk a fine line, because it is a career and how bills are paid, but you also become attached like family. I would never expect such an expensive gift from my family or friends, but I understand showing gratitude to someone who is so close... It is a tough subject.
Posted: November 22, 2011 at 9:44 PM
Photo of Katrina K.
Katrina K.
I'd be VERY put off if our part time babysitter brought up the topic of a holiday bonus. Frankly, I'd consider firing her. Its completely up to me and my husband whether or not we choose to "tip" our babysitter. She is paid VERY well and we scrimp and save to add to our monthly babysitting fund.

Tipping in America has gotten out of hand, this article and some of the greedy responses reflect that.
Posted: November 22, 2011 at 1:29 PM
Ruthanne S.
I find it shocking that someone would think it unprofessional to bring up a bonus. If it were any other job, there would be no question. Being a nanny is hard, long, grueling, and often thankless work and one should be compensated in kind. It is a job, not a volunteer position and as an employee you have an obligation to advocate for yourself (esp. if you have your own family at home). I was a nanny for 3 years, loved the children (both were in my wedding) but it was still a job and a hard one at that. Discussing hourly wages, raises, bonues, perks, etc. is not only professional, it's your right as an employee.
Posted: November 22, 2011 at 11:10 AM
Erin C.
I take my daughter to an in-home daycare. There are 12 children there and the caregivers are the woman who owns it and two helpers. I am comfortable with a week's salary as a bonus, but I'm not sure how to split it up between the 3 caregivers. Do I give the woman who owns the daycare more than each of the 2 helpers, or do I split the week's salary equally between the three of them? Do you think they expect a week's salary each? I can't afford that. I'm really stressing about how to do this. Suggestions please!!
Posted: November 22, 2011 at 10:37 AM
Photo of Kathleen B.
Kathleen B.
This is a great protocol. I struggle just to pay my Mom's caretaker as it is. We simply could not afford a one week tip. She most definately deserves it.
Posted: November 22, 2011 at 8:43 AM
Shelly F.
My parttime sitter just told me she will be leaving effective at the end of December,after only 5 months. I was considering a gift, and mulling over the fact of a "bonus". Should I still give a bonus/tip? Being parttime..less than 8 hours a week, I dont feel the need to give a weeks salary...I was planning a gift and a giftcard. Any thoughts?
Posted: November 22, 2011 at 8:30 AM
Michelle E.
I don't know if the situation is different for family day care providers than for nannies...My twins are with a family day care provider. It stretches our budget to the absolute limit to afford day care. We are no longer giving gifts to family members for any holidays, birthdays, etc. out of cost-cutting measures to keep our budget afloat. There is no way we could afford a week's salary as a gift. It is not because we don't care about our care provider. Please don't assume that lack of a big holiday bonus/gift equals lack of care.
Posted: November 22, 2011 at 8:01 AM
Photo of Alexandra G.
Alexandra G.
I don't think that it's professional, as a nanny, to bring up the topic of a bonus, with your current employer, as the holiday time approaches.
Posted: November 20, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Photo of Tonya M.
Tonya M.
WOW, am shocked by some of these responses!I am even more lucky and blessed than I thought:) I have been with my family since 1994.In the beginning when the Mom was working PT, my bonuses were a week's salary and a personal gift.
Once the boys started school she worked closer to 40 plus hours and always said"when my ship come in, yours will too".
The last 8 years my bonus have been up to two months salary and increases each year.

The money is fantastic but our relationship is worth so much more. The Mom is my BFF in fact she was my Maid of Honor,her son gave me a way,and another child was a usher at my wedding. They are my family!

Sorry,that I got a bit of subject but I guess what I am trying to say: A bonus is a lovely gesture but it's the connection of the hearts that I treasure more.

Happy Holidays,
Posted: November 19, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Photo of Diane M.
Diane M.
I have worked for several families over the past 7 years both full time and part time; they are all wonderful people. Not only do they let me know how much they appreciate me verbally, they also give me bonuses and gifts of thanks throughout the year. I have always considered it an honor when a family accepts me into their home to care for their children and they have treated me as such in return.
Posted: November 17, 2011 at 11:51 PM
Photo of Linda V.
Linda V.
I just reviewed this protocol with my family whom I have worked for the past five months. Their response was that they asked THEIR friends and THEY don't give to THEIR Nannys. It was heartbreaking to hear. I was extremely professional and said how sad it is that those folks, professionals, don't even pay their Nannys' for a day off at Christmas. Why oh why do these folks feel like we are their slaves and they are doing US a favor by working for them. And these folks can VERY WELL afford it. I also mentioned that the say way they are expecting the holiday pay, they would simply give that same courtsey to their Nanny's. bottom line, WHY would you want to alienate the person who is with your children all day long? What about human decency?
Posted: November 15, 2011 at 9:15 PM
Photo of Jacqueline D.
Jacqueline D.
I'm a nanny, great stuff! =)~
Posted: May 25, 2011 at 1:41 AM
Photo of Jeanette L.
Jeanette L.
I think its nice if a family shows you they care.Cards are great!
Posted: April 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM
Photo of Susan J.
Susan J.
I was shocked and very happy to receive a large monetary gift from the family I worked with this past summer. Of course, it was one of the most difficult positions I have ever dealt with, and I've been doing child care for almost 30 years! There were only two times where I was boiling over and muttering to myself that I didn't need this ... - once was when I was locked out of the house and neither of the sons would let me back in. I had to go to a neighbor to get the spare key. This family needed me so much that the Dad cried when he saw me months later, saying I saved his home, his sanity, and his family. That was worth more than the big tip I got!
Posted: March 24, 2011 at 10:31 AM
Monique L.
This was great info. Thank you
Posted: March 22, 2011 at 3:34 PM
Photo of Lotte W.
Lotte W.
I had no idea there were such a thing as a protocol for tipping a Nanny or caregiver. It is very nice news, though I have never heard of anyone in this profession who actually ever received such generous bonus for Christmas. I started out as a Nanny in 1984 and have been working with children and seniors ever since. I have always received a token of appreciation as well as I have given one for Christmas. A week's salary would have been a shock to me. I know many caregivers and I think they will be as chocked as I am to hear of this.
Posted: March 16, 2011 at 3:09 AM
Carol J G.
I have been a childcare provider over 30 years yes I am still very young I never thought of calling an unexpected gift a tip wow sounds like what a restaurant worker gets I never expect something from my families but I now realise at my age I should receive something monetary or a nice gift but you would not believe most do nothing nothing after I put up with all that I do for them all year nothing How does that happen
Posted: March 11, 2011 at 9:29 AM
Photo of Jeanine K.
Jeanine K.
Thank You! This is helpful information to know please share some of your positive and negative experiences you have with your past nannies. Jeanine K.
Posted: February 27, 2011 at 9:45 AM
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