An Updated Holiday Tipping Guide

by Alex DiBacco

holiday tipping guide

As if the holidays aren’t crazy enough, there is specific etiquette concerning tipping. Holiday tipping is considered appropriate in a lot of cases, but it’s really tough to figure out exactly what to give to whom.

Trust me when I say that employees and service providers really appreciate tips. I’ve worked in many of these positions, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world to be appreciated through a tip or gift.

While you might not know what’s generally considered a good tip for each person in these positions, they do. If you’ve been a mail carrier for your whole life, you’re definitely aware of the what a holiday tipping guide will say you should receive. As the employer, it’s your job to look it up and figure out what’s appropriate.

The Emily Post Institute says that “Holiday tipping is holiday thanking,” and this couldn’t be more true. Neglecting to tip (especially when the person generally would receive a tip) can feel pretty bad to the employee or service provider.

There’s way too many holiday tipping guides out there, but after doing some research, I noticed that a lot of them are really outdated. Not only were many of them written in 2011 (prices have obviously changed since then) but a lot of current positions don’t make an appearance, such as a virtual assistant.

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The importance of etiquette seems especially critical around the holidays, so you don’t want to unknowingly go against the basic guidelines.

Here’s my full holiday tipping guide, including what to tip each person and how to budget tips when you have to work within monetary constraints.

Holiday Tipping Guide For the Home

I personally wouldn’t tip every single person on this list – I don’t get a lot of these services. For example, I’ve literally only seen the handyman for our apartment once when he had to fix a stair, so I probably wouldn’t give him a Christmas bonus, but anyone who you see regularly should be included in your holiday tipping list!

For the purpose of this holiday tipping guide, I’ve included every position I could think of. I especially feel that a lot of these home positions should be tipped big-time since they probably put up with a lot.

Housecleaner: If the housecleaner is full-time, tip the equivalent of one week’s pay, but if you only see the housecleaner once or twice a week, one day’s pay is good. I would throw in something small and extra, like a candle or a box of homemade cookies.

House Manager: At least one week of pay as well as a small gift from you.

Mail Carrier: The USPS has rules (in most areas) stating that no cash tips are allowed and gifts can’t be anything clearly over $20. Gifts also shouldn’t be monetary based in value (for example a sweet mug is fine but a gift card is not). You can also send small snacks or drinks that aren’t meal based, but anything larger (that’s edible) has to be shared with the whole branch. Any outdated holiday tipping guide won’t have this information but stick to the rules so your mail carrier won’t get in trouble.

Other Delivery Persons: I’d tip around $20 or a small gift to anyone who you feel provides regular, decent service.

Newspaper Delivery Person: A small gift equal to $10-$20 or cash.

Garbage/Recycling: For a job well-done, I’d tip $10 per person and maybe send along some holiday cookies. Some companies don’t allow cash tips, so check in first.

Gardener and Landscaper: One week’s pay or one session, to be split between workers if there are multiple landscapers or gardeners.

Pool Cleaner: If tipping is allowed (check with the business), one day’s pay is appropriate. If you have multiple cleaners, split the pay between them.

Driver: Use your own discretion depending on how often you’re with the driver (one drive a week is very different from a full-time driver).

Cook: At least one week of pay as well as a small from you.

Au Pair: At least one week of pay as well as a small gift from your children. If the pay is very low (au pairs generally make less) you might consider tipping a bit more.

Live-In Nanny: At least one week of pay as well as a small gift from your children.

Daytime Nanny (full and part time): At least one week of pay as well as a small gift from your children.

Babysitter: One night’s pay and a small gift from your children if the babysitter is regular. If you’ve only had the babysitter a few times, a small gift is appropriate.

Private Nurse: One week of pay as well as a small gift from you or the patient. Some private nurse agencies have rules against tipping, in which case a more expensive (and thoughtful) gift is appropriate.

Other Home Health Employees: Check with the agency first. If holiday presents are allowed, then a gift worth about $50 from you or the patient is appropriate.

Doorman and/or concierge: A small gift equal to $10-$20 or cash. This is somewhat relative – in New York City you’d probably have to tip more, but if you live in a smaller city and don’t use your apartment’s services much then $10 per person is completely fine.

Building Superintendent: $75-$175. Again, relative depending on where you live and your relationship with them.

Elevator Operator: A small gift equal to $10-$20 or cash.

Garage Attendant: $25-$75. If there’s multiple attendants, then split it between them or buy a group gift (such as lunch or pizza for the bunch). The amount of course depends on how much the attendants actually do as well.

Handyman: A small gift equal to $10-$20 or cash.

Dog Walker: Up to one week’s pay in cash or a gift. If the dog walker has a regular daily schedule then I’d tip around a week’s pay, but if he/she works only occasionally then I’d say a small gift or gift card is enough.

Assistant (Virtual or In-Person): One week’s salary or the equivalent of one project if the assistant isn’t paid weekly.

