Around this time of year, I get tons of emails from people who want to know about gratuity etiquette and how to handle holiday tips. Not only are people unsure who to tip but also they don't know how to budget for a holiday filled with tipping—especially given our current economic state.
I have a pretty simple rule that I use as my tipping guide: be prepared at the holidays to tip the service people or people you hire on a regular basis. If you work from home like I do and have regular interaction with a UPS or FedEx driver, those people should be on the receiving end of your holiday tips. Similarly, if you use a housecleaner, hire help for your aging parent, or have a hairdresser appointment in December, those folks deserve tips, too.
Now understand that when I say a guide to tipping, I don't mean just handing out cash. I mean, when I tip the trash collectors, I usually do just give them cash because it's easiest. And that aforementioned UPS or FedEx driver—I'll stock up on $5 or $10 gift cards to Starbucks or Wawa, and hand those out like cash. Why such small denominations? It's how I budget for a holiday when I am giving out lots of tips.
But the folks with whom you have a regular relationship? It's best to write them a note of appreciation first, and then slip in a bonus (in cash, check, or gift card—your call).
Yesterday morning I appeared on a local news program to offer my advice on gratuity etiquette and holiday tips. In it I offer advice on tipping building staff, babysitters, plus how to handle the etiquette of teacher gifts. (You can read my full blog post on the etiquette of teacher gifts on the Living on the Cheap website.)
You can watch the guide to tipping segment online.