Personal Finance 

Holiday Tipping Guide

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Holiday Lollipop Forest: Featuring Penguins & Snowman!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 2011 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: One 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.” 🙂

(Photo: sis)

{ 39 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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39 Responses to “Holiday Tipping Guide”

  1. Patrick says:

    It’s always tough to figure out how much to tip, especially during the holidays. What makes it even harder is that say you give the money to a mailmen that doesn’t do your mail every day? I guess it’s best to probably send it to the company instead.

    • Strebkr says:

      I don’t know whats worse, giving it to the temporary mail man, or giving it to USPS. Either way, I doubt the regular carrier would get it 🙁

  2. JH says:

    I really do not understand holiday tipping. I do understand tipping at the time of service for those who make a living based on tips. However, I do not understand tipping people for DOING THEIR JOB such as garbage collectors, day care, teachers, newspaper delivery, etc. Where does this “expectation” come from?

    • DJB says:

      Garbage collectors, day care, and teachers are employees and collect a paycheck. In most areas of the US your newspaper is delivered by an “independent carrier” who is paid between $.05 and $.20 per paper to deliver to your home. If you live in a well-read neighborhood, where the houses are in close proximity to each other it may be worth that persons time to make the drive. If, however, you leave in a more rural location, or expect your paper to be in the breezeway or some other location remote from the road, a holiday tip would be expected.

    • Lucille says:

      I agree. It truly doesn’t make sense to tip people for doing a job that they are already getting paid to do. I think if someone does something beyond and above their job (something exceptional to be rewarded), like a the sanitation person who neatly puts your garbage cans in your yard; the UPS or FEDEX driver who makes every attempt to deliver your packages to you before they are returned to the sender, or a teacher who goes out of her way to do something special for your child – then these are instances in which you may want to tip. Otherwise I feel you are sending the wrong message to people who are supposed just do their job and do it well.

      • james says:

        so you are telling me teacher are doing more than their job? did you know that the newspaper delivery guy wakes up everyday at midnight. deliver 300-400 papers in front of your hose when you are sleeping 365 days a yr. and all they get paid is 10 to 30 cents a paper. you dont think they are going out of their way to do something special here?

    • james says:

      i dont think anyone make a living just on tips. let me know if you know any.

  3. Greg says:

    When a server goes out of their way, I am generous. I’ve given as much as a 50% tip

    This summer I gave a tip to a soccer referee (a volunteer)because she also took the time to educate the kids.

    When the guy driving the shuttle bus at the airport actually offers to help with bags, he gets a tip.

    When someone goes out of their way, above and beyond, they deserve it.

    The challenge of figuring out tipping is getting easier and easier because so few are providing exceptional service these days. A person should not be given extra for simply doing their job.

    One item on your list is low however… If someone is taking care of my kids (daycare) all year long, and they do a good job, they deserve way more than 25-70. It should be at least a weeks worth of daycare expense.

  4. Sarah in Alaska says:

    Yikes! $25 – $50 for newspaper delivery? That’d be $500 or nearly half a year’s pay for a youth route. When I was a carrier (10 years ago), a good tip was a $0.99 box of chocolate covered cherries. (I also had one customer who left me halloween candy since she knew I was too old to trick or treat). I don’t think tip inflation has increased things that much. If you really want to be generous, consider one month’s subscription charge.

  5. Kyle says:

    I am going to go work for Jim, he gives some solid tips.

    Seriously though to JH, the garbage man does a lot of work you don’t want to do for a lot less than he probably deserves so $25 for his work isn’t that bad is it? Most of what you are paying for these people to do their jobs goes to the corporate bottom line, not the workers. Tipping a full time Nanny I am not so sure about as they are pretty much making bank on you already.

  6. Thanks for providing your readers with some guidance in an area where many mistakes are made. But I think you’re way too high in many categories, especially in the current economy!

  7. I am a teacher. Clearly my students have not read this tipping guide… 😉

  8. lostAnnfound says:

    My husband IS the garbage man. He mostly drives the truck, but occasionally labors on the back to get some overtime during busy times. He will get tips more often than not from elderly people because instead of just leaving the garbage cans at the end of the driveway he will walk them back to the garage for them or carry out something for that person if it’s very heavy. It’s usually $5 or $10 or so, or maybe a Dunkin Donuts gift card, which is ALWAYS appreciated on a cold winter morning. He has a few on his routes that bring him out some homemade holiday goodies that he has with his coffee during break time. Nothing extravagant by any means, but out of the tips he does receive it is usually from those on a “fixed income” who appreciate someone who works at a less than glamorous job.

    • Strebkr says:

      In this case the garbage man and the person at home have built up some sort of relationship. It doesn’t have to be a full blown friendship, but they have an understanding. This is a great case for a tip. My garbage man on the other hand, well, I have never met him. I put the cans out in the morning and I come home at night and they are right where I left them, but empty. I don’t see that as a need to tip.

  9. daemondust says:

    I would gladly tip the mail carrier if I got my mail more than once or twice a week.

