Money Saving Mondays: Holiday Tipping

Experts offer guidelines on how much, and suggest you remember who takes care of your house, your dependents – and you

With Christmas and Hanukkah coming it is a season of giving for many, and that will, or should, include year-end tips for service people in our lives.

It can be a bit of a fraught question, though, whom to tip and how much. So for expert advice, we talked to Jodi R. R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting of Marblehead, Mass. “Just like Santa says, you have a list, you check it twice, and what you're looking for are all the people who help you to make your life a little bit easier all year long,’’ Smith said.

To get organized, Smith encourages you to think of people in three categories: People who take care of your home. People who take care of “your dependents,” including children, pets, or aging parents. “And then,” Smith said, “You look for the people that help with you. So, hair care, nails, masseuse, physical trainers.’’

How much? The Emily Post Institute recommends that for people you see regularly, like a nanny or au pair, dog walker, yoga instructor, or personal trainer, tip them the equivalent of one week’s pay. “You’re usually paying them $50 a week? Another $50 is the amount of your tip,’’ Smith said.

For someone who comes every two or three weeks, like an occasional house cleaner, or a hairstylist or barber or manicurist, add one visit’s worth of pay for a tip, the institute recommends.

“You want to give it to them in the first week of December,’’ Smith said, “because then it will allow these people to use that money towards their holiday budgets.’’

For your letter carrier, however, remember that U.S. Postal Service ethics rules mandate: No cash tips. You can only offer the mailman or mail lady a gift worth less than $20.

If your household budget is pinched and you just don’t feel like you can afford tips right now, Smith said, “You want to make sure to acknowledge the person in some way, shape or form. You might not be able to tip them as much as you usually would, so in that situation, you give them a less expensive gift and a note card that tells them how much you appreciate them.’’ And then whenever your budget improves, return with a tip for Valentine’s Day or Memorial Day or whatever time of year you can afford to give them the tip you wanted to give them at the holidays.

As a rule, Smith said, “It’s really hard to overtip. If somebody's doing a great job, and you enjoy their services, and they're really there for you, then by all means, be more generous.’’

And one more tip about tipping: Make a note of whom you gave what this year, so you’ll remember your baseline for tipping them next year.

With video editors Lauren Kleciak and Bob Leone and videographer John J. Hammann

Contact Us