Holiday Tipping

How Much Do You Tip At the Holidays? | CorporetteWe’ve talked about what to tip your secretary for the holidays before, but we haven’t talked about the bigger question of other tips and year-end gifts — I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers, so let’s discuss.  First, Reader M wonders:

I have a question about Christmas tipping that I’m sure many of your readers are facing and could potentially advise on. I live in a large apartment building in NY (our rent for a one bedroom is around $3500), and we just received our holiday tipping list and it includes almost 30 people! It ranges from building manager and head handyman to a bunch of doormen and various porters. What is an appropriate amount to give, and how should I divide it up? I’d like to get away with giving around $500, but that doesn’t seem realistic and I don’t want to seem cheap. I know that some people in our building end up just tipping the doormen, but that doesn’t seem terribly fair (though in past years we have ended up tipping the doormen slightly more). None of the guidelines I can find online deal with a building with so many employees!

Next, I can’t find the email right now, but another reader was wondering how much to tip her child’s daycare providers — while her child mainly had two teachers, a number of other floating teachers worked with and knew her child.

So:  YEOUCH. Happy holidays, get ready to give!  I spent a lot of time yesterday reading tipping articles, and a few basic rules apply wherever you are, whatever circumstance you’re worried about:  Tip a lot to continue great service; tip less (but still tip) for people you should tip — look at it as good karma (paying for past services) as well as goodwill (paying for good future services).  As always, I think it’s important to know how much other people are giving in the same situation; a lot of this is about managing expectations.

My husband and I did the math the other day and for all of the various people in our life we’ll be tipping about $1000 this year (most of it in cash), plus a few small token gifts (some chocolates for the floaters in his daycare section; a scarf for his regular babysitter in addition to cash).  Readers, how much are you giving, and to whom this year?   (Please also list your city, or area of the country). For those of you with secretaries, how much are you giving?

Some helpful articles on tipping…

(Pictured: I wish I’d thought ahead to get these lovely mini vintage patterned gift card envelopes from Etsy! They’re $5 from TheCrookedTwig.)

Comments

  1. Anonymous :

    I’m wondering about tipping my hairdresser. I see her for haircuts a few times a year (3-4 times). Haircuts cost $40-45. Can’t really afford to tip her for a full service. Is $15 or $20 okay? I’ve never had to do this before because I’ve never seen the same hairdresser for a whole year until now, believe it or not.

    • ExcelNinja :

      I was in a similar situation a few years ago and gave my hair stylist a Starbucks card with $20 on it.

    • I know what my hair dresser likes to drink so I bought ~$50 bottle of wine and tipped about $20 more than I would have otherwise.

      • (But I go every 5 weeks and get dyed and cut every time- about $100-$150 depending on if I get highlights or something special). I also tip very well year round ~30%.

        • I’m in the same boat. I tip very well throughout the year. Would it be better to tip a more standard amount (20-25%) and then give a nice holiday bonus/tip, or to just tip more like 30-35% throughout the year?

    • Former hairdresser here. $20 is fine. We also like food and booze gifts. Days get REALLY long for hairdressers this time of year (everyone wants hair done before holiday parties/seeing judgy relatives!) so a treat partway through the day is always nice.

      • I should add, the $20 is fine comment was for the OP, with the $40 usual service. If your usual service is $150, your regular tip is probably that much so the holiday tip would generally be more (or that plus actual gift).

    • I always double-tip hairdressers, waxers, etc. at this time of year. If I usually tip 20%, I give 40%.

  2. Tipping dog walker $150

  3. Anonymous :

    Can we stop referring to the gifts to secretaries as “tips”? I’m sorry but my legal secretary makes upwards of $80k before overtime. I’m not tipping her. I’m giving her a gift.

  4. My boyfriend’s building HOA sent out a list with minimum amounts to tip based on the size of your condo. That’s pretty presumptuous, imo, especially when some people rent from a landlord instead of owning the place. You basically give the HOA your money, and then they will divide it out.

    I think you should only give what you are comfortable with giving. If it’s $600, I think $20 per person is just fine. Many people from the rest of your building will likely tip as well — they won’t only be getting $20.

