By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
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 in lean years, 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.
Christmas Tipping Etiquette Your Complete and Easy Guide
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. Also, this applies most often when you know your postal carrier because it’s the same person daily and you had multiple conversations with the carrier throughout the year.)
Lawn Care Worker: (if the same person or crew services your home most of the time) $20 each
Regular Delivery Persons: (dry cleaning, UPS, SHIPT, 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 for all the persons listed above; 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 on 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
Massage Therapist: 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 or Restaurant Server: 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 a general gift certificate (American Express, MasterCard, etc.) so you don’t limit their choices on where to spend the money unless someone knows the teacher well and is aware of their favorite store or restaurant.
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 the number of children in the class.
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.
Who Not to Tip
If you have a wonderful doctor, vet, CPA, stockbroker, lawyer or other professional who the thought of not having in your life makes you shiver like Scrooge when he saw the ghost of Christmas past, I can understand why you want to show your love for them, especially during the holidays.
The thing is, these type of professionals are regulated by boards that all pretty much say the same thing. “Accept a tip and have your license revoked.” And while you might think it’s no biggie because who is going to find out, it’s putting the person you’re trying to bless in a position of having to have an awkward conversation with you about why he or she can’t accept your kindness and must return your money, or take your money and know that they did the wrong thing.
The good news is that there are still wonderful ways you can thank your favorite professionals. You can send a gift basket or bring in lunch to the office that can be shared by the staff. You can bring by baked goods, have flowers delivered, or drop by with a beautiful orchid plant. With flowers or baked goods, you can deliver them to the whole office to share, individually to only the people you deal with, or to one particular person. They’ll love that you thought of them, and the gift isn’t of the type or cost that will cause them to come under scrutiny. A favorite book is also a great gift item.
General Grace Notes Concerning Holiday Tipping
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.
4. You can give your tip anytime in December. However, you might want to give it early in the month so that the recipient can use it to help purchase gifts for members of their own family.
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, Concerning Christmas and Holiday Tipping!
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.
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!
Until next time…
Do what you were born to do, bless the world by being you at your authentic best!