Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

A Mostly Complete Guide to Tipping During the Holiday Season

It is a social custom in this country to give cash gifts, known as tips or gratuities, during the holiday season. How this custom came to be I have no idea. And while we see editorial suggestions in newspapers and magazines during the holidays, thankfully there are no rules, no tipping police.

What makes one service worthy of gratuities from its patrons while others, such as grocery checkers, the nurse and dental hygienists, are not included? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I do have some thoughts for your consideration that you may or may not find helpful. My goal is to get you thinking so you can develop your personal tipping guidelines.

If you’re not sure who to tip, ask yourself: Can I afford to be without this person? By “afford to be without,” I mean, do you want to face the future without this person’s services?

If you cannot bear the thought, then a tip is in order as an expression of gratitude for the service provided throughout the year and the fact that you do depend heavily upon this person.


For me, the foregoing qualifier eliminates the garbage person. I don’t have a clue who they are, to be honest. Some big robotic truck comes down our street and plucks the containers with a big mechanical arm and dumps them. I greatly appreciate the service, but we don’t have a specific person we count on.


This is a different story. It does take a while to get in sync with a hairdresser. I’m there with Mallorie. I appreciate her; I count on her. I don’t have to guide or suggest. I show up, and she knows what to do. If she left me, I’d wish her well, face the future with a heavy sigh and somehow find another, but not be happy about it. $50 tip.


We have a landscape maintenance company that services our property. They do fine, but I don’t know any of the workers by name. Believe me, if this company goes out of business, I have my pick of about 50 others that will do the same thing. No tip.


This is a luxury that has become a total necessity in my life. I find that my sanity is worth paying Raquel to clean my house. She is an angel. A gift from on-high. Raquel is punctual, immaculate, trustworthy and reliable. She has a key to our house.

If she were to leave me, I would be devastated. I could not replace her in a million years. It is the best money I spend in any given month.

I pray for her health, and that she will live long and prosper. I want to be her favorite client, so if she ever says she can clean only one house, I want it to be mine! $150 tip. Gladly.


OK, now that I have spouted off on my personal philosophy on holiday tipping, here is a more conventional tipping guide from so-called experts. Take this information under advisement and then set your own guidelines that fit within your means and the desires of your heart.


The U.S. Postal Service forbids carriers from accepting cash. However, they may accept a nominal item with a value under $20, such as cookies or chocolate, for example. If you are very pleased with your service, a letter of appreciation to the supervisor would be in order.


For a regular sitter on whom you depend and who consistently gives excellent care, Martha Stewart suggests a tip equal to two nights’ pay and a small gift from the children.


If you actually know the person who collects your trash, I am told that a tip of $15 to $20 is customary. Or a six-pack.


If you are happy with the service, tip the equivalent of up to one visit.


Again, if you are happy with the service — even if your hairdresser is the owner of the salon — tip 15% to 20% of the total bill on a typical visit (in addition to the tip you would normally leave for your last visit before the holidays) and a small gift. If you aren’t happy, find a new hairdresser.


If you live in a building with a single doorman, a $25 to $100 tip is typical, more or less depending on how much this person assists you during the year.

A monetary gift in any amount is one way to say thanks to service providers, but it is not the only way. Never underestimate the value of a handwritten note on pretty holiday stationery. Any expression of gratitude that comes from your heart is never wrong.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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