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Holiday Tipping: Who (and How Much) Should You Be Tipping?

While holiday tipping may not be obligatory, it's certainly a nice gesture to show you care. Take out the guesswork of how much to give with these pointers.

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money for a tip rolled up with a red holiday bow on wood backgroundCatLane/Getty Images

Who should get a holiday tip?

Those who help you the most from day to day should be at the top of your list, says Sharon Schweitzer, the founder of Access to Culture. This could be anyone from a nanny to a housekeeper to a hairstylist. These are the individuals who work really hard to make your life more convenient and they deserve to be recognized. During the holiday season, keep in mind these polite responses to the most awkward holiday encounters.

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Hair-stylistRoman Kosolapov/Shutterstock


Holiday tip: $20 or 15 to 20 percent of the bill.

You don’t want to mess with this tip—you are literally putting your hair in this person’s hands. Stylists work hard to make you look good, so your tip to them should mirror that. If you do decide to tip, holiday tipping etiquette suggests that the equivalent of a visit, or at least twice your regular tip (15 to 20 percent of the bill), is good. According to Consumer Reports, the median cash gift to hairdressers is $20. Your gift also depends on how long you’ve been going to your stylist. If it has been five years or longer, the gift should probably be more personal and tailored to them. Find out the 32 secrets your hairstylist won’t tell you.

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HousekeeperDean Drobot/Shutterstock


Holiday tip: $50 to $60 or one day’s pay

The person who scrubs your toilet and makes your kitchen sink sparkle definitely deserves a holiday treat. Gift bags and gift cards are always appreciated, but if you know your housekeeper could use the extra money, then go for the tip. For a housekeeper that comes in once a week, the equivalent of a day’s pay or $50 is ideal. You might want to dole out a little more though since the median holiday tip, per the Consumer Reports survey, is $65. If you travel often, remember to tip the housekeeping staff this much.

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FitnessJacob Lund/Shutterstock

Fitness instructor

Holiday tip: The price of one session 

This person helps whip you into shape and showing thanks is always a nice gesture. An acceptable holiday tip is equivalent to the price of one session, or if you see your fitness instructor multiple times a week, a more substantial gift works too. You can always be cute with this gift and get them some gear you know they’ll love and get good use out of, such as a gym bag or athletic wear. Use our ultimate gift guide to find the right present for your fitness instructor and everyone else on your list.

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Holiday tip: $50 to $100

As the doorman (or woman) opens the door for you daily, helps you hail cabs, and holds your packages for you, a holiday tip is well-deserved. There’s typically a standard amount to tip depending on your building, city, location, and if you’re living in a rental or co-op. If you’re not sure how much to give, feel free to check with neighbors and give cash or a gift card of equal value. A safe general budget range is also $50 to $100, depending on extra duties. Also make sure you’re not giving any of these gifts that send the wrong message.

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Building superintendent

Holiday tip: $50 to $100

The same holiday tipping etiquette “guidelines” for a doorman hold true for a building’s superintendent. This person is on call 24 hours of the day and is willing to drop what they’re doing to help you out with your apartment needs—think leaky faucet, blown air conditioning, faulty security system, etc. A tip between $50 to $100 is in order. Beyond the holidays, here’s our tipping guide for all year round.

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TeacherMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Your child’s teacher

Holiday tip: Communal gift or something from your child

This is a perfect opportunity to let the child help contribute to their teacher’s gift. A handwritten note from your child, along with a stress-relief basket or spa treatment, is a perfect way to show your appreciation—especially if you know your child can be a little challenging during the school day. Another option is getting the parents in the class to pool money together for one big communal gift. Check out our list of thoughtful gifts for teachers.

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BabysitterRoman Yuklyaevsky/Shutterstock


Holiday tip: The price of one session

Babysitters who you call upon from time to time should receive the equivalent of an evening’s earnings. Full-time nannies, on the other hand, should be given a “holiday bonus” that is the equivalent of one week’s pay. Here’s how to find a babysitter you can trust.

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GarageAndrey Popov/Shutterstock

Garage attendant

Holiday tip: $15 to $40

This is someone you see every morning before work and every evening when you leave the office, so they’re certainly a presence in your life. A tip between $15 to $40 should work.

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Dog walker enjoying with dogs while walking outdoors.hedgehog94/Shutterstock

Dog walkers and pet groomers

Holiday tip: One walk’s pay 

An appropriate amount for a dog walker or pet groomer is equal to one session’s fee, or you can consider a gift equivalent, according to Lisa Grotts, etiquette expert and author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. Grotts also recommends keeping a list of your holiday tips for future reference. That way, you can refer to it annually. If you prefer the gift idea, consider one of these 101 Christmas gift ideas for people who are impossible to shop for.

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When in doubt, ask

Some businesses have tipping and gift-receiving policies—business ethics prevent government employees from receiving any holiday tipping (although mail carriers are allowed to accept gifts and tips under $20)—so if you have any reservations, holiday tipping etiquette is to ask about policies. If the business has a front desk, you can call to ask about their policy. Or, if you have a more informal relationship with one of your providers, the safest choice is to give a modest tip or small gift. Speaking of business, here are some essential holiday party etiquette tips.

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General holiday tipping advice

Holiday tipping etiquette suggests that those who land at the top of your list should receive a little more. And those providing continuous services should be at the top of your list, according to Grotts. Schweitzer suggests giving anywhere between half to a full week’s pay, while those you see less can get a little less, around $10 to $40. But this also all depends on your holiday budget and how much you’re able to give during the holidays. If you’re working within a budget, here’s how to cut down on the holiday spending.

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Chocolate-chip-cookiesRegan Baroni/Shutterstock

What about alternative gifts?

Holiday tipping can also mean giving a gift. “Local artisan candles or soaps, fine tea or coffee, and flower arrangements are excellent alternatives to monetary tips,” says Schweitzer. And there’s always the option of getting creative and hand-making a gift. You can explore a craft store for materials for a heartfelt handmade card or bake a plate of goodies, like peppermint cookies or baklava. We know gift-giving can be tricky, so here are some gifting etiquette tips to make it a little easier.

Amari D. Pollard
Amari D. Pollard is a writer and audience development strategist. She is currently a Roy H. Park Fellow at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and previously worked as the Head of Audience Development at The Week. Her writing focuses on politics, culture, relationships, and health. In addition to Reader’s Digest she has been published at The Week, Bustle, PopSugar, Inside Lacrosse, and more. She has a B.A. in Communications from Le Moyne College.

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