The widespread availability of COVID vaccines and the desire to return to normal life this year renewed relationships with regular service providers for many. At the same time, the delta variant and lingering COVID concerns posed challenges to service industry employees racing to meet demand. Given these issues, holiday tipping is especially important as a way of showing our appreciation to essential workers this year.
“Tipping around the holidays is really about trying to say thank you to the service providers in your life,” says Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette. The quality of the service provided and your personal budget will dictate the amount you give, Post says.
Of course, not all professionals can accept tips. And sometimes, a tip may be seen as inappropriate or demeaning. Read on to identify 18 categories of people in your life who might deserve a holiday tip.
U.S. Postal Workers
Suggested Tip: A small gift valued at no more than $20.
Postal workers typically may not accept cash gifts, checks or gift cards. Mail carriers are allowed to accept certain items as gifts during the holiday season. These can include small gifts that have little intrinsic value such as travel mugs or hand warmers that are clearly worth no more than $20.
An exception to the gift-card restriction was introduced during the pandemic allowing postal employees to accept free supplies, materials or services related to the COVID-19 crisis. That's not just masks and gloves; restaurant or store gift cards are permitted, as long as the value of the gift is $20 or less and you don’t provide any single employee with gifts that exceed $50 during a given year.
Your Grocery Delivery or Curbside Pick-Up Person
Suggested Tip: $10 to $30.
If you use grocery delivery or curbside pick up services, consider a generous tip in recognition of the provider’s hard work this holiday season. A relatively new addition to our lives, grocery delivery and curbside pickup boomed this year and workers have toiled double time to meet the demand. “Think about giving a tip alongside a card during the holiday season, if you use curbside pick-up or grocery delivery regularly,” says Post.
Suggested Tip: A basket of pre-packaged goods.
FedEx drivers are prohibited by work rules from accepting payments from customers; UPS drivers are not barred from taking tips but are encouraged to say no. For them, you might leave a basket of pre-packaged goods at your door as a form of gratuity.
Your Newspaper Delivery Person
Suggested Tip: $10 to $30.
If you tip regularly throughout the year, give your newsie just a few dollars. Or instead of cash, you can give a small gift, according to the Emily Post Institute.
Some newspapers, such as The Washington Post, offer the option of giving a tip to your delivery person online through your subscriber account. But even if you go digital with your tip, you might consider giving your carrier a nice note — both to express your appreciation and to ensure they know you tipped them.
Your Childcare Provider
Suggested Tip: At least a week's pay, plus a small gift from your child.
As someone who works closely with you and your child, your nanny or au pair should be at the top of your tip list. If someone has worked with you for several years or has provided outstanding service, you may bump up the amount.
For your regular babysitter — someone you've had watch the kids frequently throughout the year or for last-minute emergencies — one night's pay is appropriate. A daycare provider might deserve $25 to $70, but check with the facility's policies first.
Your Trash and Recycling Collectors
Suggested Tip: $10 to $30 each.
You might hear them coming and going every trash day. But instead of rolling over and hitting the snooze button, around this time of year, consider throwing on your fuzzy slippers and bathrobe and catching some face time with your trash collectors. You should hand them their tips directly in an envelope with a nice note or holiday card. If you can't catch them in person, track down the corporate address, where you could mail or drop off a card and a check.
But first check on the rules for your municipality. Some jurisdictions forbid workers from accepting cash, according to the Emily Post Institute.
Your Child’s Teacher
Suggested Tip: A thoughtful gift.
A cash tip for a teacher could look like a bribe. But a small gift accompanied by a note or drawing from your child is a nice thank you for an educator's hard work.
Or pool your resources with other parents to buy the teacher a gift card. Just be sure to first check the policies of your child's school: If gifts are forbidden, a note of appreciation is always appropriate.
Your Regular Cleaning Person
Suggested Tip: The cost of one visit.
This amount is considered fitting if he or she visits weekly or biweekly, says Rosanne Thomas, author of Excuse Me: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette. Increase the amount for someone who works more often or has been providing you service for several years. Conversely, you could cut the amount for someone you tip throughout the year or whose services haven't been outstanding.
Your Regular Hairstylist or Barber
Suggested Tip: The cost of one visit.
If you have multiple salon staff members work on your hair (if, say, one person shampoos and another person cuts), the Emily Post Institute says to divide the cost of one visit between them proportionately. And consider including a small gift for a stylist who doubles as a confidant. If you don't regularly visit your salon or barbershop throughout the year, you may prefer to give about $20 as a tip during your December visit. But if you typically do and haven’t been in as much this year due to the pandemic, consider padding your tip a little bit. The cost of two visits, rather than just one, would go a long way. And a handwritten note of appreciation is always in order.
