Holiday Tipping Guide: Who, What and How Much to Tip

Holiday Tipping Guide: Who, What and How Much to Tip

The annual obligatory gift list creeps up on us every year, spurring a mid-December dash to the ATM — or, worse, a bankruptcy-inducing trip to Target. But holiday tipping doesn’t have to be stressful, and once you hit the generosity sweet spot (hint: it’s located somewhere between being a total Scrooge and bribing your way to an A on your child’s report card), it feels downright good.

There are few rules when it comes to tipping and gifting, so this guide is meant to serve only as a starting point. (Want to present your pet sitter with a brand-new Louis Vuitton? By all means, go for it.) Here, who — and what — to tip.

Can’t find the funds for thank-you gifts this year? Push the guilt aside and reach for a pen and paper. As long as it’s handwritten and heartfelt, a note is every bit as meaningful.

Hair Stylist / Aesthetician / Manicurist / Trainer

Tip: The cash equivalent of a single visit

If you’ve seen the same stylist for years, cash might feel impersonal — in which case a thoughtful gift worth about the amount of a visit is completely appropriate.


Tip: $20 gift card

Make this more personal by considering his or her interests: the neighborhood coffee shop for a night owl, movie passes for a cinephile, Ulta for a makeup junkie — you get the idea.

Home Health Care Aide

Tip: One week’s pay

If your caregiver is employed by an agency or a residential facility that frowns on cash tips, consider booking a massage to offset the physical demands of his or her work.


Tip: One week’s pay + something sweet from the kids

A framed photo is a great idea. To kick it up a notch, choose a white frame that the little ones can decorate with markers.

Doctor’s Office

Tip: A $25 gift card to a local lunch spot

A pre-paid meal from the local pizza place or sandwich shop will stand out in a sea of fruit baskets and popcorn tins.


Tip: A $20 gift card to the local coffee shop

Extra credit for including a note of thanks from your child — just be sure everything is spelled correctly. Because tutor.

Activity Instructor

Tip: A home-baked treat

Consider using cookie cutters that relate to the activity, like music notes for a piano teacher, soccer balls for a coach, etc.

Day Care Provider

Tip: $25 gift card per teacher

In our informal poll of the infant and Pre-K rooms, Target, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks came out on top.


Tip: A monetary contribution to the class gift

If you feel compelled to give more, skip the mugs and trinkets and stick with supplies: extra tissues, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes are always needed.


Tip: A home-baked treat + a handwritten note

If you don’t have a relationship with the principal, the card can come from your kiddos.

Dog Walker

Tip: One week’s pay

Assuming he or she has a pooch, throw in a bag of treats or a small toy for Fido, too.


Tip: One week’s pay

If this is someone who’s been working with you for years, consider supplementing the cash with a thoughtful gift, like flowers sent to his or her home or a bottle of his or her favorite wine.

Postal Worker

Tip: A $20 non-cash gift

The U.S. Postal Service restricts the gifts that mail carriers can accept. Cash is a no-no, but a gift worth up to $20 is A-OK.


Tip: $20 cash per worker

We live in a region where landscapers complete their work in November, so make an effort to show your appreciation when they arrive for fall cleanups.

Trash / Recycling Collector

Tip: $20 cash per worker

Rather than taping envelopes to the cans themselves — too risky — hand them to your collectors directly. Not possible? Call to the waste management company to find out their names, then send checks to the corporate office.

According to a 2019 survey, 80 percent of families plan to give holiday tips, and the top three people they plan to tip are child care providers, personal care staff (manicurist, trainer, etc.), and waiters/baristas.


Susan Pasternak has worked as a journalist for more than two decades, reporting and writing on myriad subjects ranging from national health care policy to personal finance to head lice. Her work has been published in numerous consumer and business publications. Susan lives with her husband, three children, and dog Roxy in Highland Park. She also volunteers with Working Together, a Highwood/Highland Park organization that provides enrichment opportunities to under-resourced children in the community.




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