How’s your Christmas shopping going? Got everyone on your list a gift yet? Buying gifts can put a lot of extra stress on people this time of year. It’s so hard to come up with good gift ideas, especially for relatives.
What is a good gift for your teenage nieces and nephews that isn’t too expensive? And what the heck do you get your sister-in-law? When you start shopping for her you realize just how little you know about her. Plus there is your father to buy for. What do you get a man who always says he doesn’t want anything?
As if the month of December wasn’t stressful enough with buying gifts for your family, you’ve also got to worry about end of the year holiday tipping. Yes, the annual panic over how much and to whom you should be tipping has arrived. It’s time to open up your wallet to all those who have helped make your life a little bit easier during the past year.
The only problem is most of us don’t have a clue how to do it! How much should you tip your mailman, garbage collector, hairstylist, doorman, super/building handy-man, dog-walker, babysitter, etc.?
Do all of these people require an end of year tip? How much should you give each one? The same amount or does it depend on outside factors? When should you give them the tip? Before Christmas? Or before the New Year? Is it acceptable to give them a check or do you have to give them cash?
The answer to all your burning questions about this very awkward tradition is presented here in Easy Street’s Holiday Tipping Guide 2013. Use this cheat sheet this holiday season to make this annual gift a little less stressful and confusing. Feel free to forward it to your friends and family so they don’t out tip you and leave you feeling like the cheap jerk of the group.
Postal workers. Your mail carrier is a federal employee and is therefore subject to a code of conduct that prevents certain types of gifts. You can’t give him/her a tip of more than $20, cash or gift card. That always feels a little bah-humbug to me though so to get around that provision I usually give my postman a small gift (like a Christmas ornament), a loaf of banana bread or some other kind of home-made gift.
Day Car Teacher and Nannies. While some guides suggest giving gift cards to avoid any perceived notion of favoritism or trying to give your child a leg up, I am firmly entrenched in the second group, the group that gives cash. Anyone who cares for my child or relatives are special care givers who rarely earn a living worth bragging about. I give teachers and tutors between $100-300. If that’s a bit steep for you, consider pooling your tip with other parents to give one big cash gift. Nannies and other babysitters are a bit different. Usually they earn a paycheck and I give them a year end tip equal to one week’s pay.
Newspaper delivery person. If you are one of the few remaining people who still gets their news the old fashion way, via a delivery boy every day, then a holiday tip is a nice gesture. Consider tipping somewhere between $10-20. I would decide based on where your newspaper lands every morning. If you have to fish your paper out of the bushes every morning then tip on the lower end of the scale. By the same token if your mailman has a great arm and lands it close to your door, allowing you to step outside without throwing on pants then tipping on the high end of the scale is more appropriate.
Gardener/Lawn Maintenance Service. This one depends on if you have a service or an actual gardener. If you have one person that comes twice a month or so, then it’s customary to give somewhere between $25-50. But if you have hired a grass cutting service and they send different people each visit then a tip isn’t necessary.
Doormen for apartment or condo buildings. In South Florida most people don’t have doormen, so I called my sister-in-law who lives in a condo in Manhattan. Her thoughts were to give around $50-100. If there are several in your building, give each one something but give the majority of your tip to the man who has provided the biggest service to you. For example if you receive a lot of packages, the day guy should get more than the others.
Building Superintendent. My sister-in law suggests tipping $20-80 unless you use the super a lot. If so tip on the upper end of the scale or add an additional $10-20 to the tip amount.
Cleaning Lady/Housekeeper. This group of people are high up on most people’s holiday tip list (so don’t be the cheapskate that doesn’t give one). A typical end of the year gift is equal to what you pay her for per visit. If each time she cleans your home she charges you $100, then give an additional $100 around the holidays. The only exception to this rule is if you use a cleaning company and never know who is coming to your home. If this is the case, no need to tip at the end of the year.
Bartenders/ Waiters. This one I would only suggest if you are a “regular” at a restaurant or bar. There is no need to tip every server who has ever poured you a drink, but do give your favorite waiter an extra $20-30 on top of your regular tip on a visit just before Christmas.
Trash collector. I have found taping an envelope containing $10-30 in cash to my trash bins just before Christmas each year is well worth it. These guys are rarely tipped and usually remember the houses along their route that do so each year. I’ve never had a problem with my trash cans being strewn across my lawn or pieces of broken glass being left behind and I attribute it to tipping the guys each year. In this instance a little bit really does go a long way.
People to skip. By no means should you feel obligated to tip every service person you use throughout the year. Only tip people who you see regularly (at least once a month). Otherwise, a twenty percent per visit tip without an additional end of the year tip is standard.
I know it’s not really feasible to tip everyone on this list. If you tip on the high end of the scale I suggested you’ll be looking at a total bill of nearly $800. That’s too rich for my blood!
Instead prioritize your tipping list. Put people at the top that provided you with exceptional service this past year, like your doorman who also helps you bring up your groceries now and then.
At the same time remember you are setting a precedent for tipping amounts for years to come. Make sure that you can afford to tip the same amount to this same person next year. Tipping less than you tipped last year is bad form unless your financial situation has changed drastically.
Remember this year-end ritual is all about presentation. A little bit of work goes a long way. Including a card with one or two sentences that recognizes their great work ethic and service throughout the past year, along with your tip will do wonders.
If you are ever unsure of what end of the scale to tip on let the depth of your relationship with the person be your guide. A barber who you chit chat with for 10 minutes once a month shouldn’t get as significant a gift (if at all) from you as someone who is a close friend who provides a service for you.
Hopefully this list takes a little bit of stress off your shoulders this holiday season. Happy Holidays everyone.
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,