It’s always tough to decide how much to tip and to whom, especially during the holidays. With the recession still looming, it’s even harder to just give money away. But remember that these people provide their invaluable service to us year-round—from the dogwalker to the mailman to your child’s tutor. These hard workers count on these tips as part of their annual income, so when we tighten our purse strings, they suffer disproportionately. As for me, I’d rather reduce the amount I spend on myself while shopping for others or the amount I spend per gift rather than cut off the tipping.
Here is a list of some of the people you should consider tipping with recommended amount. Keep in mind these are just guidelines that can be adapted to fit your circumstances. If you simply don’t have the budget, consider at least writing a nice holiday card thanking the person for his/her service. And remember that a little bit of appreciation (and chocolate!) goes a long way.
Building Superintendent: If you live in an apartment complex, or lease an office, your super has likely done some work in your space. So plan to tip $50 to $100 depending on the amount of work he’s done over the year. If he has an assistant, then give him/her $20 to $50, depending on the workload and responsibility.
Cleaning Person or Service: The holiday tip should usually be the equivalent of one visit. If you have a team that comes to your house or office, you can split the tip among the members and add a box of chocolates for the group.
Childcare Provider or Babysitter: If you use a babysitter frequently during the year, you should consider a day’s pay or one to two nights pay, if that’s when you use her. For someone who provides daytime childcare, like an au pair or nanny, a week’s pay and a small gift from your child is appropriate.
School Teacher: It’s customary to give school teachers a small gift along with a note from your child. These gifts are usually not expensive, and can even be a gift card, which is a token of appreciation for their hard work with your child during the year.
Tutor: The amount of one tutoring session with your child and a thank you card for helping your kid improve in school would be appropriate.
Nursing Home Worker or Home Care Worker: If a loved one is in a nursing home or relies on an in-home care provider, thanking the people who take care of him/her is important. Check the facility’s policy as some ban cash gifts. If that’s the case, some home-baked cookies or a small gift with a note would work. Otherwise, $50 would be a nice tip.
Pet Caretaker: For dog walkers, cat sitters and the like, anywhere between $15 and the daily rate is sufficient.
Mail Carrier & Package Delivery Service: We all have different shipping needs and habits. As such, you may know your mail carrier by name. Or the Man in Brown knows where to leave your package if you’re not home. Although the US Postal Service forbids mail carriers from accepting cash or any gift over $20, I’ve been giving cash to my mailman for years. I usually give $10 to $15 and a chocolate bar, which fits nicely into my mailbox. Depending on the volume of shipping that you or your small business does with any carrier, be it USPS, Fedex or UPS, you should consider a tip of $25 to $50.
Garbage Collector: Depending on where you live and how well you know your collectors, you can give each worker $10 to $20 in an envelope on the day they make your route during the holidays. It’s a good idea to check with your city’s policy, as rules vary and some municipalities forbid workers from accepting cash.
Salon/Spa Technicians: Anyone who makes you gorgeous on a regular basis—aesthetician, massage therapist, hair stylist, colorist, nail technician or eyebrow guru, etc.—is eligible for a holiday tip, which is generally equivalent to the cost of a regular visit. If you don’t have a close relationship with them, it’s also acceptable to give a $20 tip or bring some candy during your December visit.
Personal Trainer Whether you workout with a personal trainer, a boot camp: instructor or a yogi, the person who consistently kicks your booty to stay in shape deserves some personal booty. Again, depending on your personal relationship, anywhere from $50 up to the cost of a session is appropriate.