9 Rules for Holiday Tipping the Right Way

It’s that time of the year when everyone wonders whom to tip — and how much to give — during the holiday season.

Do you tip your kindergartener’s teacher? How about the garbage collector? And what about the mail carrier, hair stylist and a half-dozen others who make your life sweeter and easier throughout the year?

Let Money Talks News help with nine rules for tipping the right way this holiday season.

1. Spread the wealth

MCimage / Shutterstock.com
MCimage / Shutterstock.com

To tip within your budget, decide what you can afford to spend. List everyone you want to tip, and prioritize those folks. Then, decide how much to tip each person.

After you have hit your budgeted limit, find nonmonetary ways to thank people who didn’t make the list.

2. Stay within your budget

Yunis Malik / Shutterstock.com
Yunis Malik / Shutterstock.com

Don’t throw fiscal self-discipline to the wind for the holidays. There’s pressure to keep up with everyone else, especially at this time of year. It makes it easier to resist, however, when you imagine the misery of a holiday debt hangover.

3. Exercise flexibility

HBHR / Shutterstock.com
HBHR / Shutterstock.com

There’s no code of ethics for this: You have carte blanche to use your own good sense.

If you have little disposable income, disregard advice from articles that suggest tipping the doorman, the dog walker, the nanny and the personal trainer.

Those articles assume a level of disposable income you don’t possess, and the advice in them may be inappropriate for someone with less money.

However, if you can afford to tip, think about how much your nanny, personal trainer and other personal service professionals affect your quality of life. Then, tip generously.

4. If you’re unsure, ask around

WAYHOME studios / Shutterstock.com
WAYHOME studios / Shutterstock.com

Wondering what to give teachers at your child’s school? Call the office and ask what’s recommended and what other parents do. Your hairdresser? Ask at the front desk of the business. Call your garbage company to find out what’s recommended.

Don’t stop there. Ask your friends what they do. Quiz other parents and acquaintances at the dog park, coffee shop or your kids’ soccer games.

5. Don’t tip if …

Martin Prague / Shutterstock.com
Martin Prague / Shutterstock.com

A tip is a gift. You’ve already paid for the original service, so this is a recognition of extraordinary service. There’s no need for a holiday tip if the service you receive is nothing special.

Also, whether you tip and the amount you give depends on the frequency of service and your relationship. If you don’t know the name of your trash collector or your paper carrier, it might be better to give a small gift or something from your kitchen.

Remember that in some cases, it might be inappropriate to tip. U.S. Postal Service employees aren’t allowed to accept cash tips or gift cards. A holiday gift valued at $20 or less is OK, but you are restricted to giving gifts worth up to a total of $50 in a calendar year.

Teachers in many places typically may not accept cash, so give a gift worth $25 or less. Or, better yet, get together with other parents on a group gift.

Also, if you’ve been tipping steadily every time you receive a service, there’s no need to pull out your wallet again at the holidays.

6. Do tip if …

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

It is considered customary to tip the:

  • Garbage collector
  • Baby sitter
  • Newspaper carrier
  • Handyman or handywoman
  • House cleaner
  • Hair stylist or barber
  • Personal trainer
  • Massage practitioner
  • Caregiver
  • Manicurist
  • People who groom or walk/feed your pets

How much you give depends on your finances. If you’re not strapped, tip the cost of one session for those you employ regularly on a per-session basis. Give a week’s compensation to people who work regularly in your home or for your family.

7. When you give cash …

hannahby / Shutterstock.com
hannahby / Shutterstock.com

Put a cash tip in a card with a handwritten note of thanks. A couple of sentences will do. There’s no need to write a long letter.

8. When you give gift cards …

Rack of gift cards
Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

When a tip is not appropriate, give a small wrapped gift and a card of thanks. Or give a gift card or gift certificate worth about $20 at a coffee shop, bookstore or online marketplace. Avoid giving gift certificates for necessities such as groceries. If you suspect your recipient is hard up, give cash instead.

9. When you don’t have cash …

kipgodi / Shutterstock.com
kipgodi / Shutterstock.com

Here are alternative ways of saying thanks:

  • Send a letter of praise to a worker’s supervisor.
  • Write a thoughtful thank-you note expressing gratitude.
  • Give a card or gift made by your children.
  • Give cookies, jam, chocolate truffles, pickles or other goodies you have made.

What are your rules for holiday tipping? How do you say “thank you” if you can’t give cash? Let us know by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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