Ever wonder how much to tip this holiday season? We've got you covered.

By Kristi Pahr
December 12, 2019
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The holiday season is all about gratitude. From Thanksgiving straight on through the new year, it’s a time for reflection—showing gratitude for our loved ones, our blessings, the people who helped make the year special for us in myriad ways. And while our kids may have trouble tipping the scale from want to thanks, grown-ups can take advantage of the holiday season to show our thanks to the people who supported us and made the year better for us and our families.

One way to do that is by tipping. Holiday tipping is a fantastic way to show all the people who help your day run more smoothly just how much you appreciate them. “The holidays make us aware of the things that are wonderful in our life and gratitude is certainly something that is emphasized especially around the holidays,” explains Charleston, South Carolina etiquette expert Emilie Dulles. “With Thanksgiving right there it's very easy to be thankful more so than other times a year.” 

According to a survey compiled by Care.com, about 25% of the respondents say they plan to tip at least 5 people this year, while almost 20% said they don’t plan to tip anyone at all. Of those who plan to tip say that people who work with their children and also those who provide personal services, like hairstylists and manicurists, are at the top of their tipping list.

End-of-year bonuses or a holiday stash that is finally coming out of the savings account mean there might be a little additional cash flow this time of year. It’s “a little bit of extra cash they're able to spread around and be generous with at this time of year,” says Dulles. But who should you tip? And more importantly, how much should you tip them? 

How Much Should Parents Tip?

Knowing that you should tip is one thing, but knowing how much to tip can be an entirely new ballgame. “While there are lots of guidelines, there are unfortunately no set rules.,” explains Nick Leighton, host of the etiquette podcast, “Were you raised by wolves?”. “When trying to determine the amount, the things you can take into consideration include your own personal budget, the length and depth of the relationship you've had with this person, what the norm in your area is, and whether or not cash is best or if a small gift would be more appropriate.” 

Usually, when we think of a tip, say at a restaurant, we think in terms of percentages, but that might not be the best way for holiday tipping.  “While sometimes a percentage of the service fee is a fine way to calculate a tip (like for your hairdresser), sometimes an amount equivalent to the service itself is a better bet (such as the equivalent of one night's pay for your babysitter),” explains Leighton. 

Parents may have a few more people on their To Tip list than non-parents. Babysitters, tutors, daycare staff, non-school affiliated coaches, and other extracurricular instructors all fit the bill for a little extra holiday appreciation. To help cut down on the tip-related confusion, we compiled a handy little guide to holiday tipping so you can feel confident about spreading joy and gratitude this holiday season.

What to Tip the Babysitter

Between holiday parties and shopping trips, the holidays are big business for babysitters. Whether you hire a kid from the neighborhood or find someone online to watch your kids, tipping this time of year is definitely appropriate. A good rule of thumb for babysitter tips is to tip an amount equivalent to what you pay for their service. If your babysitter charges $20 per hour and is with your kids for 3 hours, tipping an additional $60 on top of the $60 for the evening is generous and will let them know how much you appreciate their time during their busy season. 

What to Tip the Delivery Driver

Everyone uses delivery services these days. For most folks, seeing those Amazon boxes show up doesn’t just mean a special occasion—it’s become a way of life. And while you may not know your delivery person on sight because you work outside the home, they provide a service that most of us would rather not ever have to do without. Saving us trips out to the store and saving us money in the process, delivery drivers from Fed Ex, UPS, Prime, and the U.S Postal service should be close to the top of your tipping list. The U.S. Postal service has rules regarding what a mail carrier can and cannot accept. “You can give a gift worth $20 or less and never cash or gift cards of any amount,” explains Leighton. “And if you’d like to acknowledge your Fed Ex or UPS drivers, I’d stick with following those same guidelines.”

What to Tip the Teacher

School teachers are heroes and they should definitely be on your tip list. Unfortunately, they can’t be. It’s generally frowned upon to offer school teachers a cash gift for the holidays no matter how much they deserve it. A small gift your child helps pick out is a great way to show your appreciation.

Coaches, tutors, daycare providers, and extracurricular instructors—folks who are not employed by the school system—are another matter. It’s perfectly acceptable to offer a cash gift to the people who teach your children outside of the classroom. Again, an amount equivalent to what you pay for the service they provide is a good rule of thumb for tipping these folks. For preschool teachers and daycare providers, where you may pay monthly, quarterly, or yearly, anywhere from $25 to $75 dollars is appropriate.

What to Tip the Hairstylist or Manicurist

Everyone wants to look their best for the holidays! Preparing for an onslaught of parties, visitors, and photos is never easy, but the people behind the scenes who help us look our sure help. You may be in the habit of tipping a percentage, 15% to 20%, to these personal care magicians when you pay your bill, but you can feel confident going higher during the holidays. Paying an amount equivalent to the service might not be feasible for a $200 holiday ‘do, but moving from the 20% range to the 30% or higher range is appropriate for the folks who help you sparkle over the holidays.  

What to Tip the Doorman and Super

For city-dwellers, the doorman and the building superintendent are integral parts of life. Providing security and making your building a safe and pleasant place to live, these everyday heroes definitely deserve a little extra holiday cheer. According to Curbed New York, here's what you should plan to budget for all the folks in your building who make your days run smoothly:

  • Super, resident manager: $75-$175 on average (broad range: $50-$500)
  • Doorman and/or concierge: $25-$150 on average (broad range: $10-$1,000)
  • Porters, handyman, and maintenance staff: $20-$30 on average (broad range: $10-$75)
  • Garage attendant: $25-$75 on average (broad range $15-$100)

Taking time out to show the people who help make your life simpler is a sure way to make everything merry and bright this holiday season!

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