While any time is a good time to show your appreciation for someone who regularly makes your life easier and more pleasant, the holidays traditionally are the time to express your gratitude in the form of cash. By no means is holiday tipping mandatory, but giving someone who regularly provides you with a service a little something extra at the end of the year is always appreciated — perhaps more so than ever this year.
“A holiday tip or gift should be given to anyone you do business with on a regular basis — babysitters, gardeners, hair stylists, mail carriers, pet sitters, housekeepers, etc.,” says Aileen Avery, author of “Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving” and founder of Gift Expert. “That said, because of the difficulties many people have had in 2020, a cash gift is a good way to go this year.”
According to Avery, holiday tips needn’t be over-the-top to be valued — but they should always include a hand-written note, expressing your gratitude. “The point is to show someone they’re appreciated,” she explains.
Feeling a little lost when it comes to who should get a holiday tip and how much? Here, experts offer insight on the art of holiday tipping.
When a gift is better than cash — and vice versa
Cash is often the preferred gift for many caregivers and service workers, but it’s not necessarily always the way to go, notes Heather Wiese Alexander, an etiquette expert and founder of Bell’INVITO. “If the relationship is personal, absolutely gift rather than tip,” Alexander says. “A gift says ‘I know you.’ A tip says, ‘I’ve noticed you’ve done a great job and want to reward the effort.’”
When there’s a gray area of a personal relationship with someone you pay regularly, like a babysitter or hair stylist, Alexander recommends adding a small, meaningful gift to a tip.
Another consideration is whether someone’s employer allows cash tips at all. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, says that its mail carriers shouldn’t take cash gifts of any amount (including checks and gift cards), and non-cash gifts have to be under $20. If you aren’t sure if someone is able to receive a cash gift, reach out to their employer to find out.
Deciding who to tip and how much
When figuring out how much to give and who to give it to, experts recommend considering the following:
The relationship: How close you are with the recipient is an important consideration, says Holly Flanders, a child care coach in New York City. When nannies or babysitters have been caring for your kids for years, they can feel like family. For those special relationships, it’s common to give a little more than you would have given if they were new to the job. Likewise, if you’ve seen the same hairdresser every eight weeks for the better part of a decade, you might want to give him or her a larger year-end tip than someone who’s cutting your hair for the very first time.
Your budget: Families often have a lot of financial obligations during the holidays. What you give and to how many people should fall within your financial means, explains Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. If money is tight, prioritize who to tip based on the relationship you have with them or value of the service they provide to your family. And if you can’t give cash, consider a homemade gift or thoughtful note instead.
Your personal preferences: When it comes down to it, giving a tip is a lot like giving a present. If you want to give someone something to show your appreciation, go for it, Gottsman says.
When you can’t afford to tip
If finances are tight for your family this year, there are still a number of ways to show your appreciation for people you normally tip. “The key, whether gifting or tipping, is sincerity,” says Alexander. “If all you can do is write a thoughtful note, you’d be amazed at how much it will be appreciated. Never let the thought of not doing enough keep you from doing something. Give from your heart — and always write something sincere.”
Suggestions for who you should (and shouldn’t) tip and how much during the holidays
|PERSON||SUGGESTED TIP OR GIFT VALUE|
|Animal Trainer||Cost of 1 session|
|Au Pair||1-2 week’s pay and a small gift from your kids|
|Babysitter||Average day/evening pay for regular sitters and a small gift from your kids|
|Barber||Cost of 1 session|
|Bartender||$20-$40 for someone you see regularly|
|Building Porter/Janitor||$25-$100, depending on involvement|
|Building Superintendent||$100-200, depending on involvement|
|Cleaning Company||Cost of 1 session or a small gift, if you see the same people regularly|
|Coffee Shop Barista||$20 for someone you see regularly|
|Country Club Staff||$50 for someone you see regularly|
|Day Care Staff||Small gifts from your kids in the $10-$30 range|
|Dog Walker||Cost of 1 session or 1 week’s pay|
|Doorman||$25-$100 depending on involvement|
|Driver / Limo Service||$20-$50 or 20% of monthly bill|
|Dry Cleaner||$10-20 gift card or homemade goods|
|Elevator Operator||$10-$40, depending on involvement|
|Errand Runner||$50 to 1 week’s pay, depending on how often you use|
|Fitness Instructor||Cost of 1 session or a small gift|
|Food Delivery Person||$20-$30 for someone you see regularly|
|Garbage Collector||$10-$30 per person|
|Gas Station Attendant||$10-$20 for someone you see regularly|
|Groomer||Cost of 1 session|
|Hairdresser or Colorist||Cost of 1 session|
|Housekeeper||Cost of 1 session or a small gift for infrequent service|
|Kennel Staff||Handmade or baked goods|
|Kids’ Activities Instructor||Small gift from your kids|
|Kids’ Coach (Athletics)||Small gift from your kids|
|Live-in Help (housekeeper, senior care aide, nanny, chef, etc.)||1-2 week’s pay|
|Massage Therapist||Cost of 1 session|
|Mother’s Helper||Average day’s pay for regular helper and a small gift from your kids|
|Nail Salon||Cost of 1 session|
|Nanny||1-2 week’s pay and a gift from your kids|
|Nurse (in-home nurse, private nurse)||Edible goodies with a handwritten note|
|Nursing Home or Assisted Living Community Staff||Homemade gift|
|Package Delivery Person||Small, non-cash gift|
|Parking Garage Attendant||$10-$20 for someone you see regularly|
|Personal Assistant||$50 to 1 week’s pay|
|Personal Chef||1-2 week’s pay or cost of one session, depending on frequency|
|Personal Trainer||Cost of 1 session|
|Pet Day Care Staff||Handmade gift or baked goods|
|Physical Therapist||Don’t tip|
|Postal Worker||Food, such as baked goods, or non-cash gift worth less than $20|
|School Bus Driver||Small, non-cash gift|
|Senior Care Aide||$50 to 1 week’s pay|
|Snow Remover/Shoveler||Cost of 1 session|
|Teacher||Small gift from your kids|
|Teacher’s Aide/Assistant||Small gift from your kids|
|Tutor||Cost of 1 session and small gift from your child, depending on frequency|
|Waiter / Waitress||$20-$40 for someone you see regularly|