Tipping around the holidays can feel like a minefield of potential etiquette violations: Who should you tip, who should you not tip, and how much cash should go in those little envelopes?
End-of-the-year cash gratuities are typically given to those who provide regular services but who are not salaried professionals. Your regular service providers may be living paycheck to paycheck and giving them a little extra this time of year could make a substantial difference.
Read on for our list of the seven service providers you should consider thanking with a holiday cash gratuity, why you should tip them, and suggested amounts.
Nannies and babysitters
You entrust nannies and babysitters with the most precious things in your lives: your children. These caretakers wipe tears, runny noses, and mysterious crusty things from your kids’ faces. They bathe them, read them books in ridiculous cartoon voices, and tuck them in bed at night. Nannies and babysitters keep your kids safe, fed, and entertained, and deserve all the holiday spirit you can afford.
Standard tip: For hourly babysitters, tip the cost of an average sitting session. For nannies who work several days a week, tip an amount equal to one week’s pay.
Dog walkers, pet groomers and pet sitters
These are the people you entrust with your fur children. If you use one of these pet services frequently, you know how important they are to your pet’s mental health and your sanity. Often, these service providers bond with your pet and are committed to caring for them.
Standard tip: The cost of one session if using their services monthly, or an amount equal to one week of services if used daily.
This is who you call when your hot water runs out, the toilet handle falls off, or the upstairs neighbor’s shower leaks. They also haul your trash to the curb, shovel sidewalks in the snow, and play middleman when larger home repairs are needed. They are essentially on-call, all the time. If you can afford to give them a cash tip, put these service providers at the top of your list.
Standard tip: $20-80
Housekeepers, maids, and cleaners
Whether you have someone coming in once a week or once a month, these service providers see the stuff you don’t want anyone else to see. They’ve spent time with your shower drain and cleaned out the moldy cucumbers hiding in the back of your fridge. Tip these dust-spotting soldiers well.
Standard tip: The cost of one house cleaning session if hired semi-frequently, or an amount equal to one week’s wages if used daily.
For apartment dwellers in doorman buildings, a holiday tip to these welcome mat/guard dogs is standard. Every morning, they send you off into the world with a “Have a great day!” and ask how your day was when you return home. They accept your packages and scrutinize building visitors. They are likely a constant in your life who knows your kids’ names, your close friends, and when you’re having a bad day.
Standard tip: $15-80 per doorman
Newspaper delivery person
Whether they get it on your driveway 75% of the time or 100% percent of the time, this service provider gets up at the crack of dawn so you can read the news with your coffee, often in less than optimal weather conditions. Tipping your newspaper delivery person this holiday season could make a substantial difference in their salary.
Standard tip: $10-30
Esthetician, nail tech, massage therapist, or other salon staff
These are the people who have seen the undersides of your nails and your pores under a bright light. If you have a massage therapist, they know exactly where your muscle knots are, and they know the stressors in your life causing them.
Standard tip: The cost of one typical service or session. If you want to tip several people in the salon who essentially perform one service (the person who gives you a manicure and the person who gives you a pedicure, for instance), take the sum of the service and divide it equally.
A couple notes on tip giving
Giving cash to some salaried professionals might be unethical, so always check with the governing body. Mail carriers, for instance, can only accept non-cash gifts valued at less $20 or less, according to the USPS tipping policy.
If you’re cutting back this holiday season in order to finally crush your debt, and you’re not able to give a “difference-making” amount, that’s fine. Holiday tipping amounts are not predetermined, and you should only tip what you can afford. At the very least, a small cash gratuity — accompanied with a personal note — demonstrates thoughtfulness and appreciation.
Finally, remember that these are just guidelines, largely dictated by your budget, relationship with your service provider, and local norms. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the extra funds to tip big right now.
If giving out cash tips this holiday season is not on your list of smart money moves to make, a card expressing your gratitude accompanied by a homemade gift will suffice. And you can always give these service providers a “holiday tip” down the road when you have some more wiggle room.