Who Do You Tip at the Holidays (and How Much)?

Tipping service providers during the holidays is a great way to show your appreciation for services throughout the year. It’s a special thank you … an additional show of gratitude.

Who do you tip at the holidays?  And how much do you tip them? What is an appropriate gift or tip for that courier who always delivers your packages, or your hairdresser, or your landscaper?

Even if you are a master at tipping etiquette, holiday tipping can be uncharted waters.

First, Set a Budget

The first step when doing any kind of tipping or gifting is to set a budget. Is your maximum budget $500 for service provider tips? Or something less — or more?  Once you know how much you have to work with for tips, you can then prioritize and apportion amounts.

Tipping is part judgment call. While we like to think there are hard and fast rules, there are just as many subjective variables. With budget in mind, here are seven considerations:

  • Tip the regulars.  Holiday tipping is best kept to those individuals who provide services for you on a regular basis, not a one-time service.  Keep it to those who have delivered special value for your business or who make your life as a business owner easier or better. You know their names. You use their services monthly, weekly, or even daily — or you’ve been working with them a long time.
  • Reward good service, only. Poor service may not deserve a special thank you and it’s okay to make that decision.
  • Consider loyalty and longevity. You probably will tip more to someone who has served you well for years, versus a few months.
  • Follow what’s customary in your area.  In a small town, a $25 tip may seem larger than it would in a big city.  When considering “suggested” tips, take into account your location.
  • Visit the bank for crisp new bills or buy gift cards.  Put the cash or gift card inside a card or envelope, and add a short personal note. It’s classier than handing someone bills.  Avoid checks as much as possible, unless you have no choice but to send the tip through the mail.
  • Give tips in the month of December.  Give holiday tips as early as possible in December. Many service providers are on tight budgets themselves. They may want to use the funds for their own Holiday expenses.
  • Go heartfelt and personal when you can’t afford a cash tip or gift.  If money is tight this year, consider a homemade food or craft gift instead. Or give a handwritten thank-you card.  It’s better than doing nothing.

Avoid These Tipping Landmines

Tipping shouldn’t be difficult or stressful. Still, you don’t want your generous gesture to be misinterpreted. Watch out for these five potential missteps.

  • Don’t substitute inexpensive swag. Branded swag, unless it’s a particularly coveted item, is not a tip. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. A branded T-shirt — or a crisp $50 bill?  Which would you rather receive as a Holiday tip? (Gifts to customers may be a different story — but tips for service providers shouldn’t be given in swag.)
  • Be consistent with past practice.  If you’ve customarily given a certain tip amount to someone, stick with it. Avoid decreasing the amount from last year if you can, unless you have a good reason. Write down tip amounts so you remember from year to year, too.
  • If giving “extra” be careful not to set expectations. If you are giving “extra” this year, be sure to emphasize that it’s a one-time thing because of extraordinary service performed or unique circumstances. Once you start giving a certain amount, it’s hard to reduce that in the future without disappointing the recipient.
  • Find out the recipient’s corporate gift policy. Some businesses do not allow their employees to accept tips or gifts of any kind. Other companies may have a dollar cap. Some places will allow gifts, but never cash or cash-equivalent gift cards. When in doubt, check first.
  • Do not tip government workers. Government employees at the federal, state and municipal level increasingly fall under strict ethics law. Unless you are 100% certain of what the applicable law allows, best practice is to never give tips or gifts to government workers such as law enforcement, building inspectors, judges, elected officials and others.  A safer alternative is something of nominal value, such as a plate of homemade cookies to share with everyone in the government office.

Who Do You Tip at the Holidays? Some Suggestions

Below is a list of service providers you may wish to thank at the holidays.  These are general guidelines only.  In your area, amounts may be higher or lower.

Delivery Services

You are not going to want to give a special tip to every courier who delivers a package to your door.

However, if you have a regular driver or delivery person you know by name, a gift or tip could be a nice gesture.

  • U.S. Postal Service Mail Carrier – Gift up to $20 in value; must be non-cash per USPS guidelines.
  • UPS Regular Driver – Gift up to $25 in value. UPS drivers are trained to politely decline monetary tips.
  • FedEx – Delivery personnel at FedEx may accept non-cash gifts up to $75 in value.
  • Bicycle or Other Courier – $10 to $30.
  • Newspaper Carrier – $20 to $30.

Building Staff

Not every office building, apartment building or condominium has regular staff, so this one may not apply to you. In larger cities it’s more common to have a regular doorman or guard who provides services daily and who you know by name.