  5. We gave our wonderful nanny who cooks and cleans (even though that is not part of her job description) an extra week’s salary plus 15% extra as a gift. It felt a little extravagant, but she is really worth her weight in gold and the money will help her family a lot.

  6. I want to give a gift to the office services crew who helped me put together a huge project this year. There are several of them, and some are part-time and come in on different days. What would a good show of appreciation be that they can all benefit from? Thanks!

  7. How about my nail person? I go to a salon every three weeks and have had the same (lovely) woman do my nails for about 9 months now…the service is $45…do I tip that? Can I do $20? Do I say – thanks and Merry Christmas or just tip and leave it (I do the tip on my card on the debit machine).

    • I tipped my nail person double on the last manicure for the holidays. I go to the same place but have about 3 different people rotate who all do a lovely job.

    • $20 and a thanks/merry christmas is fine.

      Honestly guys, you would be shocked how many people don’t tip regularly and don’t tip at the holidays either. Anything that is more than you normally tip will be appreciated.

  8. Can I tip my mail carrier legally speaking? How can I make sure it goes to the one who is usually there, assuming they will take time off during the holidays? ( I am never home during the mail delivery so I have never met them).

    I receive about 4 packages a week or more because of Amazon Prime, etc. The mail carrier climbs a flight of stairs to get to our apartment as well. The old carrier just threw everything on the ground of the bottom of the stairs so I want to tip the new carrier who this year has carried almost everything to the top of the steps and separated it. (two apartments only).

    • ExcelNinja :

      I would like to know this as well. Our mail carrier is fantastic and we get a ton of packages. Can I just leave an envelope in the mailbox for him??

    • I give mine a Starbucks card every year. I think as long as it’s under $20, it’s ok. Cash is not allowed.

    • Clementine :

      my understanding is that US Mail carriers (at least the ones in my area) are not allowed to receive cash or something that can be exchanged for cash, but are allowed to accept gifts up to $20 in value. This would include a gift card as long as it can’t be exchanged for cash.

      We got our mail carrier a $20 gift card to an Italian deli on his route (most. amazing. sandwiches. EVER) where we know he likes to occasionally stop for lunch. A friend gave her mail carrier a big pack of those ‘hot hands’ instant hand warmers because her mail carrier walks and he commented that was a fun gift to get. We’re just going to put it in an envelope and put ‘to Dave’ on it- I think that sub carriers get who it’s for.

    • just Karen :

      Mail carriers are limited to a certain dollar value of gift which they can accept… but I unhelpfully don’t know what that dollar amount is ($20?), or how you go about making sure it is your “normal” carrier other than the honor system.

    • In NYC it’s expected. I always leave a card in with cash in the mailbox.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m also wondering too how to make sure it would get to my regular carrier (though in my case it’s a UPS driver that I’d want to tip). It seems like this time of year there are lots of temporary drivers running overlapping routes into my apartment complex.

  9. So, is it tacky to just hand my doorman $20 in cash? Do I have to put it in a card or something?

  10. Chicago area

    Cleaning service (house) – $200 cash
    Dogwalker – $15 gift card to Starbucks (he always has one in hand)
    Daycare – $25 Target gc to 2 main teachers, $15 Target gc to 4 support teachers
    Hairdresser – Nada. I go about 1-2 a year and use a different one each time. I last went in Oct and likely won’t go again until March. Ish.
    Mail carrier – Nada. We seem to have at least 4 different ones, and don’t know their names.

  11. rural southeast :

    university town in Appalachians:
    We tip our nanny one week’s salary
    I tip my hair stylist/wax girl (same person) generously through the year, but I only see her maybe 3x a year.
    We don’t tip our mail carrier since we live in the suburbs and they deliver by truck anyway.
    Teacher at preschool & kindy: $20 each to group gifts organized by room moms.
    We don’t have personal secretaries–we have a department office manager and some permit technicians, but no one typically gifts them.

    That’s it for our service-folk…

  12. Typically, around the holidays, I’ll give gifts to anyone I wouldn’t tip on a regular basis, and cash tips to those I would.

