The holiday season is traditionally a time for giving to loved ones—and it’s also a time to thank the people who make your life more convenient year-round. While tipping service providers at the end of the year is always optional, it’s a nice gesture that shows your gratitude and appreciation.

So, what’s the standard tip? It largely depends on the norms where you live, your budget, and your relationship with the service provider. Of course, things might be different this year because of COVID-19.

“Some people may not be in the position to tip as generously as they have in past years,” says Anne Chertoff, chief operating officer at Beaumont Etiquette. “It’s important that if you do give a tip, you give what you can afford to give.”

You also might consider whether people are OK with receiving cash. In a September 2020 study, Zelle found that 67% of consumers prefer to tip using contactless and cashless options.

Whether your apartment has a building staff that goes above and beyond or you’d like to thank your mail carrier who hauls the spoils from your online shopping sprees, here’s a holiday tipping guide on who to put on your list, how much to budget, and a few alternatives if you’re not comfortable with giving a cash tip.

Consider this before tipping

Credit: Getty Images / monkeybusinessimages Make a list and check it twice: Some professionals may not be able to accept cash gifts.Holiday tipping is something you want to get just right. Before you figure out who to tip and how much to give, you should check out best practices. Here’s some advice from etiquette master The Emily Post Institute:

Consider your budget. If you can’t afford end-of-year tips, then a small gift or handwritten thank-you note will suffice. “You do not have to explain the reason you aren’t giving them cash or a gift card this year,” Chertoff says.

Do you already tip regularly? If you tip every time you get a service, then you may forgo a holiday tip and instead give a small gift.

What’s your relationship with the service provider? “Think about which services you hire or use regularly, and then decide who you may want to give a tip to,” Chertoff says. “You may base [the tip] on how often you hire or work with the person, how time consuming the job is, how long you’ve been working [with] or hiring them, and the cost of the service.”

What are the customs in your area? You might need to tip on the higher side in larger, more expensive cities. When in doubt, call the company where the service provider works and ask if they allow tips and what’s considered standard.
Who should you tip—and how much?

Credit: Getty Images / C5Media Consider showing appreciation for postal workers with a small gift during the holiday season.We asked two etiquette experts—Anne Chertoff and Elaine Swann, founder of The Swann School of Protocol—to provide standard tipping advice. You can use this list as a guideline for whom to tip and how much, but remember to take your budget and local protocols into account.

“If you prefer not to give a cash gift or a gift card, you can tip someone with a range of small gifts,” Chertoff says. Not sure what to give? Reviewed has pulled together gift guides full of items we’ve vetted through hours and years of research.

When you’re ready to give the tip or gift, make sure it’s accompanied by a short, handwritten thank-you note.

Babysitter: One evening’s pay and a gift from your child

Building superintendent: $25–$100

Coach: A small homemade gift from your child

Day care provider: $25–$70 for each person who works with your child plus a gift made by your child

Dog walker: $25–$50 or the cost of one session

Domestic help (such as a full-time nanny, cook, or housekeeper): One week’s pay plus a gift

Doorman: $25–$100

Elevator operator and handyman: $25–$50

Garage attendant: $20–$50

Hair stylist: Up to the cost of one service or a small gift

Housekeeper: $25–$100 or up to the price of a day’s work

Landscaper: $25–$50

Mail carriers: A noncash gift that’s worth $20 or less for USPS workers (per federal law); UPS has no guidance; FedEx discourages gifts

Massage therapist: A gift item

Newspaper delivery person:* $10–$30

Personal assistant: Up to one week’s pay

Personal trainer: Up to the cost of one session or a gift

Pet groomer: $15–$25 or the cost of one service

Pool cleaner: $10–$30 or the cost of one cleaning

Sanitation worker:* $15–$25 per person

School bus driver: A small, noncash gift

Teacher:* Gift card and a gift made by the child, or a combined gift from all the parents
*Check local guidance to see if these professionals can accept gifts.

Who doesn’t need a tip?

You might work with certain people throughout the year who should not be tipped. As a general rule of thumb, don’t tip professional workers. These may include your:

Accountant or CPA
Attorney
Building contractor
Dentist
Doctor
Physical therapist
Seamstress or tailor
Veterinarian
Additionally, “some companies or jurisdictions prohibit their workers from accepting tips,” Chertoff says. “For example, you can give your child’s teacher a token gift, but an envelope of cash may not be appropriate.”

Most company owners also shouldn’t receive a tip for their services, Chertoff adds. But the people who work for them often receive tips. For example, you wouldn’t tip the owner of the landscaping company that takes care of your lawn, but you would tip the workers who are cutting the grass and raking the leaves.

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