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Who to tip over the holidays and how much to give

4 min read
Who to tip over the holidays and how much to give

During the season of giving, good etiquette dictates that you offer a tip to the people who make life a little easier throughout the year.

But as you take stock of the people who contribute to your wellbeing, you may realize that it’s quite a large group — and that can feel a little daunting. After all, more than half of shoppers say they plan to trim their holiday budgets this year due to inflation’s impact on their finances, according to a recent survey from RetailMeNot.

Before you panic about adding 20 people to your budget, the first thing to know about holiday tipping is to give what you can afford.  

“Good tipping feels good for everyone involved,” says Daniel Post Senning, co-author of “Emily Post Etiquette, The Centennial Edition.” “Tipping that takes you beyond your budget will never feel good.”

That means if any of the recommended tip amounts feel steep, it’s not out of line to adjust downward to fit your budget. “It’s OK to give half. Or a quarter. Or a really nice card. Or perhaps give them a gift instead,” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and owner of the protocol school of Texas.

Below are Gottsman’s abridged guidelines for year-end tipping. Remember, these aren’t requirements, but suggestions meant to give you an idea of whom you might want to thank this holiday season.

At school

Teachers and aides: Contribute to a class gift, such as a gift certificate to the teacher’s favorite restaurant or store. If your child has multiple teachers, give a small gift to each.

School secretary: A small gift or gift certificate.

School nurse: If your kid sees the nurse often, consider giving a small gift, such as a gift card to a coffee shop or a mug with special hot chocolate.

Principal: Home baked goods and a holiday greeting card.

Bus driver: $20 each

School lunch providers: $20 each

At home

Doorman: $20 to $100. Aim to give each doorman the same amount.

Handyman: $20 to $100

Garage attendant: $10 to $50

Landlord or building manger: $50 and up, depending on their level of support.

Daily or weekly housekeeper: Equivalent of one day’s (or week’s) service.

Newspaper delivery person: $10 to $30

Pool cleaner, lawn maintenance professional: Equivalent of one week’s service.

Trash collector: Check local regulations to see if they can accept cash. If so, $10 to $25 per person.

Service providers

Babysitter: Cash or a gift card equivalent of one night’s pay.

Nanny: One week’s (to one month’s) pay and a gift from your child.

Hair stylist, manicurist, personal trainer, massage therapist: Cash or a gift card equivalent of one visit.

Shampoo attendant: $5 to $10

Pet groomer: Cash equivalent of one service.

Dog walker: Cash equivalent of one day (or one week’s) service.

Home health care: Check the corporate gift-giving policy. If there are no restrictions, a gift or gift certificate equivalent of one service. It could be one day or the entire week, depending on your budget.

Private chef: Cash equivalent of one week’s service.

After-school dance instructor, tutor, little league coach: $25 or a gift certificate to a favorite coffee shop.

Regular delivery people

UPS: UPS allows drivers to accept a small gift or nominal gratuity.

FedEx: FedEx employees can accept a gift valued up to $75, but no cash or gift cards.

USPS: Mail carriers may not accept cash gifts or cash equivalents. They may accept a gift valued up to $20.

How to narrow things down

Unless you’re feeling like post-ghosts Scrooge, you’re unlikely to find the time or money to offer a gift to all of these people.

To narrow things down, focus on the two categories of people Senning says provide services related to the most important things in your life: “Your body and your home — and by extension, your family.”

People in the first category are the ones that have you looking and feeling your best: hair stylists, massage therapists, personal trainers and the like. “These are great candidates for an annual tip,” says Senning.

People in the second category can include your doorman, your nanny, your dog walker or the person who plows your driveway when the weather turns snowy. These people have a direct, positive impact on the way you live your life and deserve your appreciation, says Senning.

If you add it all together and it still feels like a bit much, at the very least offer heartfelt thanks to the people who help you throughout the year, either in person, via a card or both.

This interaction may even offer a good opportunity to explain why you may not be able to offer as a substantial a tip as you did in years past, says Senning: “Don’t underestimate the power of your voice and a genuine, warm smile.”

Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters how you can increase your earning power.

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Who to tip over the holidays and how much to give

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