Why is giving the right tip such a moral dilemma? Year after year, we are faced with the same problem, yet most of us have different solutions every year. Was this a good year for me? Was this a bad year for me? Do I like this person less? Do I like this person more? It’s enough internal dialogue to make you think you were front row for your own Woody Allen movie. My mother was a fifth-grade school teacher for her entire career. We had many laughs over the gifts Mom got from kids in her class (which is why I guess they stopped this tradition). Your Smart Money Moves has prepared a holiday tipping guide for you this holiday season.
First things first, you need to assess a few things before you decide what to tip. Your relationship matters. You should consider how long you have known the person, the quality of the service, and the frequency of the service as a starting point. It also matters as to whether you live in a high-cost area such as New York City or you are in a more rural area. Last, you should make sure you have some budget, or you certainly can get in the holiday spirit and overtip against what you can really afford. I’m always surprised at how few people actually write me a heartfelt written thank you note, which would go a long way if you cannot afford the money.
1. Postal Worker- All federal workers cannot accept cash…it’s just that simple. They can’t receive more than $20 anyway for one occasion and a total of $50 for the entire year, so stick to $20 in a gift card or make them something that is from your heart. If you want to do them a favor, use the post office more than you do today as pretty soon you could see mail being delivered every other day.
2. Housekeeper- Give them $50 or up to one week’s worth of pay. If your housekeeper charges $200 per visit, then give them $100, which would be in the ballpark. There is nothing they want less than a gift card to Starbuck’s and some candy canes. Remember, they know your house inside and out, so no regifting here.
3. Hair Stylist or Barber- Give them the cost of one regular haircut. If you get your hair colored, etc., you don’t have to give the entire value of your overall hair salon experience, just the cost of one haircut. If you go to a place like Super Cuts or Great Clips, make sure to give them at least one decent CD to play, so the music isn’t so bad the next time you go.
4. Personal Trainer or Exercise Instructor- Just because they have tortured you all year doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get a tip. The cost of one session would be appropriate. Maybe they will give you a break if you are having a lazy day.
5. Trash Services- Sanitation engineer or garbage collectors have a really difficult job moving all kinds of stuff during the year. If you want to make sure they take care of those difficult-to-move items you leave during the year, then leave each worker a decent tip. $25 to $50 is a good idea unless they are a city worker and cannot accept gifts. Taping it to the top of the trash can is a bad idea by the way-try to hand it them.
6. Teacher- It’s best to ascertain what the school recommends or if the class is going to do one large gift altogether. My mother was a fifth-grade schoolteacher so that a large class gift would be a lot better. It shouldn’t be more than $20 to $25 out of your pocket if you do something individually. Remember, they have to put up with your gremlins all year.
7. UPS/FedEx- They are discouraged from taking gifts, but I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down something you give them, especially when shorts season turns into pants and jacket season. Somewhere in the nature of $15 to $25 would be appropriate.
8. Landscaper- The monthly bill you pay is too much for a tip. Divide it by four and a week’s worth of pay would be appropriate. Services like these and your electrician, heating and air conditioning, and other home services might allow you to give a small $10 to $20 gift if you see it in your heart. Otherwise, you generally don’t need to tip these businesses as they charge you handsomely for their services.
9. Office Staff- There is no requirement to provide a holiday bonus or tip for working within your company. Those days have come and gone, and it’s recommended your office works out some type of Secret Santa, so you don’t have to feel like you left someone out of the mix. We often do something just because we love our staff!
10.Nanny or Babysitter- If you have a nanny, it is recommended to give one week’s pay as a holiday gift. It is your kids we are talking about, right? You certainly can make your call about what happens at your house when you are gone for the day. The same may be true for the people within the daycare center. This one requires some thought.
Tipping often causes us tons of consternation. It’s not like you can look over your friends’ shoulder and even if you did, they wouldn’t tell you the truth anyway. Do what comes from your heart and what your family can afford. Those who work hard for you all year will appreciate it because many people just won’t give them anything.