The season of gratitude is here, and you may be eager to show your appreciation to all the people who've provided valuable services to you and your family throughout the year. But who should you tip, and how much?
In 2018, about 60% of Americans gave tips to one or more service providers during the holidays, according to a survey on holiday tipping conducted by Consumer Reports. Housekeepers received the largest gratuities, for a median holiday tip of $65.
"Anyone who you have an ongoing professional relationship with, you should absolutely put on your list," says etiquette expert Thomas Farley, aka Mister Manners. Across the board, cash tips are preferred, he adds.
That includes hairstylists and housekeepers. But in addition to the people you tip periodically over the course of the year, you should also tip people who work for you on a regular basis, like babysitters and home health aides, at the end of the year. Especially if they've gone above and beyond, "the holidays are a nice time to recognize them for that contribution," adds Farley.
Although the amounts you give may vary based on your income, location, and lifestyle, here are Farley's guidelines for end-of-year tipping.
Giving guideline: The cost of one session
This category includes people you see on a bimonthly or monthly basis, like your manicurist, hairstylist, personal trainer, or acupuncturist. If you pay $50 every other month for a haircut, you'd tip $50 on your holiday visit, says Farley.
"For the individuals you're tipping in more moderate amounts throughout the year, the end of the year is a time to recognize them for their 12 months of making your life better, more beautiful, more fulfilling," he says.
Giving guideline: The equivalent of one week's salary, or the cost of a single visit for a babysitter
Anyone who cares for your loved ones on a regular basis — that includes nannies or babysitters, as well as nurses or home health aides who care for older relatives — should receive "one week's worth of service if they're with your family on an ongoing basis," says Farley.
This guideline also applies to those who care for your furry family members as well, like dog walkers or pet sitters.
For your child's day care provider, you might not give a tip per se but a "gift card of cash or a gift card to a store where you know they shop," plus a small drawing or a handwritten note from your child, says Farley. "Make sure to remember all of the day care providers who work with your child and not just one or two whose names you happen to know," he adds.
One group of people not to tip is teachers: "The line that you want to draw is that you don't want to tip someone who's not in a service profession," he says. Check with school guidelines on gifting, or consider participating in a class gift instead.
Giving guideline: Varies widely, depending on your location, type of residence, and lifestyle
During the holidays, tip anyone who keeps your apartment building functioning. Your doorman, the super who does repairs in your apartment, and your parking garage attendant might all be on this list, though "it's going to be more regionally specific, and correlate directly to the level of luxury in your residence," says Farley.
"In New York City, it's not uncommon to give a superintendent a gift of $500 and up," he says, though that's far above the norm in most cities.
Because standard tips can vary widely, you may want to find out what your neighbors plan on giving, especially if you're new to the building or the area. "When in doubt, I would inquire in your circle what people are giving," says Farley.
Keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule.
If this has been a difficult year financially and you can't afford to tip your service providers at all or as as much as you'd like, "don't use that as an excuse to do nothing," says Farley. Instead, "own it." Give handwritten notes that say, "This does not begin to reflect my gratitude of the services you've provided."
Farley acknowledges that tipping might affect the service you receive throughout the coming year. Being thoughtful and considerate goes a long way — but the point of giving isn't to receive. "Tipping, in its purest sense, should not be considered an enticement to do more," he says. "Rather, it's a thank you for what's already been done."
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