On December 26th, there’s Boxing Day in Canada, a holiday that many Canadians use to tip those who make their lives easier.
In Mexico, there’s Aguinaldo (Ah-gee-nahl-doh), an annual Christmas bonus equivalent to at least 15 days wages that companies are required to pay their employees before December 20, just in time for the holidays. The Aguinaldo may be prorated if the employee has been with the company for less than a full year.
In addition to Mexico, a number of other Latin American nations also require employers to pay Aguinaldo to their employees. The Aguinaldo is heralded as providing a tremendous boost to Latin America’s seasonal demand for retail products including automobiles, appliances, and furniture.
In the U.S., Americans use the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year to express gratitude with ‘gratuity’ or a Holiday Tip.
There’s no designated U.S. American holiday for end-of-year tipping, nor is there a federally-required monetary holiday bonus for employees. However, during this time of year, tipping is standard across dozens of sectors.
Drafting your holiday tipping plan can be daunting, but fear not–this guide is thorough enough to help anyone navigate holiday tipping. There’s no hard and fast rule about how much or who to tip in the U.S.
Consider our suggestions:
- Budget First: Calculate how much you’re willing and able to spend. Remember, holiday tipping is not an obligation. Below, we list alternatives to big spending to soften that January blow to your checkbook.
- Prioritize: Make a list of those you wish to tip, placing those who help you most frequently at the top. Your trusted housecleaner, nanny, or daycare center staff may receive more than an infrequent provider.
- Gift or Gratuity? Factor in routine tipping–for those you tip regularly at the time of service, consider offering a small present or a gift card to a nearby café. Keep in mind local and regional customs, service quality and frequency, and relationship length.
- Creative Options: Handmade cards show heartfelt effort and genuine gratefulness. Explore Hallmark and Michael’s for colorful cardstock or calligraphy pens. Special baked goods (baklava or peppermint bark), local artisan candles or soaps, fine tea or coffee, and flower arrangements are excellent alternatives to monetary tips.
- Encourage Children’s Creativity: Your child may want to make a gift for a babysitter, au pair, or nanny. Encourage them to make a drawing, card, or craft.
Suggestions to pair with your child’s gift:
- Live-in nanny or au pair: a week’s pay
- Babysitter: evening’s pay
- Day Care Center Staff: week and a month’s pay
Business & Organizations (Check Corporate Policy):
- 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, College, & Schools (follow policy):
- Professor: Greeting card, no gift
- Teacher: Consider a group gift with parents pooled funds
- Tutor: Café gift card and handwritten thank-you note
- Assistant /Aide: $25 – $50 gift certificate
- Multiple Teachers: Small gift, candle, baked goods, gift certificate
- Principal: 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
Healthcare & Medical providers:
- Private Health Care Nurse: A 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 a gift
- Massage Therapist: Session equivalent or a gift
- Groomer: Equivalent of one session or a gift
- Walker: A week’s pay equivalent or “1-2 visits” per DogWalker.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, however FedEx and UPS do not. The information provided for FedEx and UPS is from customer service representatives who declined to provide 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 occasion (such as Christmas). Gifts cannot exceed $50 per calendar year.
- Gifting cash, VISA, MasterCard, or gift cards that may be used as cash are prohibited per USPS Employee Tipping and Gift Receiving Policy
- Company policies discourage cash gifts or gift cards. The FedEx driver will politely decline the holiday gratuity. If the customer is insistent, gifts up to $75 may be accepted by the driver.
- UPS does not have an official limit, but due to safety concerns, UPS would prefer drivers to decline cash. Tipping is left to the customer’s discretion.
Personal Trainer: Some personal trainers may be offended by a monetary holiday tip, while others are not. Review their regular fees, and determine if you want to offer a monetary tip, a handwritten card, or a verbal thanks.
Salon/Spas: If you visit an all-inclusive salon or spa such as Jackson Ruiz, tipping is not only prohibited, it’s against salon policy.
Lifeguards/Swim Coaches: Some aquatic facilities have rules against employees accepting tips. For example, a lifeguard may be required to decline a tip three times before accepting.
Business ethics prevent holiday tipping to any government employee in any country. In addition, financial, medical, and legal ethics prohibit and prevent tipping the people listed below (Consider sending e-cards from Paperless Post, or Jacquie Lawson):
- Civil Servants
- Disaster relief worker or volunteer
- Executive Coach
- Financial Advisor
- Government Employee
- Members, Board of Directors or Trustees
- Physical Therapist
- Police Officer
- Realtor/ Real Estate Agent
- Red Cross volunteer or worker
- Security Guard
- Sheriff/Deputy Sheriff
Remember, when in doubt, ask! If you have any reservations, uncertainties, or questions about tipping rules or expectations, call the front desk. Ask if they have a tipping or gift-giving policy, and what the standard is at that location. For more informal relationships where there might not be a front desk to call (i.e. babysitter, dog walker, etc.), opt for modest tips or small gifts to say thanks and wish them a happy holiday.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is an award-winning entrepreneur, cross-cultural trainer, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, (3rd printing), was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.