holiday-thankingBlack Friday weekend 2011 reported a record $52 billion spent by the US consumer. On Cyber Monday 2011, another $1 billion was spent online. But these numbers do not include all seasonal spending. In the US, we brought the ‘tipping’ custom to our shores from medieval England and Europe, and it is now a significant portion of our annual December costs. Yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year; however it can also be the most confusing. Numerous websites provide statistics and guidelines, including Consumer Reports Holiday Tipping Poll, Emily Post Institute and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Consider the following, which may provide insight as you consider holiday tipping and holiday thanking.

  1. Holiday Tipping is Holiday Thanking: In the US, we traditionally thank service providers with holiday tips.  Remember the reason for the tip is to show gratitude and to say thank you to loyal and trusted employees, service providers and family care givers. The time from Thanksgiving to New Years is when we take the opportunity to thank those who assist us year-round, even in tough economic times.

2. Make a List & Check it Twice: Prioritize your most important service providers. If someone’s work eases your life immeasurably, that individual should be at the top of your holiday tip list. Tip based on loyalty, and how regularly you see the person. The trusted housecleaner, the dependable nanny, and the care giver for a parent, may receive more than a service provider you see less frequently. Carefully consider all.

3. Budget & Finances: Holiday tipping is not an obligation. It is based on your personal financial status, along with your relationship with the trusted provider. Take the time to determine what is appropriate for you, and your budget. When times and finances are tight, you may not be able to tip with a monetary expression of thanks. Avoid overspending, stay within your budget and do not overextend yourself. January bills are not forgiving!

4. Handwritten Note of Appreciation: Be sure to write a handwritten note of appreciation, with 3-4 sentences.  It can be short; however it should be personal. If appropriate, you may also include a short note about why your tip may be delayed, smaller or non-existent. Otherwise the wrong message is sent, and you risk losing a valued relationship.

5. Be Creative: Handmade cards are memorable, personal touches that add to the holiday spirit and create memories. Think about giving a special treat that you would not buy for yourself. Lovely examples include nice soap, votive candles and gourmet coffee. Reflect on your conversations with the person and determine what could replace a monetary gift, such as a gluten free meal or a sugar free chocolate dessert for a diabetic. Fresh flowers work for someone who likes to make floral arrangements.

As you deliver and make your holiday tips and thanks this year, please keep in mind that these guidelines are are only suggestions. Your common sense plays a role too. Be sure to include a handwritten thank you note with 3-4 sentences, expressing appreciation and gratitude for loyalty and assistance throughout the year.


Holiday Thanking & Holiday Tipping Etiquette Recommendations:

Please keep in mind that each individual must use common sense and decide what is most comfortable and appropriate. This list contains recommendations for holiday thanking or tipping for those who insist on guidelines.  Please remember, these are not rules. Monetary ranges may vary based on common sense, geographical locations, and personal financial situation.s It is not necessary to give both cash and a gift; however, at times a child may wish to give a gift to a babysitter or Nanny in addition to your tip.

Service ProviderOptionsRecommendation
Au pair or live-in NannyCash or gift1 week of pay & card from children
BabysitterCash1 evening of pay & card from child
Day Care CenterCash or center gift1 week – 1 mo. pay & card from child
Live-in Help (cook/butler)Cash & gift1 week – 1 mo.  pay & gift
Private Health Care NurseCash or gift1 week pay or equivalent gift
Home Health EmployeesFollow PolicyGenerous Gift Basket of Holiday Treats
Nursing Home EmployeesFollow PolicyGift that can be shared by all staff
Housekeeper (once a week)Cash1 day’s pay
Housekeeper (weekly)Cash /gift1 week’s pay & possibly gift
Children’s TeacherFollow School PolicyParent’s Pooled funds for Gift Card
Children’s Teacher’s AidFollow School PolicyParent’s pooled Funds for Gift Card
School Nurse/SecretaryFollow School PolicySmall gift
Office AssistantFollow Office PolicyHoliday Bonus and not a Tip
Hair Designer/StylistCash or giftEquiv. of 1 salon visit ($35-$180)
BarberCash or giftEquiv. of 1 haircut & shave or a gift
Manicurist/PedicuristCashEquiv. of 1 visit
Personal TrainerCash or giftEquiv. of 1 session or a gift
Massage therapistCash or giftEquiv. of 1 session or a gift
Pet GroomerCash or giftEquiv. of 1 session or a gift
DoormanCash or gift$50-100 each; depends on extra duties
Elevator OperatCash or giftTenant Tip Pool; $20-50 each
HandymanCash or gift$20-50 each depending on service
Dog Walker/Pet SitterCash1 week’s pay & paw-print note from pet
Garage attendantsCash or gift$15-40 or small gift
Garbage/Recycling AttendantsCash/ City Regulation$10-30 each for extra effort
GardenerCash1 week’s service
Landscaping crewCash1 week’s service shared by crew
Newspaper delivery personCash or small gift$10-35
Personal care giverCash or gift1 week-1 mo. pay
Pool CleanerCash1 cleaning session shared by crew
Courier/Package Deliverysmall gift/no cashSmall gift in $20-25 range
FedExFedEx PolicyNon-monetary gifts valued under $75
UPStoken gift onlywarm cookies, baked goods, token gift
US Postal ServicePostal regulationsSmall non-monetary gift less than $20


During the holiday season, US Postal employees may accept snacks, beverages, and perishable gifts such as coffee and iced tea that are not part of a meal. US postal workers may also accept gifts that have little or no intrinsic value that are worth less than $20.00. Perishable food items that are worth more than $20.00, such as candy and cookie tins, and fruit and nut baskets are required to be shared with the entire branch of the post office. Mail carriers are prohibited from accepting cash, checks, money orders, gift cards, foreign funds or any other form of currency.

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.

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