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Here’s Who and How Much to Tip at the Holidays (And When To Give Gifts Instead)

5 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

Key Takeaways

  • Even though holiday tipping is all about saying thank you, it can be hard to know who and how much to tip.
  • To make matters more confusing, cash isn’t always an appropriate way to show your gratitude.
  • Fortunately, here’s some insight to help you determine who to thank with tips or gifts this holiday season.

From hairstylists to housekeepers, a lot of folks help make life easier throughout the year. Holiday tipping is a great way to show them your appreciation, but you might not know who or how much to tip — and when it’s better to give a gift instead.

If you’re making your holiday tipping list and checking it twice, then keep reading for some helpful guidance. We’ve rounded up expert advice to take the confusion out of tipping during the season of giving.

Housekeepers

According to a CreditCards.com poll, 47% of respondents planned to give their housekeeper some extra cash during the holidays. Although $50 was the median tip amount reported, tipping isn’t a one-size-fits-all matter. On the contrary, your financial situation and preferences can influence your tip.

The Emily Post Institute recommends tipping your housekeeper somewhere in the area of one week’s pay. If you don’t want to give a monetary tip for whatever reason, then the source suggests a small gift. Cleaners make their clients’ lives easier, and a tip of some sort helps show appreciation.

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Childcare Providers

Babysitters and childcare providers are often a big help to parents. So, it probably won’t come as a surprise that 41% of respondents to the CreditCards.com poll planned to give them a holiday tip. They do the essential work of watching your kids while you work or take a little time for yourself, after all.

But how much should you tip them? Real Simple suggests giving childcare workers cash or a gift worth $35 to $70, along with a handmade gift from your children. And when it comes to regular babysitters, the source recommends giving them either “cash or a gift equal to one or two night’s pay.”

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Teachers

Teachers also make a difference in the lives of your children. However, tipping them in cash typically isn’t appropriate. Instead, gifts and gift cards are the way to go. Real Simple recommends capping your budget for the gift at $25.

If you want a few ideas, then here are a few crowd-pleasers to consider: bookstore gift cards, coffee shop gift cards, and treats like candy and baked goods. Some schools have no-gift policies, but a handwritten note is a great alternative.

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Hairstylists

Even though people generally tip every time they visit a hair salon, it’s customary to give a bigger tip during the holidays. For instance, the CreditCards.com poll found that 19% of respondents said they planned to tip their hairstylist more for the holidays.

CNBC suggests giving a tip worth the cost of one visit to the salon. Cash tips or gifts like a pair of earrings that make you think of their style are generally a good way to go. If more than one person helps you during a visit, then divide the amount among those folks.

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Waiters

Restaurant waitstaff is another category of workers that people tend to tip more during the holiday season. In fact, 27% of respondents to the CreditCards.com poll planned to tip waitstaff more generously as a yuletide bonus.

In addition to a standard tip, Reuters suggests giving a waiter you regularly see a holiday tip between $20 and $50. Also, consider tipping more than 15% to 20% of the bill if you eat out on Thanksgiving day or Christmas day.

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Home Health/Nursing Home Employees

Home health and nursing home employees have tough and often thankless jobs. Considering the difference they can make, it’s a nice gesture to recognize all their work during the holidays. However, The Emily Post Institute advises against giving cash.

The source also suggests checking with the company or agency to make sure employees are allowed to accept gifts. If they can, then consider a thoughtful gift for a private nurse or something that can be shared by the entire nursing home staff like food.

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Assistants

Whether you have a personal assistant or a team of front-desk assistants (think of a doctor or a principal), a holiday gift is a way to show appreciation and earn goodwill with your support staff. How much you should spend varies.

Real Simple suggests that those with a personal assistant “give a gift or gift card worth at least $50.” It’s appropriate for those with a team of office assistants to give smaller gifts in the region of $20 to $25 to show appreciation.

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Mail/Package Carrier

Mail carriers and package delivery drivers trudge through inclement weather to deliver your mail and online orders. While they don’t expect anything, a small gift of some sort is a nice gesture during the holiday season. However, check the organization’s or company’s gift policy for specific guidance.

For example, The Emily Post Institute says USPS employees aren’t allowed to accept cash or gift cards. Instead, you could leave a basket of snacks or bottled water at your front door with a thank-you sign. Or you could give something like a travel mug or warm gloves if you frequently see the same mail/package carrier.

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Building Employees

If you live in an apartment building, then there might be a whole host of people who help make your time living there better. For instance, you might have a building handyman, doorman, or front-office team.

If those people are helpful and responsive, then a cash tip or gift during the holidays is a good way to give thanks. Real Simple suggests giving $20 to $50 to each one or seeing if the building has a holiday tip pool employees share.

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Trash/Recycling Collectors

Trash and recycling collectors have a dirty and potentially hazardous job. Much like mail and package carriers, they don’t expect a holiday gift. But a tip or gift is a nice way to recognize their often thankless work.

CNBC suggests tipping each member of the crew between $10 and $30. Before giving cash, check with your city’s regulations to see if it’s allowed. You can also give smaller tokens like snacks and bottled water instead.

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The Bottom Line

Holiday tips aren’t mandatory, but they’ve become a customary way to show gratitude to people who’ve worked hard to make our lives better over the year. These guidelines aren’t hard-and-fast rules, so you can adjust your holiday tip budget depending on your financial situation and relationship with the person.

If holiday tips just aren’t in the budget this year, then consider writing a thoughtful thank-you note. A few sincere words of gratitude can go a long way to show how much you appreciate everything the person does for you. After all, it’s the thought that counts. When it comes down to it, holiday tipping is all about saying thank you.

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Katie Ormsby

Contributor