Wednesday, 18 December 2019

We feel gratitude year-round, but during the holiday season we often want to show a little extra love in the form of a tip to the people whose services make our lives a little bit easier.

But what and how much to tip can get murky. Who gets cash? When is a small gift or card more appropriate?

Diane Gottsman, a Houston-based etiquette expert and author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life," says there's a lot of pressure around the holidays to tip and it's easy to overthink it.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to tipping, Gottsman says.

  • Your budget. You should only give what you can afford.
  • The relationship. Is this someone who provides you a regular service throughout the year? Or someone you see once or twice a year?

These two factors should help you determine how much and to whom you will be giving a holiday tip.

There is one non-negotiable rule: Give the extra holiday cash or gift card in an envelope with a personal note. Never hand over a wad of bills, Gottsman says.

Tipping is more of an art than a science. So in the case of, say, a massage therapist or pet groomer you only see three times a year, you might just give them their regular tip and a card or small gift if you're in the holiday spirit.

If you eat out during the holidays, it's not necessary to give an extra tip to a server you don't know.

But when it comes to the regular barista or bartender who knows your name, knows your drink, and asks about your kids and pets, be more generous.

It's a little easier to understand how to tip people you pay regularly throughout the year, such as a housekeeper or hairdresser. A good rule of thumb is to tip them approximately what you'd normally pay for one session.

When it comes to other professionals, such as your child's teacher, or your doctor, cash probably isn't the best choice. In these cases, consider a plant, baked goods, fruit, or another thoughtful, nominal gift.

Still uncertain? Here are Gottsman's suggestions for tipping during the holidays:

  • Doctor, dentist, accountant, attorney: It's not necessary to tip these professionals, Gottsman says. But if you do want to show your gratitude, you can provide a modest gift and card. Cash isn't appropriate.
  • Teachers, school staff: We all know teachers are often not paid what they're worth, but elaborate or expensive gifts are not appropriate. In fact, some schools and even some states prohibit gifts over a certain dollar amount, commonly around $25. The best thing to do for elementary school teachers is pool resources with other parents and give a gift from the whole class, such as a gift card to a place the teacher would appreciate. You can suggest an amount, but parent donations should never be mandatory. For older children who have multiple teachers, coaches, and even school office staff, a small gift or card is fine. But whatever you decide, make sure you check the school's gift-giving policy before you give gifts to school personnel.
  • Building workers: If there are multiple service providers — such as door keepers and maintenance workers — gift them all the same amount, anywhere from $20 to $100. The building manager/super can get $50 and up, depending on the level of support provided.
  • Housekeeper: Tip a full day's service if he or she comes weekly or a few times a month. If they work for you more than once a week, a week's pay is appropriate.
  • Babysitter, nanny, pet sitter, dog walker: Give one night's pay for the occasional childcare or pet-service provider. For a nanny or regular dog sitter/walker, giving one week to one month's pay and a gift from your child or pet is generous and thoughtful.
  • Mail and package delivery: The U.S. Postal Service doesn't allow tipping, but you can give a gift with a value up to $20. For FedEx, workers may accept a gift up to $75, but no cash or gift cards. UPS drivers may accept a small gift or gratuity at their own discretion. 

  • Gottsman points out these are simply guidelines. There are no hard-and-fast rules. “It simply gives you a place to start and you can go up and you can go down based on your comfort level. And since there are so many opportunities — different people have different relationships with the people on this list — it doesn't mean every single one of those people needs to be tipped," she says.

    And finally, if your budget is tight around the holidays, you certainly shouldn't go into debt to provide tips, “but you should remember them somehow. If not in monetary value, certainly in personal value. In the way that you express your gratitude with a heartfelt note in an envelope," Gottsman says.

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