Holiday Tipping Etiquette and Guide

When I was running my website Gifts and Etiquette and working as an etiquette expert for national brands, the most common questions I got while doing media interviews were these two:

  • Who are the people I need to tip?
  • How much should tip?

That’s why, when I wrote an etiquette book years ago, I created a guide for holiday tipping. This is advice that I continue to update each year. Let me break it out for you.

Different tipping situations during the holiday season

When it comes to different holiday tipping situations, it all depends on what you do for a living and where you live. For example, those living in large cities or in apartment buildings will want to tip their doorman or building super. Holiday tipping in NYC is very different from 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? FYI, this article on teacher gifts might answer all of your questions.

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 etiquette for tipping a pet groomer? Or your dog walker or dog sitter?

Suffering from tipping fatigue? You’re not alone.

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. Much of this advice originated in my book The Everything Etiquette Book.

Finally, I cover 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

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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 given 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.

FedEx tipping policy

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 graciously accept.

UPS tipping policy

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.

USPS tipping policy

On the other hand the United States Postal Service aka USPS aka the post office aka mail carrier does have holiday tipping guidelines. They would prefer that you not give cash but rather gift cards. And when giving a gift card, keep it under $20. By the way, USPS has not updated this tipping policy since 2012.

Holiday tipping for apartment building staff

Not everyone needs to worry about holiday tipping and apartment building staff. But if you do live in 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. Or, if your build has a concierge. It’s all the same.

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 how much 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.

Garage attendant

If you live in a building with a doorman, then if you have a car, you may have a garage where you park it. In that case, please be generous with the garage attendant or attendants there that you see on a regular basis.

Pro tip: when tipping a garage attendant in general when parking your car — during the holidays or at another time of the year — tip when you drop off your car and when you pick it up. There’s a good chance that the person who parked your car may not be the person who brings it back to you.

How much to tip a cleaning lady or housekeeper

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 bring 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.

Hopefully, this all explains the logic behind the holiday bonus for a house cleaner.

Xmas 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. TL;DR: if I get my legs waxed in December, I’ll double my normal tip to follow my practice described above.

holiday tipping barber hair stylist

Massage therapist tipping

I treat tipping for a massage in November or December the way I do my hair stylist. If I’m seeing this person for an appointment around Christmas or New Year’s, then I’ll give them a one-time double tip.

Nail technician/manicurist

I’m going to sound like a broken record here. Because once again I’ll recommend that you double your regular tip for the nail technician or manicurist that you see. This would apply regardless of how often you see them, in my opinion. Got an appointment in December? Expect to give a 40% tip versus the standard 20%.

Pet caregivers

As far as how much to tip a 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.

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. We pay our dog walker $30 per walk. For one walk in December, I’ll give her $60.

Tipping at Christmas for your personal trainer

If you’re working one-on-one with someone for your personal health and fitness, then you should probably add that person to your Christmas tipping list. For example, do you have a personal trainer or are doing private classes with an instructor?

I have this situation with a local Pilates studio. I take private lessons from time to time as I learn how to use the Pilates reformer. While I don’t tip them when I’m there — I pay online ahead of time — I might bring them a small gift of appreciation at the holidays versus handing them cash. It could be the same for your personal trainer or yoga instructor, especially if you’ve developed a rapport with them over the past 12 months.

Tipping a service provider in cash vs on a credit card

If you use your credit card to pay for any of the services mentioned above, you may be tempted to put that extra tip on your credit card. Don’t. Someone who worked in a salon once told me that when you put tips on a credit card, two things happen — and not to the benefit of the recipient.

One, they don’t receive that tip until they get a paycheck. In other words, the tip is added to their regular pay. And, because of this practice, two, that tip ends up getting taxed. So in the end, the person is getting less money from you than perhaps you wanted.

Therefore, make it a practice of visiting an ATM before an appointment so you can hand them cash. This applies all year long, not just at Christmas.

Alternatively, perhaps you can get their Venmo info to send a tip that way. A salon I used once provided Venmo info for their hair stylists so you could tip without worrying about having cash on you. They implemented this practice in 2020, once we were all taking extra steps to keep things sanitary. Do you know how dirty money is?

How much to tip 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.

Newspaper delivery person

Do you still get a daily newspaper delivered? I know that seems really old school. However, there are plenty of people who like to read a physical copy of the newspaper with their morning coffee. And when I walk my dogs each morning, I’ll see those bagged newspapers on people’s front walks.

How did those newspapers get there? A newspaper delivery person.

Like the trash collectors, they may be invisible to you. You wake up in the morning, and the paper is there, like magic, every day. However, it would be a nice gesture to give them a tip at Christmas, too. Call the paper you subscribe to and find out how you can get that tip to the newspaper delivery person that services your street. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

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 an 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.

Other caregivers in your life

Besides a nanny, you may have other personal health caregivers in your life. For instance, do you have aging parents? Is there someone coming into their home on a regular basis to help take care of them? Then add that person to your list.

In healthcare situations, it may feel awkward to give cash. So, I would recommend treating them to a gift card for dinner out or to the local coffee shop.

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.

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

Restaurant gift cards in lieu of cash tipping at Christmas

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 in 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.