Richmond Proper: On Holiday Tipping

It has long been considered a kind gesture to set aside a little something extra for the folks who perform routine services for you — like the mailman and the babysitter. These are the people in the background, helping you get things done all year long. Why not show them how much you appreciate it this holiday season?

(First published on December 1, 2009)

Who are the people in your life that deserve to be rewarded? Let’s look beyond the obvious main characters of your life and focus on those on the sidelines or behind the scenes. It has long been considered a kind gesture to set aside a little something extra for the folks who perform routine services for you — like the mailman and the babysitter. These are the people in the background, helping you get things done all year long. Why not show them how much you appreciate it this holiday season?

Before you panic, understand that the practice of holiday tipping usually only applies to those you don’t tip on a regular basis. “If you’ve regularly tipped at the time of service, either forgo a holiday tip or cut back on the amount,” says Peggy Post in Emily Post’s Etiquette. This can also be a time to give small gifts and notes of thanks to those who are not normally tipped, but who went the extra mile for you this year. Perhaps some people to include would be the teacher who made extra sure your sick child had his homework each day or the hairdresser who squeezed you in at the last minute for that desperately-needed haircut.

All sources agree that the amount of a holiday tip can be very flexible depending on your budget and other factors. “How much you tip depends on how close you are to this person, how long he or she has been with you and what the usual tip is for someone in that particular position,” say Nancy Tuckerman and Nancy Dunnan in The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette. If you can’t afford an appropriate tip, small gifts are also great, especially the homemade ones. Baked goods, holiday decorations, or knitted gifts are an excellent way to show that you cared enough to spend some time and effort in making them.

Though it’s your decision whom to tip and how much to give, there are those of you will prefer — nay, demand — specific jumping-off points. So here they are:

  • Personal assistant: One week’s pay
  • Cleaning person, housekeeper, or maid: One week’s pay
  • Regular babysitter: One evening’s pay
  • Au pair/nanny: One week’s pay
  • Daycare provider: $25 – $70
  • Dogwalker: One to two weeks’ pay
  • Personal trainer: One session’s pay
  • Hairdresser: One cut’s pay
  • Manicurist: One session’s pay
  • Gardener / Lawn care person: $20 – $50
  • UPS or Fedex carrier: small gift worth $20 or less
  • Postal carrier: small gift worth $20 or less
  • Newspaper carrier: $10 – $20
  • Garage personnel: $10 – $30
  • Child’s teacher, coach, or tutor: small gift worth $30 or less

Don’t forget that these gestures are not required, they’re just something nice to do if you have the means. Oh, and whatever you give, make sure it is accompanied by a heartfelt note of thanks.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her husband, Dan, and their two cats.

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