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.

12 comments on Richmond Proper: On Holiday Tipping

  1. We kind of tip for the service they provide. Our Trash man are really cool. They put the lids back on the cans so their is no hunt for them later. So those guys get a restaurant gift card. Which they must remember because they don’t do the same for our neighbor.

  2. MidloMama on said:

    My son goes to a daycare center and just moved into a new room last month. During the day he has 3 teachers, and had 3 teachers in the other room for the bulk of the year. Do you think that sponsoring a lunch for everyone would be a good substitute? Or do you just tip the “lead” teachers? Anyone out there have any advice? (before he was in a home care setting, so it was easier to figure out!)

  3. MidloMama on said:

    ooooh, and what if you only get the newspaper on Sundays? Do you still tip?

  4. Eric, good call. I think that a little gift at Christmastime helps inspire better service the whole year through.

    MIdloMama, all the sources I’ve checked say that it’s $25-$70 for each daycare staff member. If it’s too expensive to give them all money, a card or a small gift — preferably made by your child — would be sufficient.

  5. And if you’d like to leave a tip for your Sunday paper delivery person, I’d say to make it a small one, just $10 or so.

  6. MidloMama, as a former educator I can tell you that one of the most meaningful gifts you can give his teachers is a card with a heartfelt note of thanks in it. Teachers (whether in schools or daycare) always appreciate that.

  7. MidloMama on said:

    Thanks, Valerie. My MIL is a retired teacher and after a 30+ year career she has about all the apple related tchotskies she can take. I think I’ll do the note and bring in some home-baked goodies. Economic circumstances put that level of tipping a bit out of range…

  8. I don’t have any of these services. I suppose some people do, but I always found it amusing when people were worrying over OH the SO MANY people they have to tip and what to do (whilst hand-wringing). Perhaps they have too many service people in their lives.

  9. I would only tip people 1) that I see SUPER regularly and 2) do a really, really great job.

    For example, both the postal carrier and UPS delivery guy who come by the RVANews office are really awesome. We chat it up and have gotten to know them fairly well. We want them to know we appreciate them.

  10. Tess Shebaylo on said:

    Personally, the only one of these that serves me with any frequency at all is the postman, but you’d be amazed to see how often this question comes up. I’m glad people do ask about these kinds of things, because it makes me more aware of how etiquette has different applications in different lives.

  11. Tommy on said:

    I had an AWESOME UPS carrier named Tim when I was going to VCU and living in the fan. Once he single-handedly saved Valentines Day after my dumb roommates didn’t answer the door while I wasn’t home. I called UPS and they were going to do some thing where they hold it at the central shipping center (in Colonial Heights) and they would give me a call within an hour to confirm.

    Not 10 minutes later, Tim calls my cell number posted on the packing sticker and offers to meet me close by to give me the flowers. I made a mental note to tip him huge the next Christmas and at the time I was kicking myself for not carrying any cash that day.

  12. good god these are generous rules.

    No need to tip all in creation. Tip the people who deserve it, an amount they deserve.

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