Holiday Tipping – 7 Tips to Keep From Going Broke

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Finding out how much you're supposed to tip is easy. Figuring out where you'll find the money? Not so much. But if you're short this holiday season, here are some words of comfort.

I love the people who take care of me throughout the year, but I hate wrestling with their tips as it comes to a close. Do I tip my hair stylist a few extra bucks, or will she be expecting more? Should I tip my mail carrier? Can I afford all this generosity?

If that sounds familiar, here’s something that will make your days cheery and bright: Holiday tipping doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and a little thought can go a long way.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has tips for tipping and spreading holiday cheer this season. Check out the short video below, then meet me on the other side for more…

Here’s how to make holiday tipping easy this year:

1. Make a personal checklist

You don’t have to wonder who deserves a holiday tip. There are plenty of experts who will tell you.

Ready to feel guilty? Below is a list of holiday tipping guidelines from Emily Post. Go down the list, pick out service providers that come into your life regularly, and start making a list of your own. Yes, the list is lengthy, but hopefully you don’t come into contact with all those on it. (No elevator operator where I live – how about you?)

Service Provider Options Suggested Amount or Gift
Au pair or live-in nanny Cash or consider a gift. This person works closely with your family and you probably know them well. One week’s pay and a gift from your child(ren).
Regular babysitter Cash One evening’s pay and a small gift from your child(ren).
Day care provider Cash or a gift for each staff member who works with your child(ren). A gift from you or $25-$70 for each staff member and a small gift from your child(ren).
Live-in help (nanny, cook, butler, housekeeper) Cash and a personal gift One week to one month of pay as a cash tip, plus a gift from you.
Private nurse Gift A thoughtful gift from you.
Home health employees Check with agency first about gifts or tipping policies. If there is a no gifts/tipping policy, consider a donation to the agency. A thoughtful gift from you. (If gift-giving is not against company policy.)
Housekeeper/Cleaner Cash and/or a gift Up to the amount of one week’s pay and/or a small gift.
Nursing home employees A gift (not cash). Check company policy first. A gift that could be shared by the staff (flowers or food items).
Barber Cash or gift Cost of one haircut or a gift.
Beauty salon staff Cash or gift depending on whether you tip well after each service. The cost of one salon visit divided for each staff member who works with you. Give individual cards or a small gift each for those who work on you.
Personal trainer Cash or gift Up to the cost of one session or a gift.
Massage therapist Cash or gift Up to the cost of one session or a gift.
Pet groomer Cash or gift (if the same person grooms your pet all year). Up to the cost of one session or a gift.
Dog walker Cash or gift Up to one week’s pay or a gift.
Personal caregiver Cash or gift Between one week to one month’s salary or a gift.
Pool cleaner Cash or gift The cost of one cleaning to be split among the crew.
Garage attendants Cash or small gift $10-30 or a small gift
Newspaper delivery person Cash or small gift $10-30 or a small gift
Mail carrier Small gift only See special details below
Package deliverer Small gift only, no cash. (Only if you receive regular deliveries.) Small gift in the $20 range. Most delivery companies discourage or prohibit cash gifts.
Superintendent Cash or gift $20-80 or a gift
Doorman Cash or gift $15-80. $15 or more each for multiple doormen, or a gift.
Elevator operator Cash or gift $15-40 each
Handyman Cash or gift $15 to $40
Trash/Recycling collectors Cash or gift (for private) check city regulations if it is a municipal service. $10-30 each
Yard/Garden worker Cash or gift $20-50 each
Teachers Gift (not cash) A small gift or note from you as well as a small gift from your child.

Freaking out about how much you should be shelling out? Don’t panic. Keep reading…

2. Break the rules

After making your list, you may still may be staring at a lot of service providers. But even Emily Post says these amounts are recommendations and not requirements, meaning that you should make your own decisions based on your personal situation.

The experts recommend considering several factors when deciding who to tip and how much, like:

  • How often do they provide this service?
  • How’s the quality of their service?
  • Do you have a close relationship with this person?

Remember the list of suggested tips is just a guide, so use your own judgment.

3. Skip those you don’t know

I’m happy to have my trash and recycling picked up at the curb every week. But I have no idea who they are, and I don’t feel bad skipping someone I’ve never met before.

The experts agree: If you don’t know the service provider, you don’t have to tip. While it’s a nice thing to do, it’s expensive. Let the people you know on a first-name basis take priority.

4. Plan your tips

With tips ranging from one session’s cost to a full month of compensation, offering cash in the recommended amounts can quickly bust a budget. So if you plan to give cash but can’t tip the value of a week or month of service, that’s okay. Tipping a little more than normal can still be enough to spread holiday cheer and earn the appreciation of the receiver.

Also consider giving less if you typically tip at the time of service. After all, you’ve tipped them all year. Going above and beyond is nice, but don’t feel it’s required.

Use your personal list of service providers to see if the recommendations make sense and fit within your budget. Don’t be afraid to give more to the best and less to those who aren’t.

5. Go with gifts instead

Short on cash? Consider a gift instead.  Choose something personalized to their tastes, or give baked goods or other treats – they’re relatively inexpensive, and work for a wide range of recipients.

And if you can’t shell out cash or a gift, try a card with nice words.  See The 20-Cent Greeting Card.

6. Watch the regulations

Some service providers can’t accept cash. Accepting it can even get them in trouble.

Mail carriers can’t accept cash, checks or gifts cards as well as anything valued over $20. But they can take food or beverages and small gifts under that limit.

Cash gifts shouldn’t be given to school teachers, either. A gift from your child or the whole class is typically a better bet.

Trash and recycling collectors may have similar regulations if they’re municipal workers. Check to make sure what’s allowed and what’s not before giving.

7. Always include a card

No matter what you’re giving, include a card. Handing someone cash isn’t considered polite. Include a hand-written, personal message with all gifts, even if it’s short, to show that you care.

What are your thoughts on tipping? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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