Making Your Money Last

How to Tip, Handle Gift Gaffes and Work the Office Party

Ease your end-of-the-year worries with these basic guidelines.

How do I tip everyone who helped me throughout the year without blowing my budget?

Compose a list of people who do work for you or provide you service on a regular basis, such as your kids’ babysitter or the newspaper deliverer, and prioritize end-of-year gratuities based on your relationship and the frequency and quality of the service. Then stock up on gift cards or crisp, uncrumpled bills.

You can find suggestions for holiday tips in 16 categories at kiplinger.com/links/holidaytips. For a service provider who is hard to track down in person, such as your trash collector, you could prominently tape an envelope to the top of the bin (check the rules first on what public employees can accept). When your tipping budget runs low, get creative with packages of homemade treats.

No matter what you give, include a handwritten card specifying in a few sentences how the person has had a positive effect on your life. Emphasize the you, such as, “Your personal training has kept me on track more than I can describe,” says Mary M. Mitchell, author of several etiquette books.

I’m not a party person. Do I have to attend my office’s holiday festivities?

Yes, even if that means forcing yourself off your couch on a chilly Saturday night. “Think of this as a business event,” says Cathi Fallon, executive director of the Etiquette Institute of Ohio. To make the evening more bearable—and give your career a boost in the process—plan to arrive on time (when the scene is calmer), stay for an hour (unless it’s a sit-down dinner, of course) and network with new faces. To really nail a good impression, Fallon suggests thanking the organizer and top management for hosting the festivities, by handwritten note as well as in person, if possible.

My aunt asked me how I’m enjoying the Tiffany-style lamp she gave me last year. It just wasn’t me, so I gave it away. Can I lie about how much I love it?

No, but you can start with a vague compliment to her (“That was such a thoughtful gift!”) and try to change the subject. If that doesn’t work, you may need to come clean with a tactful explanation and reinforce how much you appreciate her generosity. Then move on because “we tend to overcommunicate when feeling awkward,” says Mindy Lockard, founder of a leadership program for young women.

When special thought goes into the gift selection, such as a one-of-a-kind painting, consider keeping it even if you find it hideous. And avoid returning items from local boutiques in case word travels back to the buyer.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
Can't Sleep at Night? Consider Getting Checked Out By a Doctor
health insurance

Can't Sleep at Night? Consider Getting Checked Out By a Doctor

Older adults are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Left untreated these conditions can have dire consequen…
May 26, 2021
Midyear Investing Outlook: Where to Invest Now
Kiplinger's Investing Outlook

Midyear Investing Outlook: Where to Invest Now

After a powerful start, stocks will grind higher in the second half of 2021. But watch out for curveballs.
May 23, 2021

Recommended

Super Deals and Discounts for 2021
Smart Buying

Super Deals and Discounts for 2021

Consumer prices are popping as the economy reopens, and that means finding good values is more important than ever. We uncovered bargains on everythin…
May 25, 2021
What Kids Need to Know About Finances
Women & Money

What Kids Need to Know About Finances

In a digital world, it's even more critical to teach children how to handle cold, hard cash.
May 24, 2021
10 Ways to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Their Finances
Caregiving

10 Ways to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Their Finances

There's a good chance that many adult children will have to get involved with their parents' financial lives as they age.
May 21, 2021
10 Best Financial Benefits for Military Families
savings

10 Best Financial Benefits for Military Families

Service members face a range of threats – from the lethal to the financial. A wide array of generous benefits and programs are meant to offset some of…
May 19, 2021