Five questions to help ease your holiday tipping

Think about adding service workers to your list of recipients and tip the cost of one service

If you have a tight budget this year, you may end up giving a smaller tip than you did last holiday season. Getty Images
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Service workers help to make our lives easier throughout the year – whether it is by keeping our lawns immaculate or babysitting during date nights.

The holidays are an ideal time to show gratitude for the work they do throughout the year.

But how much do you tip service workers during the holidays, and whom should you prioritise? Etiquette experts have answers to these questions and more.

1. Whom should you tip during the holidays?

Holiday tips are usually for workers who provide consistent help throughout the year.

If you need a hierarchy of some sort, consider starting with anyone who assists you within your home, says Thomas Farley, an etiquette expert in Manhattan who goes by Mister Manners.

That could include a housekeeper, live-in aide or au pair, he says. Then, you can prioritise people who offer services outside your home.

Here are a few people you may consider giving a holiday tip:

  • Babysitter
  • House cleaners
  • Dog walker
  • Personal chef
  • Handyman or handywoman
  • Landscaper
  • Hairdresser
  • Mechanic
  • Physical trainer
  • Dry cleaner

To help remember whom to tip come next holiday season, consider making a note of the workers you engage with throughout the year, Mr Farley says.

“Keep a spreadsheet. Keep some sort of a document that allows you to make sure you don’t neglect anyone who really provided you good service throughout the year,” he says.

2. How much should you tip?

It can be difficult to decide on the right amount to tip someone who has been helpful on a continuing basis.

Diane Gottsman, a modern manners and etiquette expert, suggests tipping the cost of one service – be it a hairstyle or cleaning service. For example, for a nanny, it would be one week’s pay.

If that is not possible because of budget constraints, Ms Gottsman says to use other variables to determine how much to tip.

“You base [it] on your budget, your comfort level, the relationship that you have with that person and the service they provide,” she says.

If you find you have a tight budget this year, you may end up giving a smaller tip than you did last holiday season.

Mr Farley says in this scenario, you can consider tipping half of what you tipped the year before.

3. How do you give service workers holiday tips?

Ideally, a holiday tip should be in the form of cash or a cheque with a sentimental touch, Ms Gottsman says.

“Not only are you giving them the money, you’re also inserting it in a card and with a heartfelt message,” she says.

If cash is not an option, consider other payment methods such as Cash App, Venmo, PayPal and Zelle.

When in doubt, ask them if they have a preference, in case they do not have access to money transfer and payment apps.

4. How do you tip on a tight budget?

Tipping may feel stressful when your finances are spread thin. Before giving out holiday tips, reassess how much disposable income you have.

To figure out your disposable income, use a budgeting app or spreadsheet. After subtracting your committed expenses from your take-home income, you will have your disposable income.

Decide how much of that leftover cash you want to put towards holiday tips.

Keeping track of your tipping can help you avoid overspending, so consider creating a holiday tip budget.

You base [it] on your budget, your comfort level, the relationship that you have with that person and the service they provide
Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert

You may put your designated tipping money in a specific account or in envelopes. By getting organised, you can be kind to the people who do work for you and be kind to your finances, too.

As Ms Gottsman says, “I think that’s important to be respectful of your own budget”.

5. What are alternatives to cash tips?

If you can’t afford a cash tip, consider alternatives such as an inexpensive gift or a thoughtful gesture that doesn’t cost anything.

Ms Gottsman says you could get the workers in your life something thoughtful such as a gift card for something they like, herbs from your garden or a bottle of home-infused olive oil.

You can also give a gift you have not used if you think the person would appreciate it. However, be honest and let them know you are giving them a gift you received, Ms Gottsman says.

No matter what you give, tipping can be a thoughtful thing to do, especially during the holidays.

“So, it’s at the end of the year where we provide that additional thank you for not just what they did for us around Christmas, or the month of December, but rather how they facilitated our lives throughout the year and made our lives that much more meaningful, enjoyable, and allowed us to focus on other things while they did what they do best,” Mr Farley says.

Updated: December 22, 2023, 4:00 AM