Holiday tipping can be more confusing than the standard tipping expected when dining out or visiting a hair stylist. Holiday tipping can be, in fact, more like holiday gifting—a way of showing your appreciation to a regular service provider such as a nanny, babysitter, newspaper delivery person, dog walker, or doorman for their service throughout the year. As such, tipping guidelines during the holidays differ from tipping practices throughout the rest of the year.
According to etiquette experts, holiday tips are most commonly given toward the beginning of December, shortly before the holidays are properly upon us. And while you should never feel obligated to tip service providers during the holiday, etiquette experts say how much you tip is directly related to the kind of service on which you’re tipping.
As with anything you give during the holiday season, be sure that you’ve taken into account your financial budget. If you decide to tip the service providers in your life, make a list, check it twice, and consider the service that particular person offers.
For example, if you decide to provide a live-in nanny a holiday tip, you may want to consider budgeting more for that person than someone who babysits for you on a regular basis. However, as a standard rule of etiquette, both should be tipped more than a personal trainer. The nature of the relationship with the person receiving the tip can also determine whether you might give a small gift in addition to the tip, or a larger gift instead of a tip.
For a live-in nanny or au pair, the Emily Post Institute recommends one week’s pay and a small gift from the child or children, and note that since your family likely knows this person very well, a larger and more personal gift from the family. They recommend tipping a regular babysitter up to one evening’s pay along with a small gift from the child or children in the family. Those small gifts do not need to be extravagant; a handmade holiday card or art made by your children is enough. The goal of the gift is to help the children express their appreciation for their caregiver. Day care staff should also be considered for a small holiday present such as a card or small gift for each person who works with your child.
For those in the service industry who help your run your life smoothly, such as your pet groomer, personal trainer, or hair stylist, tips generally equal the cost of one visit. However, if you tip regularly on each service (as you may do with your hair stylist), you can forgo a holiday tip. If you work closely with others at your salon, such as a colorist or aesthetician, a small gift or card is an acceptable way to show your appreciation.
Housecleaning services should receive up to a week’s pay, and a small gift can also be considered. Any live-in help should also be tipped anywhere between a week’s and a month’s pay, and a small gift is appropriate. For nursing home staff or home health care providers, a thoughtful gift is more appropriate than cash though you should be sure to check their policies to ensure you give them a gift they’re allowed to receive. Cash tipping is not appropriate for health care providers.
For many, the most stymieing tip during the holiday season is the newspaper delivery person, someone seldom seen but always noticed. Generally between $10 and $30 is appropriate, with a higher tip for daily versus weekly newspaper delivery. If your building has a doorman, consider the quality of their service and your relationship with them while determining your tip; it should fall somewhere in the range of $15 to $100. You can also adjust how much you tip your doorman if there is more than one.
Widespread differences in tipping practices is part of what can make holiday tipping so confusing, so you may want to consider turning to friends or the Internet for guidance, and then choosing the amount that’s appropriate for your life and your budget. Most importantly, accompany each tip with a sincere card and give it to the recipient in person so you can thank them from the heart.
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