How to Tip for the Holidays - and What to Do If You Can't

An easy guide on how to show your appreciation to those folks who helped your hectic life run a little more smoothly this year

Spouse, check. Kids, check. Your favorite co-worker (or five)—got them covered, too.

But there are a couple more stockings you haven’t stuffed yet. You still have to show your appreciation to the doorman, the housekeeper, the babysitter, the dog walker—you know, those folks who help your hectic life run a little more smoothly.

Knowing how much you should tip, however, always feels like a guessing game. According to CNN Money, much of the decision depends on how long you’ve used someone’s services, how essential the service is to you, the quality of service you receive and where you live (urban dwellers should expect to tip a little more).

But if you’re still unsure (and we can't blame you if you are), here are some guidelines for typical end-of-year gifts:

  1. Housekeeper/Cleaner: A tip of one week's pay or less, or a gift
  2. Beauty salon staff: Individual tips (or cards and gifts) for each person who works on you, all totaling the amount of one salon visit. (It's not necessary to tip the salon owner.)
  3. Mail carrier: Small gift whose value does not exceed $20 (postal workers are prohibited from receiving any amount of cash and gifts whose value is greater than $20)
  4. Superintendent: A tip of $20-$80, or a gift
  5. Handyman: A tip of $15-$40, or a gift
  6. Doorman: A tip of $15-$80 (if multiple doormen, $15 or more), or a gift. Because the range of $15 to $80 is so large, you should find out what is typical in the building. If you're new, ask longer-time residents for guidance.
  7. Garage attendant: A tip of $10-$30, or a small gift
  8. Newspaper delivery person: A tip of $10-$30, or a small gift
  9. Dog walker: A tip of one week's pay or less, or a gift
  10. Yard/garden worker: A tip of $20-$50 for each, or a small gift
  11. Personal trainer/Massage therapist: A tip of one session's cost or less, or a gift

Remember that there’s another huge consideration here: your own budget. Understandably, if you’ve had to cut back on your family’s spending, that also means you’ll have to cut back on what you spend on everyone else. You may not be able to tip all the folks you want to, or not as generously as you normally would. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave anyone empty handed. Here are some alternate ways to gift that might be a little easier on your budget:

Pick a new holiday to celebrate.

Choose a different occasion to tip that doesn’t fall around the holiday crunch time. Pick a fun alternate date like Lunar New Year or President's Day. You can show your gratitude and have some fun with it at the same time—plus, you’ll have some time to replenish your gift fund.

Offer your professional expertise.

Maybe you can’t give a $50 bonus, but you can always offer up the equivalent based on your skills. Volunteer to give feedback on a child’s college essay, gift 30 minutes of personal training or offer an hour of free legal consultation. The more personalized you can make this gift to the recipient’s life, the more valuable it will be.

Pass along tickets.

Got court-side seats that you’re not using as part of your season ticket package? If your recipient is a sports lover, these could provide him with a great night out.  Not into sports? You can do the same if you subscribe to movie or theater programs that allot you a certain number of tickets a year.

Make a D.I.Y. gift.

If you make gifts for your relatives, there’s no reason you can’t for your service providers, too. Just make sure that it’s a thoughtful, useful token of appreciation. If your dog walker braves the freezing cold to take out Fido, a hand-knit scarf can go a long way. And if you're stumped, baked treats are always a hit.

Don’t underestimate the thank you note.

In the electronic age, taking pen to paper seems extra special. There are few people who won’t appreciate a thoughtful, handwritten thank you note.

Read more from Learnvest:

12 Gift-Worthy Cookie Recipes for the Holidays

10 Ways to Make the Holidays Better—and Not Break the Bank

How Real Couples Navigate Day-to-Day Spending


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