Here's how to get your gratuity etiquette straight.
It's that time of year when everyone's stressed about shopping, cooking and fitting extra social events into a packed calendar. Even so, there's one more thing you may not want to forget: holiday tipping. It's a way to show appreciation for the positive difference that many people—from hairdressers to nannies—can make in our lives.
That said, it's impossible to tip everyone. "There is a prioritization that needs to happen," says etiquette expert Lisa Orr. "If we had to thank every single person that we interact with, we'd all be broke." So tip the people who really matter and skip the rest. Here's a quick reminder of the people you might want to tip and how much money is appropriate.
1. The personal service providers (hairdressers, aestheticians, personal trainers, dog walkers, tutors)
For an expensive service, such as a cut-and-colour appointment that costs upwards of $100, Orr recommends doubling the regular tip you would have left. So if you normally leave 15 percent, make it 30 percent for the appointment near the holidays. For services that cost less money, like $25 for a one-hour dog walk, tip one visit or unit of service. If you only book the very occasional appointment—say a haircut once a year, or a personal training session every couple months—you may feel that your relationship is insubstantial enough to forego an additional gratuity. That said, holiday tipping in the hairstyling industry in particular is common practice, and "the more culturally normal it is for people to tip, the more difficult it is if you don't," says Orr.
2. The employees (nannies, housekeepers, groundskeepers, babysitters)
Have people on the payroll at your home? You definitely want to provide a cash gift around the holidays, although with employees it falls more into bonus territory. "Typically, the holiday bonus is one week of salary," says Orr. "Different people have different approaches, but that's a fairly common practice." When it comes to babysitters, one night's pay is sufficient.
3. The professional service providers (teachers, accountants, doctors)
For this category, a token gift is most appropriate—somewhere in the range of $20 to $30. Orr suggests purchasing a gift card so the individual has the opportunity to choose something they need or want.
4. The building staff (cleaners, concierges, superintendents)
For staff members that work in your condo or apartment building, consider giving a tip in the range of $20 or $30. Focus on the people who have put in extra effort for you throughout the year, but you may even wish to tip staff if you think you'll need their assistance in the future. "That way you'll build a relationship in case you ever have a package or a situation where you need their help," says Orr.
Since holiday tipping is supposed to be a special way to say "extra thanks," Orr recommends including a handwritten card with the reasons you appreciate the person's work. "If you can't write that note, then they probably don't need to be on your list," she says. Orr also suggests wrapping the present—even if it's cash—in festive paper or a gift bag. "Think about receiving it," she says. "If I gave someone an envelope and said "Here," or if I gave a pretty package with a note that said "Thank you," the difference for the recipient is dramatic."
But remember, these are just guidelines. You're never obligated to tip anyone, and if your budget won't allow for it this year, you can always write a nice thank-you note instead.