Christmas stocking with moneyI get it: by the time you’ve finished your holiday shopping and dropped major cash on all of the parties, shows, and a few new festive wardrobe items (caught ya!) tipping well is the last thing on your mind. But this time of year, it’s even more important to show gratitude for those whom you come into contact regularly. Just remember: the key word is “gratitude,” not “excess.” It’s all in the delivery! Here’s who you should tip — and how much:
  • Personal employees: If you have a housekeeper, nanny, personal trainer, dog-walker, or any other person who is regularly working in your home, they come first. The custom is to tip them a day’s wages, but I also like the idea of giving them an extra day off if you can manage (after all, they probably have holiday shopping of their own to tackle!). If you do go the cash route, tuck it inside a festive card with a thoughtful note from the whole family. Gift cards are also a nice gesture, but unless you know their tastes, keep it generic (Visa or Target gift cards are usually a safe bet).
  • Doorman and superintendent: If you live in an apartment building or condo complex, your doorman and superintendent are the next group of people with whom you probably have the most day-to-day contact. Tipping varies wildly by region, just as rent does, so asking your neighbors (especially those who have lived in the building for a while) is a good way to start. If you’re still not sure, calculate 5% of your monthly rent and offer that as a cash tip. Homemade gifts like cookies and candy are also a nice reminder that you appreciate the work they do for your home.
  • Mail Carrier: You may not see him or her every day, but your mail carrier is probably the busiest person you know this time of year. Just remember that U.S. Postal Service regulations prohibit them from collecting a tip or gift worth more than $25. A small cash tip left inside a holiday card is fine, and how nice for them to open your mailbox only to find something addressed to them! Otherwise leaving out brownies, candy canes, and other treats is always appreciated.
  • Teachers: Don’t tip your teacher (or your child’s). Just don’t. It’s inappropriate for someone who is so intimately involved with your or your child’s development and could even be seen as a bribe. Instead, opt for a small, thoughtful gift like a wall calendar or plant for the classroom. And remember to keep it secular, especially if the teacher works at a public school. If you or your child has more than one teacher, it’s completely acceptable to award only those who have had a particular impact or with which you have formed a closer connection.
  • Beauty Squad: If you’re like many women, you’re probably going to see your hairdresser, nail technician, and other beauty experts during the holidays; after all, a gal’s gotta look good for the annual holiday card photo! So there’s no need to seek them out for a tip; just tack on an extra 5% to what you usually tip at your next appointment. You can adjust this amount based on how often you see them: if you only get your hair cut twice per year, an extra 3% is totally understandable. But if you’re an “every 4 to 6 weeks” kind of gal, you may want to ramp it up to 7% or even 10% for all the time you spend in their chair.
  • Servers and Bartenders: There’s no need for more substantial tipping at restaurants and bars around the holidays, but of course if you feel compelled go right ahead. Instead, remember that this is a hectic time of year for any waitstaff, and make sure to let them know you appreciate their service (if it’s good, of course). A quick “thank you” or “happy holidays” after your signature will be welcome cheer when they collect your bill at the end of the night.

…and remember, no matter who you’re tipping or how much, it’s the delivery that counts. Always include a personal note, especially in the event that you’re giving less than usual — or can’t afford to give it all. That way your recipient will feel appreciated regardless of the dollar amount inside. And that’s what this season is all about, right??