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

Dying Careers You May Want to Steer Clear Of
careers

Dying Careers You May Want to Steer Clear Of

It’s tough to change, but your job could depend on it. Be flexible in your career goals – and talk with your kids about their own aspirations, because…
September 13, 2021
5 Top Dividend Aristocrats to Beef Up Your Portfolio
dividend stocks

5 Top Dividend Aristocrats to Beef Up Your Portfolio

The 65-member Dividend Aristocrats are among the market's best sources of reliable, predictable income. But these five stand out as truly elite.
September 14, 2021
7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom
commodities

7 Best Commodity Stocks to Play the Coming Boom

These seven commodity stocks are poised to take advantage of a unique confluence of events. Just mind the volatility.
September 8, 2021

Recommended

11 Best Things to Keep in a Safe Deposit Box
savings

11 Best Things to Keep in a Safe Deposit Box

These valuables and documents, along with some items you hold dear, should be stored securely at your bank.
September 25, 2021
9 Things You’ll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box
savings

9 Things You’ll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box

Locking up certain important documents and valuables in a bank vault could turn into a headache for you or your heirs.
September 24, 2021
How the Pandemic Is Reshaping Retirement
Making Your Money Last

How the Pandemic Is Reshaping Retirement

Inflation tops health care costs as the biggest concern, and many preretirees are boosting their saving rate.
September 8, 2021
15 Things Retirees Should Buy at Costco
Making Your Money Last

15 Things Retirees Should Buy at Costco

From its house brand Kirkland Signature lineup to name brands and hidden gems, the warehouse club offers bargains aimed at mature shoppers.
September 8, 2021