  10. Broke M.B.A. says:

    @JH – LOL. Your comment reminded me of Dwight Schrute from the TV Show The Office…

    “Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.” – Dwight Schrute

  11. eric says:

    Tipping isn’t normal in Australia. Man I miss those days… 🙂

  12. Brandon says:

    I don’t really get holiday tipping either. I understand the idea of a holiday GIFT for service providers you have a relationship with, but I do not understand doing it otherwise just for doing their job.

    I would potentially tip:
    Babysitter – If I used one often.
    Gardener – If he had reasonable prices and did a good job
    Maid – See gardener.

    I would probably not tip:
    Garbage Collector – I rarely see them
    Daycare – unless it was in-home daycare maybe
    Teacher – feels like bribery
    Dog walker
    Massage therapist
    Personal Trainer
    United States Post Office Mail carrier
    UPS driver

    I still do not get tipping though. I tip at restaurants (because it is customary and makes me look cheap if I don’t, not because I think they deserve it. I also tip on my debit/credit card so there is a paper trail for them to need to claim it on their taxes. I know from experience that most do not claim cash tips.) and have been guilted into throwing an extra dollar at the hairdresser.

  13. sunnysunnyvale says:

    I agree with some of the comments, but i think some are missing the point–the act of giving is what makes a difference, not just to the giver but also to the receiver, whether it is a small gift or cash (regardless of amount) feeling appreciated always makes someone feel great!

  14. Mich says:

    What is ridiculous is that I’m actually expected to tip the person who does my hair more than I spend on some family members! I provide a lot of these people with lots of cash throughout the year–they don’t give me anything to show appreciation for being a customer, why are we expected to give them even more money?!? This whole “tipping” thing is ridiculous.

  15. Rafael says:

    Obviously some of you people have never worked in a service industry or you are just completely clueless and pompous. Let me educate you. People who work in the service industry, ie waiters, waitresses, newspaper carriers etc reply on tips because their employers consider them part of their salary. A waiter makes $2.13 an hour in Texas, without your tips they would make no money at all. A newspaper carrier makes between $0.10 and $0.25 a paper, so for someone who gets a Sunday only paper that means they make $1.00 a month to deliver your paper. For people who live in apartments this is especially cumbersome, because that carrier still gets $1.00 a month even if they have to trek up to your 3rd floor apartment once a week. In my case, being a carrier, I have one apartment where I make $2.00 a month to climb 3 flights of stairs 5 times a week to deliver a customers paper. Of course it is not worth it for me to do this, but I do it. So yes, tips are EXPECTED. For those of you whining about this then stop using the services and do things yourself. RUDE!

    • Anony says:

      We all make choices. One of them is how we make a living. If you choose the service industry such as a waiter/waitress, I suppose you would have the “expectation” of tips. But don’t forget, your tip is a reflection of your service provided. I find many of those expecting tips are the ones who don’t provide the best service.

    • Strebkr says:

      Anyone who “expects a tip” like you described it is almost asking for me to not ever leave them one. If you don’t make enough being a delivery person, do something else. Its not the guy with the 3rd floor apartment’s fault.

    • Shirley says:

      Our last newspaper carrier also collected the monthly fee charged by the newspaper each month. The very first month I gave him $15 (the paper cost $8) and told him that we would continue to do so as long as he got the paper ON the porch. He was delighted and so were we when that continued.

      The new carrier throws it from a car, and it usually goes under one of our cars. No tip is earned with that! The invoice comes by mail from the newspaper and I usually add a monthly $2 tip because it does get here every day and in a timely manner.

      Our very friendly and efficient postman will receive a gift card (dang, I wish they could accept cash) and a personal thank you letter telling him why we appreciate him. A recognition fosters good will and is always appreciated.

      I feel that generous tipping is for extraordinary service (that which is above and beyond what is expected) and nominal tipping just says “thanks” in a rather offhand manner.

  16. Alexandria says:


    I tend to agree with you. I cannot believe how little waiters are paid in Texas! But then again, you are talking about Texas! Moreover, I was not aware how newspaper carriers were paid. That is disgusting to pay people such low wages!

    I’m also shocked at all the tipping complaints posted here. Have some empathy, people!!

  17. D B says:

    Wow! I must be scrooge. I pretty much NEVER tip anyone for doing their job.

    Exceptions include servers and exception hair cuts.

  18. Shirley says:

    I get a haircut every 5 weeks and have gone to the same hairdresser for the last 14 years. She is courteous, efficient, friendly, acts glad to see me and knows exactly how I want the cut.

    The cost is only $12 and I always give her a $20 bill so the tip is $8. The service she provides is definitely worth the tip. At Christmas I will also take her a personal thank-you letter and a box of chocolates that I know are her favorites.

    • Strebkr says:

      This is a great example of tipping when you have a connection with the person. Had you gone to a different person every time all year you wouldn’t have had the connection and therefore a tip might be a little weird.

  19. molifei says:

    example of tipping when you have a connection with the person. Had you gone to a different person every time all year you wouldn’t have had the connection and the

  20. Jamie says:

    I don’t see it so much as a tip as a holiday gift. My mail lady comes to my house every day, which is far more often than my friends. I see her, exchange pleasantries, know her name. She is part of my life. Therefore, at Christmas, I give her a $25 gift certificate to a restaurant.

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