  • Building Superintendent – $20 to $100, depending on how high-end the building is. Also, if you are a regular tipper you can give less at the end of the year.
  • Doorman or Guard – $10 to $80 each, depending on the building. If there are more doormen then you tip less. Anyone who helps you more deserves a bigger tip.
  • Building Maintenance – $15 to $40 each.
  • Cleaning Person – Give the equivalent of the cost of one service; if a team, divide it among the cleaning team.

Salon and Personal Services

If you have an image consultant or regular salon that you frequent you may want to give a holiday tip to your stylist, barber, manicurist, etc. This might particularly apply to a higher end salon, but also if you use the same people every time.

  • Hairdresser, Stylist, Barber – $15 or more; up to an amount equivalent to one typical service.
  • Hair Shampoo person – $10 or more.
  • Manicurist – $15 or more.
  • Image Consultant – A cash tip totaling the cost of one session, or one hour at the hourly rate.

Country Club or Restaurant Staff

For some businesspeople a country club is where they do a lot of business entertaining. Country club staff can have a significant impact on the business.  The same applies to any restaurant where you regularly entertain for business.

You are probably not going to want to give a special holiday tip to every waiter. However, if someone provides services often and you know them by name, you may want to tip at Christmas time.

  • Waiter – $10 to $50 each.
  • Locker Room Personnel – $10 to $50 each.
  • Front Desk – $10 to $50 each.
  • Golf Professionals – $50 or the cost of one session.
  • Head Waiters and Maitre D’s – $50 to $100.

Child Care

Working parents know how important their child care providers are. These people work closely with you and your family and probably know you well.

Being assured your child is in good hands during the day keeps the stress levels down. You can concentrate better on your work.

  • Teacher – Gift with a value of $25 to $100. Gift certificates are a great idea, but check with the principal of the school first about their gift giving policies.
  • Baby Sitter – Equivalent of one day’s or night’s pay.  Your child may also want to give an inexpensive gift.
  • Full Time Nanny – Equivalent of one week’s to one month’s pay depending on how long they have worked for you. Think of it as a holiday bonus. Your child may also want to give an inexpensive gift.
  • Day Care Service –  Cash or gift with a value of $20 to $70 for each worker who works with your child. Your child may also want to give an inexpensive gift.

Additional Service Providers

There may be other service providers in your business life or even your personal life to recognize.  Here are some others:

  • Driver or Limo Service – Tip 20 percent of a month’s bill, or $20 to $50.
  • Parking Attendants – $10 to $20 each.
  • Garage Attendants – Cash or a small gift with a value of $10 to $30.
  • Lawn Service  – Give $20 to $50 for each member on the crew.
  • Personal Trainer – Equivalent of one session.
  • Dog Walker or Sitter – Give the equivalent of one to two weeks of pay.
  • Virtual Assistant – A cash tip equal to one hour at the hourly rate, or $50.
  • Freelancers and Other Service Providers – Consider giving a tip to any service provider crucial to your business, including the computer repair guy or your public speaking coach. Give $30 to $50, or the equivalent of one hour’s service.

Who NOT to Tip

Certain service providers do not expect tips.  Highly skilled professionals such as doctors, accountants and attorneys traditionally are not tipped.

However, if the professional rendered an extraordinary service this year, feel free to give a non-cash gift if the spirit moves you.  An elegant wine and cheese basket to your doctor will go over better than handing him $100.

Final Thoughts on Holiday Tipping

Holiday tipping gives the opportunity to thank those unsung heroes who serve you throughout the year.

There is enough stress during the holiday season. Don’t let tipping add to your worries. Keep things simple and just express your gratitude. That’s really what it’s all about.

Tip Photo via Shutterstock

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Tabby McFarland

Tabby McFarland Tabby McFarland is a staff writer and web researcher for Small Business Trends. As a staff writer she specializes in social media, technology, special interest features, and e-commerce. A geek at heart, Tabby loves to be online interacting with the blogging community. Tabby is a WAHM (work at home mom) and is also an avid Pinterest enthusiast with a strong sense of style and creativity.

2 Reactions

  1. Well written guidance for those who loves to freak out with family every now & then. Though spending too much on tips is never been a smart idea, an effort needs to be made towards rewarding the essential or required staff for getting the optimum facility.

  2. Aira Bongco

    In my country, there are no tipping guidelines to follow. We simply tip if we liked the service and skip it if we don’t. No expectations.

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