    Functionally speaking, this means that my employees get gifts (well, gift certificates for movies+snacks at a chain theater – it’s the most versatile option I could think of). For people I’d tip, I generally go for an extra week’s wages (for example, for the cleaner who does my apartment) OR half-again whatever the service is (hairdresser, estheticienne, etc).

  13. Diana Barry :

    Boston suburb:
    Hairdresser – 50% tip or thereabouts
    Waxing person – same
    Nanny – $1000 gross bonus and a 4% raise
    Cleaning service – $120 cash (same as one cleaning), given in 20s so the staff can split it up.
    Mailman – nothing. I would tip the UPS guy if I knew when he would come!

    Giving $50 to my secretary, who works for 5 attorneys and only does mailings for me, nothing else.

  14. I don’t tip/gift anyone and nobody tips or gifts me (other than friends/family, of course, and the normal tips you regularly give for certain services). Am I the only one?

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t (housecleaners, postman apply). . .now I feel guilty.

    • No, you’re not the only one. I hadn’t even heard of the idea of holiday tips (and to doormen and mailmen!) until a few years ago. Gifts, yes, like to kids’ teachers and such, but not tips to people who you aren’t friends with and who get paid for their services (and often get tipped at the time of service). I know now that it’s a (common?) thing, but I still think it’s a little odd.

      • Famouscait :

        Agreed. Maybe this is regional? Or most prevalent in large cities and/or areas with more discretionary income?

        • Anonymous :

          I’m one of the non-tippers who posted below about being shocked about how much people tip. I live in LA, which is certainly a large city where people have lots of disposable income, so maybe holiday tipping is a Northeast thing?

          • saltylady :

            I’m in LA and I think cash gifts for nannies and housecleaners is pretty common, and the amount is what’s been said here– same as one week’s pay/cleaning price. Not so much for the hairdressers and such, although I know some people do it.

          • Senior Attorney :

            I’m in L.A. and tip the housecleaners, trainer, hairdresser, and nail ladies.

    • Anonymous :

      Nope, I don’t tip people either. I give my assistant a gift and also buy something consumable for the office services team. I see my hairdresser every 4-6 months (next visit will be in mid-February), live in a house that I clean myself (so no doormen or cleaning service), and don’t have any regular service providers except my waxer, who I tip 20% each visit even though she is the owner of the business and my understanding is that I’m not expected to tip her. I think we may have contributed to a group gift for the preschool teachers.

      I’m shocked that people spend more on holiday tips than I spend on gifts for my and my husband’s entire families.

      • Anonymous :

        I’m shocked too. I can’t imagine living somewhere I was expected to tip several hundreds of dollars to people on top of bloated rents and mortgages. Yikes!!!

    • Anonymous :

      I have thought about it fairly hard and can’t think of anyone that I should tip besides my hair dresser. Literally.

      Haven’t ever noticed if I have the same postal delivery person every day because I’m never home when it comes.

    • We give cash gifts to a few people that we see regularly – daycare teachers, my assistant and my hairdresser. We don’t tip the mail carrier or newspaper delivery person.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m sorry, but I do not holiday tip people when I regularly pay for their services (or they have a salary–i.e. the postman) and/or I always tip them. I don’t get tipped at my job! Like if I’m paying someone $70 for a haircut and then tipping them $15-20, I don’t think I need to give them another $40 at the holidays.

      • Anonymous :

        Yeah this is kind of odd to me. No one tips me because I’m a salaried employee and I work for the State and don’t get a bonus, soooo….

      • The only one we tip is our full time in-home daycare provider because it is dirt cheap, they are beyond wonderful, and need the money. But 2-weeks worth is only $200…and I’m in the DC suburbs.

      • I agree and I was starting to wonder if I was a cranky old lady! I already tip generously when necessary. Once the garbagepeople taped blank greeting cards on the trash cans in our neighborhood and I was kind of offended by it. Since when is that even something you tip for?

    • Yeah, all these holiday tipping threads make me feel like Scrooge. I don’t celebrate any of these holidays. I’d come in and work during Christmas and New Year’s if I could. Shrug.

      • I will add that my mother super-tipped/gifted her cleaning lady during both Eids (my family and the cleaning lady’s family are both Muslim).

