Holiday Tipping: Dos and Don’ts

Holiday Tipping: Dos and Don’ts

Ever wonder who to tip (and who to skip) at holiday time? We asked the experts.


By Judy Koutsky

It’s holiday time and that means it’s time to tip all of those wonderful people who help make your life easier. But if you’re like me -- a busy working mom with two kids -- the list can quickly exceed 30 or so people. We have five different babysitters alone. So how do you decide who gets a tip (and who doesn’t)? Once you decide, the next question is what to give? Well, we’ve put together a tipping guide to help keep the season merry for all.

Who gets a tip? Once you start adding up all the folks who help you throughout the year -- the dry cleaner, postal carrier, house cleaner, landscaper, waste collector -- suddenly you might see more dollar signs that you can afford. “Being that there is only so much cash to go around, you will want to focus on the five to 10 most integral people in your life,” says Katie Bugbee, global parenting expert. That could include your regular babysitter (the one you use the most), your cleaning lady (she scrubs your toilets, so she deserves a little something), your dog walker (cleaning up poop is no fun), and others you feel you couldn’t live without. “Your life wouldn’t work without them, and they depend on the extra income at the holidays,” says Bugbee.

If you use the service frequently, if you are very demanding, if someone has helped in an emergency or gone above and beyond, you should be tipping more, says Jodi R. R. Smith, author of The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners. “They deserve it. Better to be more generous than not.”

How much should you give? For those whom you give cash regularly -- tutors, babysitters, nannies, house cleaners -- cash is not only acceptable, but preferable. Here’s the breakdown, according to Smith.

Child Care:
Babysitter: Two nights' pay
Nanny or au pair: One week’s salary first year, more (at your discretion) for each additional year

Apartment Living:
Custodian: $20-$50
Doorman: $25-$200 (depending on how many and the duties they perform)
Handyman: $15-$50
Superintendent: $25-$100
Parking attendant: $20-$50 

Home Care:
House cleaners: One week’s salary
Dog walker: One day’s pay
Garbage person: $20
Regular delivery person: $5-$20
Lawn/snow crew: $10 per person
Newspaper carrier: $5-$30 

Personal Care:
Hairstylist: Cost of one session
Shampoo person: $5-$20
Manicurist: $15-$30 

More from P&G everyday: 9 Budget-Friendly Holiday Traditions to Get Your Family in the Spirit

If you don't want to spend a lot (say $10 or $15), what's a nice "little" gift? This is a personal choice. Personally, I’m all about the gift cards. I feel like the rest -- lotions, notepaper, picture frames -- go right into the junk drawer. For helpers who are probably counting on a monetary gift, food and wine gifts may not be appropriate and would likely be a disappointment. Smith suggests manicure gift cards or coffee gift cards -- both of which I’ve given countless times.

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Keep track . Keep an updated spreadsheet of all your holiday tips. You don’t want December stress to strike and you’re scrambling to think of what you spent on the dog walker last year.

How do you tip at the holidays?


Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/CentralITAlliance


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