This is an updated reprint of a previous post.
Following is pretty much everything you need to know about holiday tipping. Print it out, save it and share!
Holiday tipping is not mandatory (even though it may be expected). But who should you tip – and how much? Should you give a cash tip or a specially chosen gift?
If you were to ask ten people who they tip and in what form, you’re likely to get ten different answers. Tipping is a matter of personal choice and should be dictated by your heart, your finances and the area in which you live. (I’ve lived in places that specified against tipping the trash collectors, for example. In others, it was an approved and accepted practice.) Having said that, there are certain conventions when it comes to holiday tipping.
So, if you want to give cash, who should you tip and how much?
Housekeeper or Cleaner: One week’s pay plus a personal gift if, as is often the case, you have a personal relationship with your housekeeper.
Trash Collector: $20 apiece but check with your town as some have ordinances forbidding trash collectors from accepting tips.
Private Care Giver: One Week’s Pay
Newspaper Delivery Person: $10 – $30
Mail Carrier: US Post Office workers are not allowed to accept cash gifts. Consider a small gift worth $20 – $25, depending on the conventions of your community. (Many of the people with whom I spoke were unaware that USPS workers cannot accept cash gifts and had been giving their mail carriers $15 – $25 year after year.)
Maintenance Worker (pool, fish tank, anyone who comes to your house regularly to do maintenance work): One Session’s Pay
Assisted Living Staff: Bake, or bring, cookies or cupcakes for the entire staff to share.
Doorman: $35 – $200
Superintendent: $75 – $170
Custodian: $25 – $50
Other Support Staff: $25 – $50
Note: If you live in NYC, these averages may seem conservative. Brick Underground suggests the following ranges for NY city dwellers:
Super, resident manager: $75 -$175 on average (broad range: $50 – $500)
Doorman, concierge: $25-$150 on average (broad range: $10 – $1,000)
Porter, handyman and maintenance staff: $20 – $30 on average (broad range: $10 – $75)
Garage attendant: $25 – $75 on average (broad range $15 – $100)
And, again, your own financials should dictate how much you tip. Some years we may be more solvent than others; financial situations change. Let the quality of service be another guide.
Babysitter: One to two night’s pay
Nanny: One week’s salary, more if your nanny has been with you longer than a year, plus a small personal gift and/or personal (handmade) gift from your child
Manicurist: Cost of one service
Hair Stylist: Cost of one service if you go regularly. If you go a few times a year, double the tip you’d normally give. (It used to be common practice to not tip the salon owner for services provided – but that is no longer true. Today, the salon owner should receive tips for regular services as well as at holiday time.)
Massage Therapist: Cost of One Session
Personal Trainer: Cost of One Session
Dog Walker: One Week’s Pay
Dog Groomer: Cost of One Session, if you have your dog groomed regularly and use the same person
There are people with whom you or your family interact on a regular basis for whom a cash tip is not required but who you may want to give a small gift. They include:
Your child’s teacher
Your child’s religious education teacher
Your child’s piano, dance, karate teacher, etc.
Your computer lesson, art, martial arts instructor, etc.
Holiday tipping should not be a chore. If you cannot afford to give a cash tip, don’t. Instead, consider a gift of home-baked cookies or, in the case of your children’s teachers, have the child make a special drawing for the teacher. But keep in mind that, if you’re getting regular manicures, for example, you can obviously afford them. Manicurists rely on tips throughout the year and those received at holiday time are particularly appreciated.
As for presentation, purchase appropriate cards and write a personal note, thanking the recipient for his or her services. Sounds simple, but many people simply hand cash over to the service provider. If I’m giving cash, I prefer to present it in a sealed envelope with a holiday card. I think making the extra effort to write something special goes a long way towards building additional good will.
A word about giving a “bottle.” I once gave a bottle of liquor as a thank you for services provided, only to later learn that the recipient was a recovering alcoholic. Since then, I have not given a gift of alcohol to anyone I didn’t know well.
Finally, keep a list of the people you tipped and the amount of the tip or the gift for reference the following year.
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