Holiday Tipping

By Ginny Frizzi

September 3, 2010 6 min read

To tip or not to tip during the holidays? According to a Consumer Reports survey, 25 percent of Americans will tip less this holiday season; 6 percent plan to tip more. Twenty-six percent of service employees expect to receive less in tips this holiday season than they did during last year's holiday season. The purpose of holiday tipping is to thank people for their service and support throughout the year, according to Kevin Gallegos, a vice president of Freedom Debt Relief. Various factors should be considered when making tipping decisions -- such as the relationship you enjoy with your provider, the frequency of service and the quality of care -- but according to etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, the principal one is your own budget. "Give or don't give according to your budget," Gottsman says. "Your budget and good common sense should direct you. You have to provide for yourself and your family first." Gallegos agrees. "It is more important to maintain your financial security than to out-tip the Joneses or blindly follow a neighbor or relative's advice," he says. "Never go into debt to tip or, for that matter, on any holiday spending." The recession has affected the discretionary income that most people have for things like tips, according to Constance Hoffman, owner of Social & Business Graces. "We're all in the same boat, feeling the economy to some degree that our lifestyles have had to be adjusted," she says. Though suggested amounts for holiday tipping are available online and in many publications, Hoffman reminds people that it is voluntary. "Guidelines are discretionary," she says. "You have to remember that what you give doesn't make you a good or bad person." What should a person do if he has to cut back on tipping? Gallegos notes that a small, thoughtful gift can show appreciation if tipping is outside the budget. Ideas include a batch of holiday cookies, a gift bag of personal care items, a "movie night" gift package with popcorn and a movie rental gift card, and a gift certificate to a restaurant where the recipient can take a lunch break. "Take the gift route whenever possible," Gallegos says. "Saying thank you with a batch of cookies, if that is all that your budget allows, still conveys your thoughts. The most important element is to let your caregivers know you appreciate their work." If you do have tipping in the budget this year, adding a personalized note of appreciation to the check can go a long way in expressing thanks for a year's worth of service. "You don't always have to give a big check. Some people will make a big deal that the amount of the check is lower than usual. This only makes it worse," says Hoffman, author of the booklet "Tips on Tipping." "Deliver it with a smile and sincerity. Don't go into a big explanation about your financial situation." When it comes to holiday tipping, there are two occupations -- mail carriers and teachers -- that raise the most questions. Though mail carriers are prohibited from accepting cash gifts of $20 or more, many people like to remember them at the holidays. A gift card to a coffee shop or a small box of candy accompanied by a card or note is appropriate. Remembering teachers at the holidays can be even trickier, especially if the school district discourages the practice. "Your child's teacher should receive a gift rather than cash -- and then only if the school allows teachers to accept gifts. A handmade card from a young student is especially heartwarming to receive," says Kathie Martin, president of The Etiquette School of Birmingham. Gottsman, the author of "Pearls of Polish," suggests that people put aside money during the year for holiday tipping. "Make a list of whom you tipped and how much each one received. Once you have this figured out, you can start putting aside a few dollars each payday or month for tips," she says. "When the holidays come again, you are ready." Here are some guidelines for holiday tipping from several sources, including Freedom Debt Relief: --Hairstylist: The cost of one hairstyling session. If you tip generously all year, a gift is appropriate. --Baby sitter: One evening's or one day's pay, plus a small gift from the child. --Nanny: One week's to one month's pay, depending upon how long he/she has cared for the children. --Newspaper carrier: $10 or more, depending upon the quality of service. --Housecleaner: One day's pay or a larger tip if he/she has worked for you for several years. --Lawn service: $20-$50 per worker. The lower amount is appropriate if they care for your lawn only during the summer. --Trash and recycling collectors: Check first with the public works department to see whether gratuities are permitted. If so, $10-$30 per worker. --Manicurist, personal trainer or message therapist: The equivalent of one visit. --Doorman: $15-$80. Tenants might consider combining all their money into one large tip. --Apartment superintendent: This varies according to geographic area, $25 in a small town to $100 or more in a large city. --Teacher's aide: A gift card to a favorite store or coffee shop, along with a heartfelt note from the child.COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM

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