Your regular manicurist should receive the cost of one visit as a tip, too.
Your Regular Dog Groomer
Suggested Tip: Up to the cost of a session.
If you bring your pet to the same person year-round for grooming, anywhere from half to the full cost of a session is appropriate. Or a personal gift may suffice.
For a dog walker, you might consider tipping one day's pay, unless he or she walks your dog five days a week or more, says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of the etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith. In that case, give up to a week's pay or a small gift.
A Personal Caregiver
Suggested Tip: One week to one month of pay.
A senior care aide employed personally by an individual or family might deserve at least a week's pay as a holiday bonus. For a caregiver you work with through an agency, you'll need to check the company's policy. The same goes for nursing-home workers. At some facilities and agencies, workers may be tipped through a fund run by the central administrator; at others, gifts and tips may be banned.
If you're not permitted to tip, a special treat, such as homemade cookies or fudge, is a good way to thank someone who has been exceptionally kind and attentive. However, when bringing savory or home -baked goods to nursing- home staff who offer round-the-clock care for your loved one, "make sure to cover every shift," says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman.
You might also consider making a donation to the organization in that person's name.
Your Personal Trainer
Suggested Tip: Up to the cost of one session.
After sweating it out with your trainer all year long, you might find you've become quite close. Consider a generous tip especially if you have an ongoing relationship with the professional and believe you have received above-average service. Besides, you might need them to give your sessions a bit of a boost after you've gobbled up some of those holiday feasts and treats.
Your Massage Therapist
Suggested Tip: The cost of one visit.
A nice tip is a small price to pay in recognition of their year-long gift to you — physical rehabilitation and relaxation. Or you could substitute the extra cash with a nice gift.
Your Golf or Tennis Pro
Suggested Tip: A nice gift.
Golf or tennis pros are salaried employees and do not expect a tip for their services. In fact, they might even be insulted by such a gesture, says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. But after improving your game by another year's worth of lessons, you might consider getting them a thoughtful gift or batch of baked goods to show your appreciation. The same goes for your kids' various instructors.
Landscapers or Gardeners
Suggested Tip: $20 to $50 per person.
The crew who keep your yard verdant will appreciate a little extra green in their pockets. If you have one gardener who comes regularly, rather than a group, provide the cost of one visit or up to one week's work.
Parking Garage Attendant
Suggested Tip: $10 to $50.
Frequently park your car in the same public garage? Consider tipping each attendant who provides you with service regularly. Attendants who go the extra mile — or who work in regions with a high cost of living — deserve tips at the higher end of the range.
Your Building Door Attendant
Suggested Tip: $25 to $100 each.
The higher end of our suggested range, or even more if you can afford to be extra generous, is for those who help you the most or provide exceptional service (think: heavy grocery-bag luggers or expert taxi-cab hailers). And in high-end neighborhoods (hello, Upper East Side), door attendants might be used to pocketing those bigger tips. “When in doubt, ask around,” says Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute. But if a neighbor tells you that she's tipping twice as much as you can afford, don't feel obliged to match it.
Also be sure to check with your building association first. You may be able to contribute to a collective fund that will be distributed appropriately to staff members. “Night staff are often overlooked if you don’t see them often or know them well. You want to make sure you’re covering everyone,” Post says.
Your Building’s Handyperson
Suggested Tip: $20 to $100.
For a handyperson in your building who makes repairs for you regularly, a tip is a nice gesture. Tilt your tip toward the higher end of the range if the worker is available at all hours and does repairs at a moment's notice. But if you're an apartment dweller, be sure to check your building association's policy before tipping any of its employees. Some may collect lump sums from residents and then divvy up the contributions among the appropriate people.
If you will be tipping on your own, you may want to reward others who help you in your apartment or condo building, too. A superintendent should get about $25 to $100 each (higher tips are for those who help you the most or provide exceptional service yearlong). You might give a custodian $20 to $50.
Emma Patch joined Kiplinger in 2020. She previously interned for Kiplinger's Retirement Report and before that, for a boutique investment firm in New York City. She served as editor-at-large and features editor for Middlebury College's student newspaper, The Campus. She specializes in travel, student debt and a number of other personal finance topics. Born in London, Emma grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Washington, D.C.
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