A holiday bonus guide for your caregivers

Nov. 12, 2020

When it comes to the wonderful people who care for your kids, aging parents or relatives, pets or home all year long, the holiday season is the perfect time to show your gratitude. Even in a challenging economy, one thing should remain constant — giving a bonus to your caregivers. Not only does an end-of-year bonus show your appreciation, but professional nannies and caregivers, just like hairdressers and housekeepers, often depend on holiday tips as part of their annual salary, and, in some cases, to maintain a living wage.

“If you’re in a position to give a service provider, such as a nanny or sitter, a tip in cash, start there,” says Heather Wiese Alexander, an etiquette expert and founder of Bell’INVITO. “Non-monetary gifts are great options, too, but for those who are able to accept cash, it’s always appreciated — especially right now when so many people are struggling.”

But how much should you give? While everyone’s budget is different, there is a loose formula to follow when it comes to holiday bonuses or tips. We spoke to etiquette and child care experts to get the scoop on how much to shell out at the end of the year for the people who make your life easier. Even a little goes a long way. 

How much to give for a holiday bonus

Here’s a quick overview and then keep reading for more detail. 

Caregiver type

Suggested bonus amount

Nanny

1-2 week’s salary 

Babysitter

The average amount of a day or night’s pay 

Senior caregiver

From $50 to 1 week’s salary  

Pet sitter and dog walker

$20-$50

Housekeeper and house cleaner

The average amount of a typical session

Atop a cash bonus, an inexpensive or homemade gift for anyone who provides care for your family, pet or home is always a thoughtful added touch.

Nannies

A full-time nanny can usually expect a holiday bonus of one to two week's salary, according to Michelle LaRowe, lead educator at NannyTraining.com and author of “Nanny to the Rescue!” LaRowe adds that another thing to keep in mind when determining their bonus is the amount of time the nanny has been employed by you.

“Holiday bonuses for nannies typically increase depending on the number of years they’ve been with a family, with long-term nannies receiving as much as equivalent to one month’s wages,” notes LaRowe. “For nannies who are new to the family, calculating one day’s pay for each month of employment is a standard approach.”

Aside from a cash bonus, a thoughtful gift from the children can go a long way — and it needn’t be purchased. A handmade gift from the kids, a card or a drawing can be a special way to show your appreciation. According to Alexander, when relationships blur the lines between professional and personal — such as nannies and sitters — it’s good form to include a small gift, homemade or store-bought, that feels meaningful. “By doing this, you’re saying both ‘I’ve noticed the great job you’ve done’ and ‘I know you,’” she explains. 

What about time off for nannies?

Most nannies don't work Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year's. 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 for 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.

“Caregivers scheduled to work on holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, should receive a much higher rate per hour, sometimes double their normal rate,” says LaRowe. “And, as always, a tip at the end of the night is always appreciated.”

Bottom line: Remember that the job is personal. Your nanny is a part of your family. Treat them that way (or better) and remember to show some love.

Part-time babysitters

According to LaRowe, for regular sitters, a holiday tip is traditionally equal to an average day or night's pay. That being said, if your sitter has been with you for a while, a little added something that’s personal is a nice touch. 

“When you know someone outside of your working relationship, a gift shows you’ve put some thought into things and that they mean more to you than simply a business relationship,” says Aileen Avery, author of “Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving” and founder of Gift Expert.

In addition to cash, or a Visa or Mastercard gift card, which can be spent like cash, consider adding a book or candle you think they might like, or simply a heartfelt card or drawing from the kids.

Senior caregivers

For a senior caregiver who is employed by the family, anything between $50 and one week's salary is a nice holiday bonus. If the caregiver is live-in, 1-2 week’s pay is appropriate. Also, consider including a sincere thank-you card and some baked goods. A senior caregiver's job can be stressful and physically exhausting. Showing your appreciation, particularly during the holiday season is important.

If you have a caregiver who is employed by an agency or a facility, ask about its holiday tipping policy. You can also consider a gift or donation to the agency or a gift to the facility staff, as well.

Pet sitters and dog walkers

The average tip for pet sitters and dog walkers falls between $20-50, according to Alexander  — money that’s well-earned, as they’re picking up the poop, entertaining your pooch and keeping your pets healthy and happy when you're not around. 

If you’d prefer going the gift route or want to add something extra, Avery suggests trying something thematic. “If your dog walker has their own dog, get them a gift card to Petco, if that’s where they get their dog food, along with a bag of dog treats and a handwritten note,” she suggests. “Or treat them to one month of a dog subscription service, like Barkbox.”

Housekeepers and house cleaners

“If you can afford to tip the equivalent of one session, then you should,” says Avery. “If not, then $10-30 is the norm.” Also, consider adding a plate of cookies or homemade bread with a thank-you note to personalize your gift. 

Regardless of your financial situation, you should show gratitude to your caregivers during the holiday season — even if you don’t think it’s much. “Gifts and bonuses don’t need to be over the top; a card, a bottle of wine, a succulent plant — all of these things are great, too,” says Avery. “The important thing is that you do a little something that shows caregivers that they’re appreciated.”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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