Holiday Tipping Etiquette

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

The holidays are a time of celebrating family, friends and those special people in our lives that have helped us in many ways throughout the year, whether big or small.  While we wouldn’t dream of forgetting to thank our family member and close friends with a gift this Christmas, there is a large group of people in our lives we may be neglecting: service industry workers. This large and varied group of individuals we interact with on a daily basis includes the mail carrier, the UPS or FedEx driver, our babysitter or daycare provider, our children’s teachers, our personal trainer, beautician, handyman, and garbage collector. These individuals provide (often mundane) services to us all year long, and it’s only good etiquette to thank them with a gift of some kind during the holidays.

If you’re like me, you’ll admit you’ve fallen severely short of showing your gratitude to these people in years past.  This year can be different, and with a little tweaking, you won’t have to blow your already-tight holiday budget. Here are a few guidelines on how best to approach holiday tipping for the service providers in your life.

Consider the level of your relationship.
Even though you may greet your mail carrier or garbage man whenever you see them, you probably don’t know them that well. It’s both inappropriate and unnecessary to give these types of acquaintances a personal gift or large tip. A small tip (under $20) is enough to show your gratitude without making anyone feel awkward. You can even tip them with non-monetary token such as Christmas cookies or a coffee shop gift card. On the other hand, if it’s someone you’ve interacted with a lot, gotten to know on at least a slightly personal level, and provides significant services to you, you should tip them more.

Don’t under or over-tip.
You might still be uncertain of how much to tip. Obviously, you should only tip what you can afford, but don’t tip so little as to be insulting to the person you’re tipping. It’s almost better to give nothing than to give miserly. The level you tip should be in relation to how much you normally pay for their services, or if they’re free. A good tip for a therapist or personal trainer would be the cost of one session, whereas you might tip a babysitter the amount you normally pay them in one week. If you need help, consult a holiday tipping chart to determine the appropriate amount for each service industry and go from there. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily have to give an extra tip to someone you tip throughout the year, such as your beautician. You can certainly still give them a tip, but a small gift might be more fitting. Certain services aren’t as suited to tipping: you wouldn’t tip your child’s teacher, but a gift would probably be appreciated.

Consider tipping restrictions.
Some service industries forbid their workers from accepting tips and gratuities, since this can be misconstrued as bribery or encourage unethical favors or privileges in return. Before you attempt to tip a service provider, familiarize yourself with what they can and can’t accept to avoid confusion or embarrassment. For instance, U.S.P.S. workers can’t accept tips, and only gifts valued under $20. Other companies allow more leeway in tips but at a supervisor’s discretion. When you can’t tip someone you’d like to appreciate because of their employer’s policies, a simple thank you card or letter will suffice.

Tip according to your budget. 
Christmas is a time to be generous and not stingy, but this doesn’t mean going into debt. Don’t give into peer pressure or feel the need to fake a level of affluence you don’t have; you can offer non-monetary tokens of appreciation to those you want to appreciate. Personal, handmade gifts or written words are often the most appropriate ways to show your thankfulness during the holiday season.

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