      • All these tipping threads make me so glad I don’t live in the USA. There is no tipping in most other parts of the world, thank god. I do give a holiday bonus of one month extra pay to my live in nannies but that is it!

    • I’m glad someone said this – I don’t, but I don’t actually have any of the things mentioned here to tip on (no apartment, no regular hairdresser, no day care/teacher, no house cleaner, etc.). That said, I can see giving something thoughtful to a person who performs a very personal service (nanny, a very valued stylist, etc.), but I think a lot of this sounds a bit much . If I’ve never interacted with them, and the only way they could not provide me good service would be to literally not do their job (i.e., the mail carrier, for me), I don’t think that it makes much sense to tip them.

    • Not alone. It’s never occurred to me to tip the mamilla carrier. (Especially after we stopped getting mail for several weeks for no apparent reason). No housecleaners. I tip the hairdresser and the person who does my nails when services are provided.

      We do give the milkman a card and about $20. So I guess that’s the extent of our tipping.

      • Elopement :

        But isn’t it’s different to say we don’t use any of these regularly-tipped services t/f we don’t tip anyone? That’s not the same as saying, “oh, yeah, I do live in a building where someone gets my packages, opens my door, and mops my floor everyday but they get a salary so I’m not going to tip them for the holidays.” I mean I don’t have a milkman so I’m not tipping one but if I did, I probably would give him a card with $20 in it, too.

        I was just thinking about this myself because I’m going to get a haircut this weekend from someone I saw once before over the summer. I’m not going to give her double the service or some other crazy tip because it’s $95 dollars and I haven’t decided that I even want to continue going to this person. So, I’ll probably give her $20 and call it a day, maybe $25 if I am particularly happy. But I think that is very different from using services for which there is a norm that applies and then just saying “well, I don’t think that’s fair.”

        • But some people apparently tip their mailpeople and FedEx/UPS delivery people. Presumably everyone has those.

          • Anonymous :

            Yes, but not everyone gets a lot of deliveries. I get a package maybe 2x a year. If I received one a week, maybe I would consider writing a card with my thanks and giving some token of my appreciation to the person who brought those packages week to week.

            As for the mail carrier, I think that’s also less of an expected and more of “if really great” situation.

            This may not come out the right way, but I basically think that if you’re in a position to have someone perform services for you, you’re in a position to tip that person a little token of your appreciation around the holidays. Incidentally, I’ve found that the best tippers are people who’ve worked for tips before or worked in low wage jobs where tips were definitely a difference in your income.

          • saltylady :

            I probably should tip the UPS guy– I buy everything online and have a buttload of packages.

          • BigLaw Refugee :

            I have never tipped the FedEx/UPS guy before, but this year I will. I used to live in a doorman building, where the UPS guy could just bring everything in the front door (probably opened for him by the doorman) and let the doorman deal with everything else. Now I live in a brownstone with 4 apartments. Our UPS guy somehow manages to always come in the 7-8:30 PM time frame to maximize the chances we’ll be here, and he buzzes all 4 apartments to try to get access so that if we’re not here, we can still get our packages safely. He also gave me tips on how to use the UPS MyChoice feature (don’t give instructions on where to deliver or the delivery guy is allowed to leave it outside with no liability – if you’re not there he’ll redeliver the next day – based on his advice I canceled a subscription to premium MyChoice and saved $40).

            By contrast, I rarely get my USPS packages and often have to go to the post office to get them. Since I get a lot of packages and my UPS guy really goes out of his way to do a great job, I think I should tip him.

        • I think it depends on your situation. When I lived in a 3 story walk up in Boston, our fed ex guy would deliver alllllllllll sorts of crazy/heavy things to us, directly to our door (could have been left in the 1st floor landing) and did it w/ a smile. I always thought he went above & beyond so I gave him a box of chocolate for xmas– I’m sure he at least was touched by the gesture & it probably gave him a little boost for the day, I know it would have for me.
          In my new very warm, very drive-able city, my mailman regularly seems pissed, throws boxes and I suspiciously never get mail on Fridays….. so no, not getting a gift.
          I do think when it is someone that can screw you over if they decide they don’t like you (secretaries, etc) it does feel like blackmail, but better safe than sorry.

