Holiday Tipping Guide: Who to Tip and How Much

It’s the season for sharing and giving, as well as receiving. So it’s definitely time to think about what to tip to all the folks in your life who provide you their services. It is a considerate gesture to show your appreciation for all they did for you this past year. Many people are often unsure how much to give, so we’ve put together this guide to help you out. And considering how tough the past couple of years have been—especially for those in the service and health industries we all relied on so, so much—”it is really worth thinking about how much you can give,” says Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, great-great-granddaughter of the firm’s founder, and co-author of Higher Etiquette.

Factors to Consider:
  • Your budget—if this year was tough for you financially, don’t feel obligated to go beyond your limitations.
  • If you are short on cash, consider a homemade gift (everyone loves cookies and fudge!), or a heartfelt note of thanks and appreciation. Post says it’s okay to acknowledge in your note that your finances this year made it impossible to give a tip, and that it is not a reflection on their service.
  • The length of time you’ve received service from this person, and the quality and frequency of the service. You wouldn’t need to give an extra holiday tip to the new hairdresser you’ve only seen a couple of times this year; but if it’s someone you’ve been going to for years, you definitely should.
  • Whatever you tip, whether it’s money or a homemade gift, be sure to add a short note. Kind words will always make an impact.

Your Regular Service Providers:

Remember, “up to” means that if a service session usually costs $100, you could tip up to $100 if your budget allows, or a smaller percent of that, depending on the aforementioned factors you’ve considered.

  • Housekeeper/cleaner — At least $50 and up to the amount of one visit.
  • Yard workers — $20-30 per person, if they service your yard regularly.
  • Regular babysitter — Up to one evening’s pay, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Daycare provider — $25 to $50 for each staff member who works with your child, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Au pair or live-in nanny — Up to one week’s pay with at least one year of service, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Children’s tutor — Up to the cost of one tutoring session, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Home aide or care for your parents — Up to one week’s pay with at least one year of service. Ask first if tipping is allowed; if not, then give a small gift.
  • Nursing home employees — Check company policy first. If tipping is not allowed, give a gift that could be shared by the staff (flowers or food items).
  • Dog walker or sitter — Up to the cost of one visit.
  • Dog groomer — Up to the cost of one visit.
  • Beauty services (hair, nails, brows, waxing, etc.) — Up to the cost of one visit. If more than one person works with you, divide the amount and put in small envelopes for each person.
  • Personal trainer — Up to the cost of one session.
  • Massage therapist, acupuncturist, physical therapist, etc. — Check with the front desk or your provider. If they bill your insurance or are affiliated with a hospital or clinic, they may not be allowed to take gratuities. Each office has different rules. If tipping is allowed, then up to the cost of one session.
  • Grocery worker — Though it has not been customary to tip at the grocery store, these past couple of years have really changed their status to “essential workers”! If there are a couple people at your usual grocery store who you see regularly, $10-$20 tucked into a Thank You note would brighten their day.
  • Trash/Recycling/Yard waste collectors — Check with your local waste management for their tipping policies. If allowed, $10-$20 each.
Others to Tip Extra During the Holidays:

If you can swing it, add 25-35% as the tip instead of your usual 15-20%.

  • Restaurant server
  • Bartender
  • Barista
  • Restaurant and grocery delivery driver
Who NOT to Tip:
  • Teachers — Schools generally do not allow cash gifts to teachers, although gifts of up to $25 are okay. Check with the school’s front office; in our district gifts with a value over $25 had to be declared as “income” for the teachers.
  • U.S. postal workers, FedEx, UPS — Cash tips are not allowed for these delivery personnel, but gift cards or gift valued at $25 or below are alright. A lovely idea in my neighborhood is people creating “Thank You – Please enjoy a snack!” bins on their doorsteps for delivery persons, filled with water bottles, granola bars, and bags of chips and nuts.
  • Healthcare workers — Tipping staff at clinics and hospitals is usually not allowed. But if there is someone you see regularly who has really been helpful to you this past year, a small gift and a note would be appreciated.

When holiday tipping, Post also reminds us to, “ think about who are the service providers who made a difference to you; the people you couldn’t live without.” Don’t sweat the amount—you are giving what you are able and the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness.