Holiday Tipping Tip Sheet

Smart Buying

Holiday Tipping Tip Sheet

Find out exactly how much you should tip your letter carrier, babysitter, hairstylist and other service providers at the end of the year.

Finding just the right holiday gift for friends and family can be stressful. Add the question of whom to tip and how much, and you may be ready to throw up your hands in despair. We’ve tried to simplify the process. Below we list ten people in your life you might like to thank for the solid service they provided you with throughout the year, along with suggestions of what exactly to give them.

TAKE OUR QUIZ: Who Should You Tip for the Holidays?

You don’t need to tip everyone we name. Consider giving to those people who have provided exemplary service during the year. And the amounts we list are merely suggestions. You should bear in mind your particular circumstances and the relationship you have with each individual. Make sure you give only what you can afford.

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If your budget does not permit tips or gifts this season, Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post suggests writing a note, thanking the individual for his or her service and explaining that you are not tipping because of your circumstances, not because of a lack of good service. If you are able, business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey suggests that you give a little more generously this year since so many people are still coping with financial stress. For more information, see What You Need to Know About Tipping.


Note: It’s nicer to hand the recipient a card or envelope with the cash or check inside instead of the cash or check by itself.

Baby Sitter

One to two nights' pay is about right for a baby sitter you’ve used frequently throughout the year or for last-minute emergencies, says Ramsey. For a nanny or au pair, consider giving one week’s pay and a small gift from the child. A day-care provider might deserve $25 to $70.

Cleaning Person

The cost of one visit is considered fitting if he or she visits weekly or biweekly, says protocol adviser Rosanne Thomas. Increase the amount for someone who works more often. If you use a cleaning service that works as a team, a box of candy for the team is customary.


Dog Walker

Tip your regular dog walker up to a week's pay. Or you can substitute a gift for a cash tip, according to the Emily Post Institute. If you bring your pet to the same person year-round for grooming, you might consider tipping half the cost of a session or giving a gift, says Ramsey.


The normal cost of a visit would be a nice tip for a stylist you see regularly. If you don’t require as much attention from your stylist or barber, you may prefer to give about $20 as a tip during your December visit.


Letter Carrier

The U.S. Postal Service forbids mail carriers from accepting cash, and says gifts must be under $20 in value. A gift card or a basket of fruit, nuts or chocolates that could serve as an off-duty snack is acceptable. A glowing letter to a supervisor praising a carrier who was undeterred by snow, rain, heat or gloom of night may mean even more than a gift, says Peggy Post, author of Excuse Me, but I Was Next.

Newspaper Delivery Person

Consider giving $10 to $30, unless you tip regularly throughout the year. Then, you can give a smaller gift of a few dollars.


Nursing Home Worker

A personal gift such as homemade cookies or fudge is a good way to thank someone who has been exceptionally kind and attentive. Check the policy at the facility. Workers may be tipped through a fund that is run by the central administrator. Some facilities ban gifts and tips.

Personal Trainer

If you have an ongoing relationship with the professional and feel you have received above-average service, a tip of $50 or up to the cost of a session would be a nice thank-you around the holidays.


For your child's teacher, consider giving a small gift, accompanied by a note or drawing by your child but check first with your school on its policy. If gifts are forbidden, a note of appreciation is always appropriate.

Trash Collectors

You should tip each of your trash or recycling collectors $10 to $30. You can hand them the envelope directly when they make their rounds during holiday season. But first check on the rules for your municipality. Some jurisdictions forbid workers from accepting cash.

Editor's note: This story, first published in the November 2006 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, has been updated to provide you with fresh, new guidelines.