The spirit of the holidays is about spending time with family and friends, being thankful for the things that we’ve accomplished and the lives we’ve led, and showing appreciation to everyone who has made the year possible. Sometimes the year ends on a high note, as we celebrate the achievements. Sometimes we simply want to turn the page on an otherwise difficult twelve months. For many, this year will seem more like the latter but it’s important to remember that as difficult as it was for you, chances are there were scores facing much tougher challenges.
It’s on this more somber note that I present to you the 2009 Holiday Tipping Guide, which hopefully will give you an idea of what is considered customary when it comes to showing appreciation to those in the services industry who have gone above and beyond. These are merely guidelines, it’s up to you to decide what makes sense for both your area and your own finances.
All of the tip amounts listed are collated from a variety of sources. Remember, it’s up to you to decide what makes sense for you. In general, for most services you’ll want to tip the value of one session or visit. You can adjust that up if you have a familiar and good relationship with the individual, down if you don’t.
Also, just because something appears on this list doesn’t mean it’s necessarily customary to always give them a tip. According to a Consumer Reports’ survey, reprinted in this 2008 MSN Money tipping guide, no one on this list was universally tipped. The highest was a “cleaning person” at 65%. Only 29% of people tip their mail carriers.
Tipping At Home
These are for people who provide services in and around your home, be it a house or an apartment/condo:
- Babysitter – One night’s pay to as much as a week’s pay, plus a token gift from the children.
- Doorman: $10-$80, depending on your relationship; consider a bottle of wine too
- Garbage collector: $15 to $30 each
- Gardener: $20-$50, or a week’s pay depending on your relationship.
- Maid/Janitor: A week’s pay if you have a good relationship with the individual
- Full-time nanny: One week to a month’s pay, plus a token gift from the children.
- Au pair: One week’s pay, plus a token gift from the children.
- Daycare: $25-70, plus a token gift from the children
- Teacher: $25-100 gift certificate, check with school principal for guidelines.
Tipping for Personal Care
These are for people who provide personal care services to you, your family, your pets, etc.
- Dog walker: 1-2 week’s average pay.
- Haircare: About the cost of one session.
- Massage therapist: About the cost of one session.
- Nails: About the cost of one session.
- Personal trainer: About the cost of one session, depending on your relationship.
Tipping Deliveries & Mail
These are for your mail carriers and other delivery services. In general, this only applies if you regularly receive package deliveries and have a good relationship with the carrier.
- United States Post Office Mail carrier: Non-cash gifts (by law) no greater than $20 in value.
- UPS driver: UPS has no formal policy but driver’s don’t expect tips.
- FedEx: Non-cash gifts (by corporate policy) no greater than $75 in value.
- Newspaper: Around $25-50 for a daily delivery, $10 if weekends only
How Should You Tip?
You have the option of giving gifts in cash, gift cards, or in the form of a item. Cash, especially in these economic times, is probably the best option but don’t discount the effect of a small non-cash gift if it fits your budget better. Most people advise against gift cards because of fees and because it’s less flexible than giving cash.
What If Money Is Tight?
Write a thank you note. If you want to show your appreciation but your finances won’t permit it, consider writing a thoughtful thank you letter in lieu of a gift. The year’s been difficult for everyone so most people will appreciate the sentiment, over nothing at all.
The last idea I want to leave you with is that none of the tips could be considered exorbitant and only you know what you would feel comfortable with. There are two quotes from a 2006 CNN Money article on tipping that I think are worth remembering. First, Cindy Streit, president of Etiquette Training Services, said “Tipping is never required. It may be expected in many situations… [but] should be thought of as a reward for excellent service.” Second, New York doorman Gil Santiago states “Doormen are like elephants. We never forget.”