    • I live in No. CA. I think the only person holiday tipping I’m doing is for our once-a-month house cleaners. My parents (also in No. CA) tip the post man and garbage man and newspaper carrier and have said that the later two definitely show their disapproval if they are not satisfied with your tip (paper in the bushes/wet grass, don’t take garbage if it’s not 100% correct, etc.) I live in a townhouse complex and don’t have any other regular service providers – I go to the hair salon ~ every three months and tip then (last appointment was last month) but don’t do anything special for the holidays and I don’t have direct reports.

  15. We live in Providence, RI. We already gave our house cleaner a bonus – we just doubled what we usually pay her on a bi-weekly basis.

    I haven’t given our mailman anything before, but feel like I should, so I have $25 Dunkin Donuts gift card earmarked for him.

    I see my hairdresser maybe once every 4-6 months, so don’t feel like I need to tip.

    My assistant will get a gift from me (not a tip). Probably a $50 Kohl’s gift card since that’s her favorite store.

  16. Houston. I’m only tipping at the office. I haven’t been to my hairdresser since August and don’t have an appointment any time soon (though I need one!). I don’t have a cleaner, nail person, dog walker, day care, etc.

    Assistant – $100
    Paralegals (5) – $20 gifts
    File Clerks (2) – homemade cookies in a pasta storage container.

    and at my firm associates are expected to give the partners something (I know, we’ve discussed this). So I got the partners $30 Harry and David chocolates that I ordered on sale for 1/2 off around cyber Monday. I don’t know/never see the mail person, UPS person or Fed ex person at my house and I wouldn’t know how to leave them anything. Though maybe I should leave something for Fed ex bc they keep leaving packages outside my front gate where they get stolen. Here is $20 please don’t do that anymore. I’m afraid if I tried to leave anything it would get stolen too. Houston is rough, apparently (or maybe it’s just my hood).

  17. Two tipping questions:
    1) We’ve had two excellent dog walkers through the year. We recently stopped using them when I went into the hospital (my husband’s working from home more). Whenever I’d pay the monthly bill, I’d always ad a 20% tip. Do we still send a tip to them for the holidays? And would we just mail it to the dog walking company address?

    2) My MIL asked if I needed her to buy gifts for my nurses at the hospital. I seriously have a new nurse every day (plus a new one each night). I heard there are about 60 who rotate through here. Would it be enough to just have, say, a couple dozen high end cupcakes delivered on Christmas Day?

    • wildkitten :

      I emailed my dog walking company to charge a holiday tip to my card on file – that’s something they do. I like the cupcake idea for nurses – or bagels or whatever.

      • I love the cupcake or bagel idea. Would it be possible to go in with some other people and order in lunch? Doesn’t have to be fancy but maybe like Chipotle, Panera or something catered in with dessert. It might be a nice break from a bagged lunch or going out.

        Also, FWIW…I used to have a support role at a finance firm. What I *really* wanted was a thank-you once in a while. ;)

        • Amen to that… the working world would (esp law & finance) be such a nicer place if people remembered their pleases & thank yous…. and you know, basic human decency.

    • AnonInfinity :

      My husband is a nurse, and he would feel incredibly, unspeakably awkward to receive a tip or personal gift from one of his patients. Plus so many people contribute to your care that it would be impossible to gift everyone — 60 nurses! Plus techs? However, he has told me about people sending big gift baskets full of treats or cupcakes or the like, and they always appreciate those. I would definitely do that if I were you.

    • Famouscait :

      Hi TBK. I think you’re spot on for both questions. Maybe put a note in with the mail to the dog walkers and specify, “This is for Bob and Sue who have been such a big help to us all year long!”

      Your idea of cupcakes sounds delicious and I’m sure the nurses who are working on Christmas will be most appreciative.

      Glad you’re hanging in there!

    • Since you tipped the dogwalkers through the year, I don’t think you need to tip them. If you feel extra generous, I would do a $10 gift card each along with a note of thanks, mailed to the company c/o their name.

      When I had my daughter earlier this year (I had several complications after birth and stayed there over a week) I had my mom bring a large store-bought cookie tray and note of thanks to the nurses’ station. Hospital policy was to throw out any gifted homemade food items. Apparently it went super fast, so nurses on the other shifts didn’t get any. I think if I did it again, I would do three smaller trays and give them in the middle of each shift.

