The season has arrived for Christmas music, Christmas sweaters, Christmas parties, and, of course, Christmas gratuities.


Tipping is hardly a seasonal occurrence; according to one estimate, Americans voluntarily hand over $40 billion to service personnel each year. It’s no surprise then that the holiday spirit inclines us to give even more. Those extra holiday gifts or tips, given on top of the usual gratuity, are meant to show appreciation for good service received over the passing year. We also hope they’ll influence the quality of attention we will receive in the coming one. What they are not meant to do, however, is pressure you into spending above your limit.

As you set your tipping budget, here are some guidelines on what to give and whom to skip:

Family Help: Our family caregivers (babysitters, dog sitters, nurses) work hard to keep your loved ones safe and healthy. If you only tip one person this year, make it someone from this category. The equivalent of one night (for babysitters) or one week’s pay is appropriate. Schoolteachers also fit in this group; it is best for all parents to give a non-cash gift as a group.

Domestic Help: There’s no place like home for the holidays. Anyone who helps keep it comfortable year round (housekeeper, gardener) deserves a token of appreciation. The equivalent of the cost of one visit is standard.

Services: On top of the standard 20% expected at hair salons and similar services, a customary reward is the cost of one visit.

Everyday Elves: These service providers work in the background to assure your life runs smoothly. When treated kindly they may just go the extra mile when you most need it. Depending on how often you see them, tips can range from nominal to generous. Before you give your mail carrier or garbage collector a tip, know that most public workers cannot receive cash or gift cards, so opt for a small gift ($5-20) instead.

Whom to skip: Any service provider you do not see on a regular basis does not get a Christmas tip. Also doctors, accountants, and attorneys.

Although it may not be possible to give that holiday tip to everyone on your list, you can still show them all your gratitude with a thoughtful, handwritten card. Handmade gifts or baked goods are also a thoughtful substitute.

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