6 Steps to Stress-Free Holiday Tipping

Photo (cc) by Eric in DUB

Tradition makes this the time of year to show appreciation to the people whose services makes our lives more pleasant or easier. But money stress can put a serious crimp in your “Ho, ho, ho.”

In the following video, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson covers how to say “thanks” while staying true to your budget. Check it out, then read on for more on when to tip, whom to tip, and how much to tip without going broke.

What’s proper?

As Stacy says, when you think about tipping, focus on three things: etiquette, your budget and your relationship with the person performing a service for you.

Etiquette is less about rules than about thoughtfulness. Etiquette maven Emily Post says, “First and foremost, you shouldn’t feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget.” (Emily, by the way, was an author and expert on social graces and behavior. She died in 1960 and today “Emily” is a family business.)

If your budget is seriously tight: You don’t have to give cash. Do, however, find ways to say thanks to the people who make your life easier and more pleasant.

6-step guide

Here’s how to approach holiday tipping sensibly:

  1. Draft a budget you can truly afford.
  2. Make a list of people you want to tip or gift.
  3. Arrange the list in descending order with the most important people at the top.
  4. Assign an amount for each person’s tip or gift.
  5. Stop when you’ve reached your budgeted limit.
  6. Decide how to thank the others without money.

Whom to tip

Consumer Reports lists typical recipients of holiday gifts or tips: lawn-care folks, kids’ teachers, garbage collectors, mail carriers, newspaper delivery people, housecleaners and handy people, hairdressers and barbers, manicurists and pet-sitters and walkers.

When you’re deciding whom to tip, think about the quality of the relationship. Consider how often and for how long you’ve used the service. Also, holiday tips can reward exceptional service.

A tip should “primarily be based on your personal financial situation, as well as your emotional connection to your loyal and trusted employee, service provider or trusted family caretaker,” says manners expert Diane Gottsman.

When you give money, or anything else, always include a handwritten note saying thanks.

Local customs count too. Ask friends and co-workers their policies, especially if you’re relatively new to an area. One of my friends who lived briefly in Hawaii recalls, “In my Honolulu neighborhood, it was customary to leave a case of beer on top of the trash can for the garbage collectors on Christmas morning.”

How much?

Consumer Reports‘ yearly survey offers a peek at who gets tips and how much. The magazine is still getting around to this year’s survey but in 2012 it found that:

  • The median tip (half are more, half less) was $50.
  • The most-tipped workers – 64 percent – were housecleaners.
  • The least-tipped workers: garbage collectors.
  • Slightly more than half of people surveyed said they gave no holiday tips.

“Some non-tippers said they reward only exceptional service, and about one-fourth said they don’t tip at any time, period,” Consumer Reports says.

Workers in some jobs can’t accept cash (or booze). That includes school teachers and mail carriers. Mail carriers can accept a gift – or a gift certificate — worth no more than $20, says Emily Post.

Wondering what’s appropriate for a teacher? Call your school for guidance. A gift certificate under $20 is always a good bet.

You’ll find other tipping guides at CNNMoney, Real Simple and U.S. News & World Report. A word of caution on these, though. They may advise very large tips and offer advice on tipping the doorman, the elevator operator, your nanny and your personal trainer.

What my friends do

I asked a few friends about their customs. One wrote, “I’ve read these tipping articles before and always think they are written by someone who lives in a big high rise in NYC and most of it doesn’t apply to me.”

Most of my pals tip 20 percent or more all year long for personal services like haircuts and nails. Some tip slightly more at the holidays and are especially generous with babysitters and housecleaners. But others give cookies, homemade jam or a bottle of wine, especially when their budgets are tight.

The bottom line: Be generous by all means, but your financial health comes first.

Non-cash alternatives

If you’re not giving cash, do give:

  • A thoughtfully written thank you note.
  • A small gift of cookies, jam, pickles or some other treat from your kitchen.
  • A gift or card crafted by your kids.

Money isn’t everything, Consumer Reports concludes. Daniel Post Senning, great-great-grandson of Emily Post, told the magazine:

“We like to say that holiday tipping is really holiday thanking,” he points out. “Words mean a lot, so you can say something even if you’re not a crafty person or a baking person. A genuine and thoughtful thank-you goes a long way.”

Tipping traditions are all over the map. Share yours in the comments 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.

Read Next
This Online Bank Rated Best for Second Year in a Row
This Online Bank Rated Best for Second Year in a Row

This bank pays interest without charging monthly fees, but there’s a downside.

10 Things That Can Ding Your Social Security Payments
10 Things That Can Ding Your Social Security Payments

Here are 10 things that could mean less money in your pocket during retirement.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

9 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Veterinary Care
9 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Veterinary Care

Medical care for your furry friends can be expensive. Here are some tips to take a bite out of vet bills.

8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers
8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers

We’ve brewed up a list of amazing Amazon products that are sure to perk you up.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19
Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19

It takes just seconds to take this simple preventive measure.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.