In U.S. culture, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year is when U.S. Americans choose to express their gratitude with a ‘gratuity’ or holiday tip.
Remember the reason for the tip is to show gratitude, thanking loyal and trusted employees, service providers, and family caregivers.
There is no hard and fast rule about how much, and who, to tip in the U.S. Remember these are only suggestions and not rules:
Budget: First, stay within your household budget. Holiday tipping is not an obligation. Second, ponder your routine tipping: do you tip regularly at the time of service? If so, consider a modest tip or a small gift instead. Finally, consider local and regional customs, service quality and frequency, relationship length. No budget for tips? Consider our alternatives listed below. Avoid overspending. January bills are unforgiving!
Make a list and check it twice:Prioritize your most important service providers. If someone’s work eases your life immeasurably, place them at the top. The trusted housecleaner, the dependable au pair or nanny, and the parent caregiver may receive more than an infrequent provider.
Creative Alternatives:Memorable handmade cards are personal touches that add holiday spirit. Consider a baked specialties like Czech kolache or baklava, tea towels crafted by a local artisan; a bar of fragrant, organic soap; votive candles; gourmet coffee, or fine tea. Floral arrangements are welcome.
Encourage Child Participation: In some cases, your child may want to give a small gift to a babysitter, nanny, or au pair. Encourage your child to give their own card, handmade craft, or small gift. Suggestions to pair with this:
Clients: Business gift baskets of chocolate, edible fruit, nuts, cheese, wine, cookies, petit fours; golf balls & non-logo gifts.
CEO/Boss: Group gift to their favorite charity or non-profit foundation
Assistant: Bonus or gift based on relationship length
Colleagues: gift they will like for sports, hobby, or dining, gift card.
Office Gift Exchange: don’t go rogue, follow the spending guidelines.
Education & Schools (follow policy):
Professor: greeting card, no gift
Teacher: Consider a group gift with parents pooled funds
Assistant /Aide: $25 – $50 gift certificate
Multiple Teachers: small gift, candle, baked goods, gift certificate.
Principle: Holiday card & baked goods
School Secretary: café gift card, small gift or gift certificate
School Nurse: café gift card, small gift or gift certificate
Home or Building Personnel:
Live-in help (cook or butler): between a week-month’s pay, plus a gift
Housekeeper: once a week, equivalent of a day’s pay, or $50. Daily, equivalent of a week’s pay, and possibly a gift
Gardener: equivalent of a week’s service
Landscaping crew: equivalent of a week’s service, divided among the crew
Pool cleaning crew: equivalent of one session, divided among the crew.
Garage attendant: between $15 and $40 or give a small gift
Garbage/recycling: if city permits, $10-$30 each for extra holiday effort
Doorman: between $50 – $100 each, or gift, depending on extra duties
Elevator Operator and Handyman: between $20 – $50 each
Newspaper delivery: between $10 – $35, or give a small gift
Private health care nurse: week’s pay or a gift of similar value
Home health employee: follow policy / generous gift basket of holiday treats
Nursing home staff: follow policy / gift basket of holiday treats for all
Hairstylist, manicure, pedicure, specialist: equivalent of a visit
Barber: haircut & shave equivalent or give a gift
Massage therapist/personal trainer: session equivalent or give a gift
Groomer: equivalent of one session or give a gift
Walker: week’s pay equivalent or “1-2 visits” per com
Sitter: a week’s pay and a paw print note from your pet
Package & Mail Delivery:
The United States Postal Service provides the public with a tipping and gift receiving policy on their website, FedEx and UPS do not. The information provided for FedEx and UPS is from customer service representatives who preferred not to give their names.
United States Postal Service:
Employees may accept baked goods (homemade/store bought) items to share with the branch office. Customers may give edible arrangements, gift cards for merchandise or services valued up to $20 per interaction. Gifts cannot exceed $50 per calendar year.
Company policies discourage gift cash or gift cards. The driver will politely decline the holiday gratuity. If the customer is insistent, gifts up to $75 maybe accepted by the driver.
UPS does not have an official limit, but due to safety concerns would prefer drivers not to accept cash; tipping is left to customer’s discretion.
Avoid giving holiday tips to people on this list; send holiday e-cards instead:
Members, Board of Directors or Trustees
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.