Year-end gifts are confusing. You want to thank the various teachers, babysitters, garbage men, coaches, and the rest of the army of citizens that help keep your family’s life running. But you also want to give the right kind of thank you — because you sure as hell don’t want your calls go “unanswered” by the plumber when the pipes freeze or your garbage pails to be tossed angrily towards the far end of the curb for the remainder of the year. What’s the right way to go about it?
New York-based relationship and etiquette expert April Masini and Daniel Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute know. The 2 experts offered some advice for deciding who to tip, how to best go about the process of tipping, and the best amount to give.
Know Who Needs A Tip
Take a moment to think about all the people who help you on a daily basis, from piano teachers to plumbers, and list them out. Ask yourself: Who means the most to you? Who would you really love to tip? Who did you call on a lot this year? And write ’em down. Otherwise you’re likely to forget a number of important folks — and blow your budget. “You don’t want to give everything to one person and then stiff the other 4 people who help you,” says Senning.
Consider Your Budget
Your tipping decisions need to be practical, as there’s no sense on spending the month’s rent on holiday tips. Once you take a look at the list, you can figure out what you’re able to give — and spend — on whom. There’s nothing that says a cash gift needs to be extravagant. And for non-cash gifts, a box of homemade cookies or that famous spice rub of yours work wonders too.
Make It Personal
This process is more like holiday thanking not tipping. And you want to ensure the recipient understand that it’s not just a by-the-numbers gift but an act of thanks for a specific reason. “Personalize the tip by offering an explanation for why you’re giving,” says Senning. Your consideration will go a long way towards ensuring the electrician doesn’t “miss your call” when the circuit breaker goes out.
Do It At The Right Time
Hand out your envelopes (and, yes, there should be envelopes, not just sweaty wads of cash) — during the Holiday season. Doing it after New Year’s doesn’t help others with holiday spending or seem like anything other than an afterthought.
With this in mind, here are some people commonly included with some suggestions from Masini and Senning on what to give.
How Much To Tip This Holiday Season
Live-In Nanny/Au Pair: A week’s salary.
Daycare Staff: Chip in with other parents who are going to give a gift; otherwise, a $25-to-$70 gift for each staff member who works with your children is the norm. Just remember to check the program’s policies for guidelines
Teachers: Team up with the other parents and purchase a joint gift. You don’t want to give the impression you’re trying to buy favor.
Coach/Trainer: For your kid’s coach, a personal gift works well. Otherwise, go in with the other parents for a monetary gift. For a personal trainer or other instructor, the cost of 1 session is appropriate.
Babysitter: Tip her the amount you normally pay her for a parent’s night out.
The Housekeeper: Rule of thumb is the cost of a single visit.
Your Barber: Do you tip regularly? Then there’s no need to offer a holiday offering. If you’re afraid the barber might be extra-snippy (get it?) without one, the cost of a single cut works. This also applies for folk like massage therapists, your favorite barista, and other tip-heavy occupations.
Postal Worker: A small gift not exceeding $20 in value (cash and gift cards are prohibited by the USPS). For UPS/FedEx only tip if you receive packages on the reg. And if you do, then $15-$20 is totally fine.
Doorman/Superintendent: $20 to $100 depending on the building and your relationship with them.
Trash Collector: Double check the city/town regulations here. If tipping is allowed, a gift worth $15-$25 normally gets the job done.
Dog Walker: A week’s pay is the norm. But a personalized gift works well here, too.
Your Kid’s Pediatrician/Dermatologist/ Etc.: Make extra-frequent visits this year? Come by with a plate of cookies or a fruit basket that can be shared with the entire staff. It’s best to check the institution’s policies for guidelines — and to steer the fruit clear of the kid with the un-wiped nose while you’re there.