Simple Guide to Christmas Tipping

Simple Guide to Christmas Tipping

By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

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 in the number of people we’re putting on our list 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, either 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, you should account for their end-of-the-year tip in your budget.

So who gets our tips, and what amounts are the norm?

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 $25 (The post office frowns on their associates taking cash gifts or any gift valued over $25.)

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 each

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

Newspaper Delivery Person: Not too many people subscribe to their local daily paper anymore; however, if you do, and the same person delivers your paper daily or most days, you’ll want to tip generously. That person gets up usually before 4 AM in every type of weather to deliver to you something that you enjoy and that’s part of your life 365 days a year. $30-$50

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 the person(s) so often you consider them a personal friend, then a gift is probably more comfortable than a cash tip for you to give and for them to receive. After all, we don’t tip our friends! If you’re not sure what to do, give a gift card to a store or restaurant you know they enjoy. That way, it’s more personal than cash.

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

Your Favorite Barista: If Devon starts making your drink as soon as he sees you walk in the door, that’s service with heart! You’ll want to put your tip into a Christmas card and hand it directly to him. If you put the money into the tip jar, it’s more than likely going to be equally divided between everyone who works at the coffee house, or at least everyone who worked that day. That’s fine if you want to thank everyone, but the card is important if you want to make sure your money is going to a particular person(s). You can also add some to the tip jar for everyone else, because serving up your morning fuel or afternoon pick-me-up is usually a joint effort of more than one associate!

Grace Note: Sometimes you might want to take the total amount you’d give and divide it into two items, some cash and a small gift they’ll enjoy throughout the year and think of you when they do! You can check out the items I’ve curated in the Manners Mentor Boutique. I personally own or have given each item. Here are Perfect Little Gifts, and here are Hostess Gifts. (The Hostess items tend to cost a little more; however, they make excellent presents for some of the people we would tip, and for teachers and others who work with our children.)

Those Who Help Our Children Excel

Teachers: If you feel your child(ren) are benefiting from their 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 from 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.

There 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 each family’s budget and number of children in school.

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. The teacher 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 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, school bus driver, 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 the person has a regular schedule with you. In addition, a small gift from your child is a sweet gesture.

General Grace Note

1. 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 the person provides you.

2. If your budget this year just won’t stretch for Christmas tipping, you can still acknowledge the good service of the persons. Share a small gift, and in your note be honest about how your spending has had to be limited this year. Go on to write that you wanted them to know how much you  appreciate them and their service. (An extra sweet touch is to write their boss a note or email to say what a fantastic job they’re doing for you!)

3. When money is limited, focus your tips on whom you think they’ll benefit the most. 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/gift accordingly.

When deciding whom to tip and how much 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. Let’s give from our hearts, abundantly and joyfully, in equal measure to the blessings we’ve been given.

What’s Next?

If you’ll be attending any holiday parties or opening any gifts (as we all will!), these popular posts give you solid skills in handling holiday happenings with graciousness, certainty, and kindness. Put what you find here into action, and you’ll be shining from now through New Year’s and beyond as brightly as the lights on the most beautiful Christmas tree!

The 7 Manners of Opening Every Gift

How to Choose and Give the Perfect Hostess Gift

The 5 Things Never to Ask at a Christmas…Or Any Party!

Until next time…

Do what you were born to do, bless the world by being you at your authentic best!


Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! Maralee is a native and life-long resident of Orlando. Before entering the etiquette arena, she worked in management and ministry. She's proud to be Kent's wife and Marc and Corbet's mom. She hates laundry, and loves quality tea, London, and Savannah, Southern cooking, dressing up and dressing down, and Miss Lilly the Wonder Sheltie. You can find her picture if you scroll to the footer of this page. Isn't she the cutest dog ever?!!! PS: Because everyone always asks her, "What's your etiquette pet peeve?" It's people who talk on their phones in public restrooms. The person on the other end of the phone must wonder, "What's that noise. It sounds, it couldn't be." Plus, everyone else in the bathroom is held hostage to a one-sided conversation usually shouted to try and cover up the noises. It would be comical if it weren't plain wrong on many levels. ;)


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