Holiday Tipping – A Basic Guide

While the holidays can be a joyous time to rejoice in time spent with family and friends, they can also be a stressful time when it comes to figuring out how to gift and tip. Generally speaking, it is common courtesy to tip any type of “household help” (such as lawn service, house cleaners, in-home nannies, etc.) around the holidays. Most people understand this but are unsure what the standard tipping amount is. According to Emily Post, the queen of etiquette, a cash tip should be up to one week’s pay – or one visit’s pay if they don’t get paid weekly.

Obviously, one week’s pay for a nanny, for example, can be substantial, and meeting this standard for tipping is not realistic for many people. It is important to note that if following the “standard” for tipping will be a financial hardship, you absolutely should not follow it. There are other ways to show your appreciation than with cold hard cash. Well thought out gifts can be both more meaningful, as well as better for your budget in this case, especially if you get your children involved in the gift shopping or have them help make the gift itself. For a full-time, in-home caregiver (such as a nanny for a child or a health care worker for an elderly parent), a gift certificate for a spa treatment of some sort, such as a massage, would be an appropriate gift to go with something handmade.

Other in-home but not full-time workers such as landscapers and housekeepers also warrant a holiday tip but not to the same extent. If doing cash, stick to the one visit rule. If deciding to do “cash” but with gift cards instead of actual money, keep in mind that these services are often done in crews. If you know how many people are actually cleaning your house every visit, and likewise with landscaping, then make sure to get even amounts of gift cards per person. If you are unsure, it’s safest to do cash and allow them to distribute evenly amongst themselves.

But what about those people who make our lives easier on a less than regular basis? For our regular hairdressers, pet groomers, personal shoppers, and whomever else you may feel inclined to tip around the holidays, start with the same rule and adjust accordingly. If you are not scheduled for your regular appointment during the holiday season, it’s absolutely acceptable to stop by their office or salon to drop off a gift basket with a holiday tip or gift card in it. In fact, I’m sure that would absolutely make their day!

Some people are also not legally allowed to take cash tips, such as postage workers, so keep this in mind when making your list. For your mail carrier, they are legally allowed to accept snacks, and gifts that have a value of $20 or less. Most importantly, do what feels right to you to show your appreciation for the people who work so hard to help make your life easier.


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