How to tip your favourite service providers

It is important to ensure that you don't break your budget when rewarding people with a gift or bonus

Two european friends collecting money to paying in a restaurant in Dubai Marina, after their lunch break in summertime. Getty Images

You’re likely planning to give some extra love to family and friends this time of year. But what about your dog walker or babysitter? If you haven’t already done so, consider showing appreciation for your service providers with a gift or bonus gratuity in the first couple of weeks of the new year.

After all, now is the time to “say ‘thank you’ and wish people well for the new year”, says Lizzie Post, who hosts the Awesome Etiquette podcast and is based in Burlington, Vermont.

The kind sentiment around gifting and tipping is clear, but the specifics can be confusing. How much do you give and to whom?

You’ll find answers to these questions below.

Who should receive gifts or extra gratuity?

Show your generosity to providers you see consistently – at least four or five times throughout the year, says Crystal L. Bailey, director of The Etiquette Institute of Washington.

These are typically people “who you developed a closer professional relationship with, whose services you greatly appreciate”, she adds.

So, if you get your hair cut by whoever is available and don’t know their name, don’t worry about a gift or extra gratuity. But, if you’re a regular client of a specific hairdresser, consider showing some generosity.

Gifts or tips may also be appropriate for childcare professionals, teachers, housekeepers, personal trainers and dog walkers. “That list is going to be a little different for everybody,” Ms Post says.

So think about who’s regularly helped you out – like the apartment security guard if they’ve had to unlock your door several times.

Show your generosity to providers you see consistently – at least four or five times throughout the year
Crystal L. Bailey, director, The Etiquette Institute of Washington

Who gets gratuity and how much?

Tip people whom you pay directly. For example, say you typically give a provider cash or pay electronically with a card or an app like Venmo or PayPal. It’s fine to use the same payment methods to leave them a large tip, Mr Bailey says.

How much to tip depends on your finances and what you’re comfortable giving. Mr Bailey suggests tipping up to the amount of a single service. So, if your every-other-month massage is $75, she says, “I’d tip them $25, $50 or up to that $75.” Or, she says, double your typical tip.

However much you give, put that money in a card “with a note of your gratitude”, Ms Post says.

Who gets gifts and what kind?

Gifts and gift cards are better for providers you don’t pay directly. You wouldn’t give your child’s teacher cash, for example, but Mr Bailey says a gift card would be fine.

For extra credit, go with a gift card for a nearby coffee shop or restaurant, she adds, which makes the gesture more personal and supports a local business.

Consumables can make good gifts, too, says Mr Bailey and Ms Post. A plate of cookies, for example, works particularly well as a shareable group or staff gift. If you make those cookies yourself, Ms Post suggests including a list of ingredients or common allergens, like nuts.

Try to avoid gifts that take up a lot of space, Mr Bailey says, as well as personal items, such as clothes or scents.

What if I can’t afford tips and gifts?

All this generosity isn’t meant to break your budget, Ms Post says. And while these tips and gifts are customary, she says, “they’re not guaranteed bonuses”.

If giving all this money is stressful (or not feasible), Ms Post suggests you “breathe, and think about your own life and what works for you”.

Maybe you give no tips or gifts this year. Or perhaps you give to only a few providers. In that case, “prioritise who has really been invaluable to you this year”, Ms Post says.

Words can also go a long way, she adds. Always write a note, whether you tip someone or not. If you typically give a large year-end tip but can’t afford it this year, Ms Post suggests briefly explaining that in the note. Otherwise, your provider may wonder if they did something wrong.

For the rest of the note, Ms Post says, don’t overthink it. Thank the provider for their wonderful service, she says, and wish them well for the year ahead.

Updated: January 7th 2022, 4:00 AM