The Ultimate Holiday Tipping Guide

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With the holidays approaching and everyone scrambling to complete their Christmas lists, it’s also a good time to think about showing appreciation for those whose service you benefit from all year long.

Holiday tipping provides a way to show that appreciation, but if not done right, it can have the opposite effect.

Our family likes to set aside a little money for a “secret Santa” gift to a family in need, but we also like to give a little extra to service providers in our area as a way of thanking them for excellent service.

I imagine Scrooge wasn’t too fond of this idea, and oddly enough, holiday tipping can be considered somewhat controversial.

On the one hand, if you pay people for a service, such as delivering your newspaper, or cutting your hair, why should you pay them extra just because it is close to the holidays?

On the other hand, many people included in the list of those whose service is worthy of a holiday tip are paid a wage regardless of how many people they service (think postal workers, the doorman at your building, etc.).

Holiday Tipping:  How Much Should I Give and to Whom?

First and foremost, it is important that you are in a good financial position before you begin spreading too much holiday cheer.  I feel the same way about charity in general.

As they say, you must first put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.

Having said that, if you are in good financial shape, and are able to bless others in your community, here’s a good holiday tipping guide for 2013.

1. USPS Mail Carrier. (Less than $20).  Civil servants are not allowed to receive cash gifts, and you should aim to keep any gift’s value lower than $20.

Last year, we bundled up some homemade cake pops for our mail carrier and the kids waited by the mail box to hand them off on Christmas Eve.  They were well-received.

2. Hairstylist.  (The cost of one cut, or double your normal tip).  If you use the same hairstylist all year long, the general rule of thumb is to give a holiday tip equal to the cost of one cut.  If this seems a bit much, just double your normal tip and give a hearty Merry Christmas after your pre-holiday grooming.

3. Newspaper Carrier.  ($20-$30).  Delivering the newspaper is a grueling, thankless job.  Who wants to get up at 3:30am to pick up papers, and then drive around for a couple hours while everyone else is asleep tossing papers onto driveways.  Consider leaving a $20-30 for your newspaper carrier and you might find more papers find the driveway next year.

4. Personal Trainer.  (Cost of one session).  If you decide to go the homemade route here, it’s probably best to avoid candy and chocolates, for obvious reasons.

5. Teacher.  ($25 -$50).  Teachers invest a lot of time and energy with our children, and rarely are they highly compensated for it.  Plan to spend about $25-$50 on your kids’ teacher, near the higher end of that if they are with one teacher all day.  And avoid things with the word “Teacher” on it, chances are they already have two of whatever your are buying for “The World’s Greatest Teacher.”

6. Babysitter.  (One night’s pay).  Since you normally pay your sitter with cash, change things up and opt for a gift card to match something they are interested in. If they love music, how about an iTunes gift card?  Are they headed to college next year, how about a Target gift card to help stock up on dorm supplies.

7. Housekeeper (One week’s pay).   If you hire a service and someone different shows up every week, a tip isn’t necessary.  However, if you have a dedicated housekeeper who keeps your house in order, show your appreciation with an extra week’s pay as a holiday tip.

Again, remember that cash is not always required as a way to show your appreciation.

For many, a handmade gift is more personable than a gift card, so consider your own financial ability and the recipient when deciding how to best give a holiday tip.

The Ultimate Holiday Tipping Guide

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