Simple Guide to Christmas Tipping

Your Simple, Savvy Guide to Holiday Tipping
By: Maralee McKee

This Christmas, with economic worries being on the minds of most of us, it seems we’ve collectively limited our gift giving, both in the number of gifts we’re buying for each person on our list and the number of people we’re putting on our lists in the first place.

Thriftiness is a virtue, so it’s a positive thing that as Americans we seem to be on an economic diet.

However, the flip side of every strength is its weakness. This is true of thriftiness, in that the flip side is stinginess. What’s the dividing line?

“Thriftiness” is cutting back at your own expense. “Stinginess” is cutting back at the expense of others.

Skipping on holiday gratuities might seem like a necessity this year, but in times of economic hardships, those who work in the service industry, typically for low wages, throughout the year to make our lives run more smoothly, to help us look our best, or to keep up the appearance and enjoyment of our homes, deserve and benefit greatly from our generosity.

Of course, don’t go into debt or not pay the electric bill so you can tip your personal trainer or the lawn service guy; however, if you can afford to employ a personal trainer or lawn service in the first place, you need to account for their end-of-the-year tip in your budget.

So, who might you want to tip, and what amounts are appropriate? Here’s my shortlist of the most often given Christmas tips and guidelines to help you decide how much is appropriate to give.

Those Who Help Our Homes Run Smoothly:

Housecleaner– amount of one cleaning

Mail Carrier– gift, not cash, valued about $20 (The post office frowns on their associates taking cash gifts or any gift valued over $20)

Lawn Care Worker (if the same person or crew services your home most of the time)- $20 each

Regular Delivery Persons (dry cleaning, UPS, newspaper, etc.)- $20

Trash Collectors (if the same persons service your home most of the time)- $20

Regular service providers: (filling fuel oil, pool service, bug spraying, etc.)- $20

Note: $20 is average; amounts range from $10 to $30. $10 per person tips are OK when the service is performed by a team instead of an individual.

Those Who Provide For Us Personally:

Hairdresser/ Nail tech– tip should equal the average amount you spend at one visit. If you see this person so often you consider him or her a personal friend, then a gift is probably more comfortable for you to give and for him or her to receive than a cash tip. After all, we don’t tip our friends!

Pet Groomer– average amount of one visit

Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer– amount of one week’s services

Masseuse– amount of one visit (I wish I had one right now to tip!)

Any Salon Associate: amount spent on one usual visit

Those Who Help Our Children Excel:

Teachers– If you feel your child is benefiting from his or her teacher, give as much as you feel you can! Just don’t give cash; it can seem like a bribe.

The best way to handle the situation is with a class gift. This way, the exact amount of each donor is kept private. Give cash or a general gift certificate (American Express, MasterCard, etc.) so you don’t limit their choices on where to spend the money.

Their really isn’t an average. Gifts for Christmas and the end of the year can range from $10 to $100 or more per student depending on the budgets (and the number of children in school) each family has.

In addition to the cash donation, a small gift from the child is a sweet gesture. Just make sure it’s not a “World’s Best Teacher” ornament. She probably already has a tree full of those!

School Administrators– No gift is required; however, it’s always a lovely gesture. If there are so many in this group that you feel it’s too expensive to purchase a gift for each of them, an item they can share is a nice gesture: flowers they can all enjoy, a basket of tasty treats, etc.

Teachers outside of school: music, art, karate, coaches, etc.- A gift is a nice gesture. $20 average.

Nannies/Babysitters– the average amount of what you normally pay them for one evening’s care. Or, one week’s pay if her care is more frequent. In addition, a small gift from your child is appropriate.

General Grace Notes:

Place your tip in a sealed Christmas card and include a handwritten note of how much you appreciate the person and how you benefit from the service they provide you.

If your budget just won’t stretch this year, you can still acknowledge good service. Share a small gift, and in your note be honest about how your spending has had to be limited this year, but that you appreciate them and their service.

If money is limited, focus your cash tips on whom you think the tips will benefit the most this year. If your personal trainer is spending New Year’s at the Ritz Carlton, and you’ve heard through the grapevine that your child’s teacher is struggling to make ends meet, tip accordingly.

When deciding whom to tip while on a limited budget, keep these things in mind:
Quality of service
Length of time it takes the service to be completed
How long you’ve been associated with the person(s)

Most importantly

Keep in mind that tipping shouldn’t be strictly regulated by an etiquette book. We should give from our hearts, abundantly and joyfully, in equal measure to the blessings we’ve been given.


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