Tips for Holiday Tipping on a Budget

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

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You can show your appreciation this holiday season without blowing your budget. Just use these holiday tipping tips.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I’m curious if people still tip their mail carrier, newspaper delivery person, trash and recycling collectors, etc., during the holidays. Who is it customary to tip and how much?

I don’t want to seem like Scrooge, but I am on a budget. Is it acceptable to give non-cash gifts like homemade cookies or candies? I’d love if your readers could give some of their tips for holiday tipping on a budget.

Given the current economy, many people likely have the same struggle with holiday tipping as Danielle. You want to acknowledge others at this time of year, but you also want to protect your budget.

Who Should You Give a Holiday Tip?

Start by listing the people who have served or helped you regularly over this past year. The key word here is “regularly.”

Perhaps the same UPS driver typically shows up to deliver your packages. This is someone you may want to thank with a gratuity. If it is a different delivery person at your door every time a package arrives, then maybe ‘UPS Delivery Person’ does not need to go on your recipient list. Depending on where you live, you might not have a regular trash collector or mail carrier. Chances are that the person who just happens to have your house on their route the day you leave a tip will not share it with any of the other people who had that same route through the year.

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Here are some common recipients you might want to consider putting on your tip list:

  • Childcare workers, including babysitters, your nanny and daycare staff
  • Self-care service providers, including hairstylists, manicurists, massage therapists and other spa specialists
  • Home health aides or other types of caregivers
  • Housecleaners and lawn care providers
  • Snow plowers
  • Newspaper, mail and other regular deliverers
  • Pet care professionals, such as dog walkers and pet groomers
  • Personal trainers
  • Trash collection workers
  • Apartment or condo staff, such as a super or doorman

This is certainly not an all-inclusive list, but it should give you an idea of the types of service providers you might want to consider tipping.

How Much Should You Tip?

The simple answer is that you should tip what you can afford. If you have some wiggle room in your budget, consider the following tipping standards:

For those you pay on a per-session basis, tipping the same amount as a session is standard. So tip your once-a-week babysitter, hair stylist, dog walker, massage therapist, personal trainer or house cleaner the equivalent of one session. If you pay your dog walker $20 per walk, give them a $20 holiday tip.

If you have someone who works for you throughout the week, such as a nanny or in-home caregiver, a week’s pay is a nice tip.

$10 to $30 is standard for delivery people and trash collectors. If you live in an apartment building or condo that has service people, depending on the person’s position and how often they help you out, tipping an amount from $20 to $175 is standard.

What About Non-Cash Tips?

If you cannot afford cash tips, should you consider giving baked goods or some other small gift?

The point of a holiday tip is to thank someone for their continual service throughout the year. If the only thing you can afford is your gratitude and a bag of holiday candy or some homemade goodies, then that is what you should give. However, if you can afford to gift a nice bottle of wine or some other pricier gift, just give the cash.

Only Give What You Can

The above tipping guidelines are simply that — guidelines. You ultimately need to give whatever fits into your budget, not what you think is expected.

Reviewed November 2022

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