Holiday Tipping Guide


Looking for a holiday tipping guide for this year? Wondering about holiday tipping, including whom to tip and how much? You’re not alone.

Just about when Thanksgiving rolls around, holiday tipping usually becomes top of most American’s minds. It’s no wonder that so many people find themselves asking “Can you name someone you tip around the holidays?” And the answer is, it depends.

It depends on where you are in your personal and professional life. And it depends on where you live.

Different holiday tipping situations

For example, those living in large cities or in apartment buildings will want a doorman tipping guide or how much to tip the building super. Holiday tipping in NYC is very different than holiday tipping in rural or suburban America.

If you have young children, you may be wondering about tipping daycare providers. Or, if you have a nanny or babysitter, not so much about if you tip them or not, but a nanny bonus at Christmas. Do you have to give one? If so, how much do you give?

Finally, if you have pets, there are additional people you may need to think about remembering with your holiday tipping. For example, what is the dog groom tipping etiquette? 

Of course, with this past year came lots of changes to our day-to-day lifestyle, which may affect this guide for holiday tipping this year.

For example, if you were working from home, maybe you weren’t using a dog walker this year. I’ve updated this advice to reflect the unique nature of our current times.

Easy to understand holiday tipping guide for this year

If you’ve been wondering how much do I tip at the holidays, don’t stress: I’ve put together an easy-to-understand list of holiday tipping etiquette in this holiday tipping guide, based on the most common people you’re likely to tip at the holidays.

I have broken out each tip situation by paragraph. I hope this helps you figure out which people to tip this year and how much to give.

Please make sure you scroll all the way down to the end of this article. There I’ve posted alternatives to giving cash tips at the year-end holidays. This includes gift card ideas and ways to save money on gift cards. Now onto the holiday tipping guide for this year.

Mail and package delivery holiday tipping

There are a number of people/companies that deliver mail and packages and which you should consider including in your holiday tipping. This includes the United States Postal Service, UPS and FedEx.

In my personal experience I’ve give between $10 and $20 for each. Many times this will come in the form of a gift card. That being said, it’s important to remember that many of these companies have their own guidelines on what their drivers can and cannot accept. 

For example, while there is no formal FedEx tipping policy, here’s what I’ve heard. The company discourages drivers from accepting tips or gifts.

However, the company also doesn’t want to disappoint customers who may be insistent on giving a tip or gift at the holiday time. So if you insist, the driver should gracious accept.

If you’re wondering, “Do you tip UPS at the holidays,” the answer is, yes. If you see your UPS driver regularly. UPS does not have an official policy banning or welcoming holiday tipping.

On the other the Unites States Postal Service aka USPS aka the post office aka mail carrier does have holiday tipping guidelines. The would prefer that you not give cash but rather gift cards. And when giving a gift card, keep it under $20.

Holiday tipping for apartment building staff

Not everyone needs to worry about holiday tipping and an apartment building staff. But if you do live an apartment, there are some people you’ll need to include on your list. This should answer you questions on how much to tip building staff.

So, for example, a holiday tipping guide for NYC, would include a doorman–if you’re lucky to have one–the building superintendent or super and any maintenance staff you see/interact with on a regular basis. The same would be true if you own a business that rents space and have a similar crew of people who provide services for you.

As far as what to tip this kind of staff, you really shouldn’t be stingy–especially if you see or interact with these folks on a regular basis. In a high-income metropolis like NYC or Chicago, I might suggest $50 to $100 per person.

Yes, ouch, I know that’s a lot. So a doorman holiday tip could add up if your building has multiple doormen. If you live somewhere less expensive, maybe $25 to $50 per person.

How much to tip the cleaning lady

Holiday tipping and a cleaning crew is pretty standard. You give them an extra day’s pay as their tip.

So let’s say you have a cleaner come to your house every other week and they charge you $150 to clean your whole house. Sometime in December you should pay them $300 for one of the cleanings.

If they brings other people along, it’s up to them to divide that extra $150 amongst their crew. You do not have to give $150 extra to each person.

However, you may not have had your cleaning person into your home for quite a few months, given everything that’s going on. If you can swing it, it would be nice to send a holiday tip anyway.

Holiday tip for hair stylist

When it comes to holiday tipping for your hair stylist, consider this: at the holidays, double what you normally tip this person.

So, if like me, you normally give 20% of the total, in December give 40%. The same is true for a manicurist, massage therapist, waxer or any other personal service person you see on a regular basis–assuming you’ve been going on a regular basis.

