To Tip Or Not to Tip? And How Much?

If you get an edgy feeling this time of year, it may not stem from the rush of your holiday preparations. Rather, you might be a bit unsettled wondering whether and what to tip various service people. Relax, Billshark has you covered.

The first rule of tipping is not to blow your budget. If you’re afraid you’ll be thought cheap or worse, ungrateful, know that this advice comes straight from The Emily Post Institute. “First and foremost, you shouldn’t feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget,” they write, suggesting that thoughtful gifts would suffice, even if they’re homemade. If you’re not especially crafty, they say, “remember that [written] words are always a great way to express your thanks for a year of good service.”

If someone has provided quality service throughout the year, and if you want to let that person know you recognize their good work, it makes sense to use the holidays as an opportunity to do so. But also be aware that, while there may be expectations, there are no hard-and-fast rules on what to tip anyone. And if you’re thinking of this as a bribe to keep getting good service, skip it altogether. Professionals in any service capacity will always provide good service, whether or not they receive recognition for it. If not, find someone else.

Following are some general guidelines for holiday tipping that most etiquette authorities agree on. Also take into account the number of years you’ve been using their service, whether it’s a higher end or moderate type of establishment, and the region in which you live. Tips in New York City would naturally be higher than in York, Pennsylvania, due to the vast cost-of-living differences. And always include a handwritten note of appreciation for the service you’ve received.

Personal Groomers

• A hairstylist and mani-pedi specialists should receive the cash equivalent of one visit. Staff at the salon who work with you regularly should receive the cash equivalent of one visit, to be divided among all.

• A barber should receive the cash equivalent of a haircut and shave.

• A masseuse or personal trainer should receive the cash equivalent of one session.

Child Care

• A regular babysitter should receive the cash equivalent of an evening’s pay.

• An au pair or live-in nanny should receive the cash equivalent of one week’s pay.

• Day-care providers should receive between $25 and $75 for each staff member who attends your children.

• Teachers should receive a gift only, not cash (to prevent the appearance of attempting to curry favoritism).

• Any of these regular child-care providers should also receive a gift from your children.

Home Care

• A regular maid or housekeeper should receive the cash equivalent of one week’s pay.

• Personal caregivers should receive the cash equivalent of between one week and one month’s salary, if permitted by their agency.

Home Services

• Regular lawn and landscaping workers should receive between $20 and $50 each, depending on the cost of their service.

• Pool cleaners should receive the cost of a single visit to be split among the crew.

• The superintendent or doorman should receive $20 to $80 in smaller cities, more in big cities.

• Elevator operators should receive between $15 and $40 each.

• Parking attendants should receive between $10 and $15 each.

• Trash and recycling collectors should receive between $10 and $30 each. Take into account whether they have to exit the truck to physically pick up the trash/recyclables at each stop, or whether the truck performs the work. Also consider how often they must work in adverse weather conditions (extreme heat in summer, snow/blizzards in winter).

• Your newspaper carrier should receive between $10 and $25, again taking into account the conditions under which they must deliver (unlit, winding rural streets, adverse weather, etc.).

• Your regular USPS mail carrier is forbidden by law from accepting cash, but can receive gifts that are worth less than $20.

• UPS and FedEx carriers should receive between $15 and $25 if you receive frequent deliveries from them.

Pet Care

• Dog groomers should receive up to half the cost of a session.

• Dog walkers or other pet care providers such as sitters should receive the cost of one session.

Again, Billshark wants to reiterate that these amounts are guidelines, and your primary gauge should be your own financial condition.

And speaking of your financial condition, if it isn’t all you’d like it to be, let Billshark pore over your bills to find you extra cash, maybe even hundreds of dollars per month!

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