If you tip a staff member in a certain area, make sure to tip everyone. For example, if you tip your doorman, you should definitely do the same for your garage attendant and concierge. Each holiday tipping guide will have different guidelines for each position, so use common sense and think about how much interaction you have with the person and how often they provide services.

Beauty Services

According to the typical holiday tipping guide, for basically all of these services, only tip if you have a really regular person that you see. If you see someone different every time but go to the same establishment (such as a nail salon), bringing a group gift such as food can be nice.

Hairdresser: Up to the cost of one visit or a gift of equal amount. Because hair services can be really expensive, if you tip well during the year then you could get a smaller gift or gift card.

Barber: Up to the cost of one visit or a gift of equal amount.

Nail Technician: Up to the cost of one visit or a gift of equal amount.

Fitness Instructor: Cost of one class or a small gift.

Personal Trainer: The cost of one session in cash or a gift.

Masseuse: Cash or a gift equal to the amount of one session.

Acupuncturist: Cash or a gift equal to the amount of one session.

Other Salon Associates: $10-$20 or a small gift for anyone who helps with your hair regularly.

Bartista, Server, or Bartender: $20-$40 or a small gift if you see the person regularly.

Pet Groomer: Only tip if you have a consistent pet groomer you’ve used for at least a year. In this case, cash or a gift equal to one session is appropriate.

Other Services

Teachers: Actual gifts are most appropriate for school teachers (not cash) equal to around $10-$25. Most of the time, parents will ban together and get a group gift.

Professors: For professors (unless the professor is closely known such as if you’re a graduate student in the research lab), gifts are usually not appropriate.

School Bus Driver: A $10-$20 cash gift or gift card if allowed, otherwise a small gift is good.

Tutor: Cash or a gift equal to the cost of one visit.

Day Care Providers: a gift and/or cash for each provider from $25-$75.

Those Who Run Group Extracurriculars: A nice gift is always appreciated!

Those Who Run Private Extracurriculars: Cash or a gift equal to the cost of one session.

Nursing Home Workers: Cash tips usually aren’t allowed, but you should get a thoughtful gift for anyone who has been extra kind.

Those You Don’t Tip (a holiday card is always nice though)

  • Accountant/CPA
  • Attorney
  • Auditor
  • Banker
  • Bookkeeper
  • Doctor, Dentist
  • Executive Coach
  • Members, Board of Directors or Trustees
  • Seamstress/ Tailor
  • Veterinarian

When to Tip Cash Versus Give a Gift

There’s no hard and fast holiday tipping guide that says when you should give cash versus a tip. If cash feels like too much (over the top), then go with a small gift, otherwise I speak from experience when I say that the person will probably appreciate cash.

If you have a special relationship with the person, such as with a babysitter who you employ every single weekend, then you could do cash and a small gift.

Gift ideas include:

  • Gift cards to restaurants, coffee shops, nail salons, etc.
  • Homemade goodies like holiday bread, cookies, a hot chocolate kit, etc.
  • A array of unique tea
  • Mugs or coffee cups
  • Winter accessories like hats, scarves, mittens, etc.
  • Gift baskets with a collection of items you know the person will enjoy

Budgeting Your Holiday Tipping

You’re probably not made of money, and this list is pretty extensive.

My rule is that if you’ve chosen to hire someone or a service, then you must tip, because it was your choice to fill the position in the first place. Examples of this are most household employees, assistants, drivers, etc.

On the other hand, the best place to cut down on tips is either for services that you get outside the home or those that are mandatory who you don’t really engage with. If you have a different delivery person every time (or don’t get a lot of packages), then it’s probably safe to omit that tip. This is because you have virtually no relationship but can’t decide to not have a delivery man. If you sometimes switch nail artists or masseuses, then you could tip a smaller amount or get a small but nice gift, like a candle.

Lastly, think about how much people you might need to tip rely on you. If the person is a full-time employee, then they only have one opportunity to receive a holiday tip, and that’s from you.

How to Tip

A heartfelt, handwritten card is always appreciated! I got a really sweet card from the family I nannied for and that meant a lot. I order nice holiday cards in bulk and do it all at once so that I don’t miss anyone.

Holiday Tipping Guide Extras: Other Things to Consider

  • Location: tipping expectations and usually higher in large cities
  • The quality of service provided: if you haven’t been with a provider long and the service is subpar, then you may reconsider tipping (much)
  • Length of time it takes for the service to be completed: A provider you see once a month for an hour will be tipped differently from a full-time cook
  • How long you’ve know the person(s)
  • How above and beyond the person(s) go during the year

If you’re unsure and there’s a general establishment (such as with the positions of a doorman or mail carrier), call the main desk and ask what’s usually appropriate. Keep in mind that many establishments don’t accept cash tips, so always check before you tip a provider you hired through an agency or larger business!

If I’ve missed any positions in this holiday tipping guide, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them in.

Happy holidays!

xo, Alex


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