This article on leg waxing explains my tipping strategy.

holiday tipping barber hair stylist

Pet sitter tipping etiquette

The etiquette of tipping your pet sitter is the same as for your dog walker, should you have one. Give them an extra day’s or session’s pay. 

As far as how much to tip dog groomer at Christmas? Well, take a page from your human “groomer” aka your hair stylist or barber. Double what you normally tip as your holiday tipping.

Tips for trash collector

When it comes to tipping your trash collector or garbage person or recycling service, it really depends on the region where you live, I believe. I say that as someone who lives in many different states over the past few decades. 

Within or near major metropolitan areas, I’ve found that tips for your trash collector are expected. As such they’ll usually toss a plastic baggie with a “thank you card from your trash collector” on your driveway.

This way you’ll know their names if you want to leave them a tip. I would normally duct tape the envelope containing my tip to the trash can.

In other places trash collection is provided by your town, city or municipality. As such there may be rules against giving a tip to a public servant. Call city hall and ask. 

Finally, in rural locales it seems to be nearly impossible to find a good way to tip the trash and recycling people. They often come in the wee hours of the morning when, even if you taped an envelope to the trash can, they might not see it. 

Despite the challenges of tipping based on where you live, when in doubt, give $10 to $20 per person on the truck. I would rather err on the side of tipping than ignoring it all together. 

Remember: trash collectors have become part of the essential worker community. It didn’t matter what was going on in the world–trash and recycling still needed to be picked up.

Nanny bonus at Christmas

When I say nanny bonus at Christmas, this applies to the babysitter, nanny or other employee you’ve hired to watch your children. And when I say at Christmas, I mean generically for the end of the year. Basically, you need to recognize your child care at the holidays.

Most people agree that extra day or week’s pay (based on how you pay the person), plus a gift(s) from your child/children is the best way to give your nanny a bonus at Christmas. You could also give him or her a gift card for a local restaurant or other business. This way you can support a small business, too.

Holiday tipping and classroom teachers

When it comes to classroom teachers and holiday tipping, you’re not really thinking about tips as you are gift ideas. Overall, avoid apple-themed anything or world’s greatest teacher mugs. Gift cards are always a great idea.

For creative and unique teacher gift ideas, please check out my blog post called Clever Teacher Gift Ideas. However, this year, I’ve had to update that advice to reflect the fact that many students may not be seeing their teachers in person. I mean, how do you give a bona fide gift in a virtual school doing remote learning?

holiday tipping and teacher gifts

Holiday tipping without cash

Sometimes you don’t want to hand out cash as a holiday tip. In fact, in certain situations–like a daycare or classroom settings–giving cash might seem completely inappropriate. It is in these situations that I recommend turning to gift cards and the following gift card tipping etiquette.

Of course, if you prefer to hand out gift cards over cash, you can usually earn free gift cards when you buy gift cards at the holidays, thus saving you money in the process. You can also cash in–pun intended–points from a credit card to get free gift cards. This is an option our family often uses.

gift cards for holiday tipping etiquette

Gift card marketplaces

You can also turn to gift card marketplaces. Here are two to consider. is a gift card marketplace. You can buy physical gift cards to many national brands. You can also buy virtual gift cards. Either way, offers gift cards conveniently and at a savings.

Restaurant gift cards in lieu of cash tipping

I love the idea of giving restaurant gift cards instead of cash. This way the recipient can treat themselves to a meal on you! Plus, by buying gift cards to local restaurants, you help support a business that may not be seeing 100% of its regular customers dining there right now.

One way to get gift cards to local restaurants is to go through Right now, you’ll only spend $10 for a $25 certificate at a local restaurant!

Waited until the last minute? Here are some great last minute gift ideas.

Final thoughts on holiday tipping for this year

When it doubt, give someone a tip. I know that times might be tight, but that’s all the more reason to give tips this year. If you can afford to hire someone to walk your dog or get your hair done in a salon, then you can afford to tip those service people at the holidays.

Here is an oldie but goodie post on holiday shopping on a shoestring.

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One Comment

  1. I always tip my barber more in the month of December out of habit even though I get the same haircut every month or so. I also like to tip my dogs groomer a little more in December even though he just gets a simple bath for the Holidays compared to a shave (haircut) during the hotter months (i.e. June, July).

    Having worked a service industry job (in the past) where tipping was possible, I always appreciated the tips I received, but never expected them.