The Ultimate Holiday Tipping Guide

Julie Inzanti is a New York City-based freelance writer and blogger covering lifestyle, fashion, shopping, beauty, and motherhood. She has a sense of humor and common sense.

In the swing of the holiday season it is sometimes easy to forget the people who help us out the most, like the people who maintain our home, our personal services and, of course, care for our dependents (this can mean eldercare or childcare). You might groan thinking of how much more money you have to shell out, but remember: ‘Tis the season of giving. It’s important to show your appreciation. And let’s be honest—you want to be remembered as the generous resident or customer for the rest of the year (especially when you need a favor) rather than the cheap-skate.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to holiday tipping for just about every situation: home owners, apartment renters, suburb or city-dwellers. Remember: always give cash and always hand it over in an envelope.

HOUSE AND HOME
Building Staff: Some of us live in large buildings with sizable teams that operate them. If this is the case, you might have to give modest tips to include everyone, provided there is no tip pool. For tip collections try to estimate how much you would have tipped and give the total amount. For smaller buildings you can stick to the tipping guide. It is always good to consider dropping off baked goods or treats for the building staff to enjoy.

Building Superintendent: $50 to $200 (depending on how responsive and helpful your super has been). Any New Yorker can tell you that the super is the all-powerful one, so be as generous as you can. Whether you hardly know them or have a warm relationship—it is important to grease the right palms in the off-chance you might have an apartment crisis one day. $100 is a safe middle ground.

Doorman: $25 to $100 (depending on how many doormen your building employs). If there are multiple doormen you might consider $25 each and perhaps $50 or $100 to your absolute favorites. Don’t forget the overnight person, even if you don’t see them.

Handyman: $25 to $50 ($20 each is OK if there are multiple employees)

Porters: $25. Remember, these guys vacuum your hallways and hose down the sidewalks each day so you don’t have to smell dog excrement. Be generous if you can.

Elevator Operator: $20 per person

Yard/Garden Worker: $20 per person

Trash Collector: $20 per person

Garage Attendant: $20 per person (if there are more than five, $15 is ok)

Newspaper Delivery Person: $20

Service Provider (pool, car oil, bug spraying, etc): $20

Housekeeper: Tip the equivalent to one week’s pay or one visit

Mail Carrier: This can get a little murky. According to the USPS website, carriers are permitted to accept a gift worth $20 or less per customer, per occasion but never in cash. FedEx employees are not allowed to accept cash but UPS carriers, even though the company urges them to decline tipping, are allowed to accept any amount. So use your own judgement.

Note to Small Business Owners: If you run a very small business out of your home or a tiny office space…let’s say you’re an independent clothing designer or an artist or a caterer, you should absolutely abide by the same tipping rules above. Super, UPS guy, etc.: Your top clients should get a holiday gift (sweets always work) and most importantly, don’t forget your staff! Chances are the people you employ wear many hats and dedicate themselves to you and your business more than they would if they worked at some large corporate office. ALWAYS GIVE A HOLIDAY BONUS. Even if it is $100 bucks each or free clothes or food. There is nothing worse for morale than stiffing your small staff–especially because you probably can’t hide from each other.  

PERSONAL AND DEPENDENT CARE
Personal Care (hairdresser/manicurist/barber/personal trainer/massage therapist/acupuncturist/pet groomer/yoga instructor): Equivalent to one session/visit

Babysitter: Tip the equivalent of one week’s pay for a full-time nanny or one to two sessions for a babysitter.

Dog Walker: Tip equivalent to one week’s pay or one visit

Home Healthcare (private nurse): it is best to check with the agency to find out if tips are allowed but typically the cost of one visit is nice. Or a thoughtful gift.

Personal Assistant: Tip equivalent to one week to one month’s pay. Chances are, if you can afford a personal assistant then you can probably afford a generous tip. This is someone who helps you at every turn whenever you need it, all year long; their holiday bonus should ideally equal one month’s pay. If you work for a large company, perhaps consider giving your assistant a bonus equal to one or two week’s pay or a very generous gift certificate to their favorite store.

Teachers: Cash is never an acceptable gift for a teacher, but you might consider gift cards to a school supplies store, Amazon or a local bookstore. Plenty of teachers dish out their own money for school supplies so it is nice to help out. If your school has rules against gift cards, perhaps try partnering with the teacher to find out what they need for the classroom.
*For teachers and tutors outside of school $20 should suffice. If they have worked a miracle with your child’s reading or math maybe consider tipping the cost of one session.

School administrative staff: Baked goods are ALWAYS a hit for the teachers and school administrative staff during the holidays. Don’t skimp on the tray or basket.

Professional (doctors/brokers/lawyers/vet): Never send cash gifts. Cash tips are generally prohibited, but it is perfectly acceptable to send a gift basket or holiday treats to the office for everyone to share.

General tipping advice:
Buy a box of non-denominational holiday cards (preferably with money holders) at a dollar store or HomeGoods (packs of 25 are $4.99) and write a personal note for each tip you give. Keep a few cards blank with $20 enclosed just in case someone you forgot pops up. Also, make sure you have a stash of $1 and $5 bills in your wallet for tipping throughout the season (gift wrappers, Christmas tree delivery, grocery delivery, etc.)

Happy holidays!

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