    • I think a fruit basket or a tray of Chik-fil-a minis would also be a nice alternative to sweets if you were so inclined.

    • On the hospital situation, I agree with AnonInfinity, based on my sister the nurse’s actions when my Mom was in the hospital recently. Food gifts are the way to go – they’ll go in the nearby break room, available to all staff. It’s good to get something that can be left out, like candy — the issue being staff on different shifts. Cupcakes dropped off at 3pm likely won’t last til the overnight shift (although since you said a couple dozen, maybe?). I guess an alternative would be to have things dropped off at different times? Logistically, the way we did it was to hand the stuff to the nurse and ask them to treat it as a contribution for the nursing station or break room. Not awkward at all – it was clear we weren’t the first to make such a request.

    • My fiance is a nurse and apparently all foodstuffs get inhaled, and very much appreciated. I would consider having delivery the day before or after Christmas, as Christmas Day might already be pretty food-heavy (I know my finance’s unit always has a holiday potluck for those working holiday shifts).

  18. Anonymous :

    Do the non-attorneys on here gift “down” to people on their teams (i.e. not assistants)? I don’t; never have; not part of the company culture, but now I wonder if I should be doing so, just as a thank you. In finance.

    • wildkitten :

      Yes but very small token thank you gifts – not large stacks of cash.

    • Attorney that works in non-attorney job currently. I don’t think it is expected, but our project manager gave us a totally unexpected box of chocolate & $100 gift card & a thank you card and it seriously made my yr. We have worked 12+ hr days ever day for over a yr with no thanks from anyone else so it really was touching that he went out of his way to do that.
      But honestly, I would have been just as touched if he gave us just the chocolate… or really the thank you card…. a little can go a long way in these situations imho.

  19. Andrea Mercado :

    Upper Westside, Manhattan, a “B” class a pre-war building with a new construction addition– condo. We have five doorpeople, a couple of porters, a handyman and the super. The doorpeople are pretty worthless for all except accepting deliveries– I can’t tell you how many people they have let upstairs unannounced. They also give you grief if you want help getting a cab. I give each of the door folks $20-25, the porters and handyman less. I always question why I tip the super– despite habitually tipping him, this guy doesn’t even return my calls—I have to go to the managing agent to get anything done.. Cleaning lady, one time’s payment. For support staff in my office, we have a pool to which we all contribute– the proceeds are divied up into Amex gift cards.

  20. Cleaning lady — amount of 1 service
    Nanny — 1 week’s wages + small gift
    Building handyman — $50
    Secretary — $200

    I am wondering about the mailperson. I would actually like to tip our UPS guy, who I see around regularly and know. Our mail person seems to change.

    • anon for this :

      I am stumped with a potential tipping situation. For work, I park in a garage under ort building. The garage is staffed by 2 valets. They are there during business hours and will park your car if you want them to. They also move around the cars in the garage during the day if you park in one of the sections where cars are double stacked.

      I always park my car myself in the morning because it feels ridiculous not to, and I am usually not in the double stacked section so they really don’t have much interaction with my car. However, I appreciate that they are there and willing to help if I need them too, and are kind of supervising my car during the day. I sort of feel like I should tip them but I have no idea what is appropriate. I am in the northwest, if that matters. This is my first year in the building, and attempts to causally find out what/if others are giving have been failures. Help!? TIA.

      • another anon :

        do you work in my building?! I have the exact same parking situation that i started using this year and was wondering the exact same thing this morning. I just saw you are in the northwest, so not same building, but still, same situation.

      • I parked in a building like this in LA for 6 years. I also parked myself most often, chose a single spot rather than the stacked spots, etc. I gave the usual valet a gift card for Starbucks. I knew he loved his coffee and technically the building prohibited them from accepting cash tips.

      • Valets are often young guys who are running around all day. This seems like an excellent case for a food gift – basket of treats, or maybe a gift cert for a coffee shop or deli that’s in the building or right nearby, that they could use to get themselves lunch or drinks that day.

      • A modest gift card sounds great here. $20.

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.