How much and whom you give holiday tips to can depend on the quality and frequency of the service, and how long you've known the individual, plus the strength of that relationship. It's easy to remember to tip the people you see face-to-face, like your barber, but don't forget the people who do things all year long who you may not see—the newspaper delivery person, say.
This year, 62 percent of those surveyed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, said they tipped at least one of 15 common service providers we asked about. Some common points on tipping to keep in mind:
- If you choose to give cash or a check, one week's pay or the cost of one session is appropriate. For example, if you pay your dog walker $75 a week, give them a $75 tip or a non-cash gift of similar value.
- If you regularly tip a service provider like a hairdresser, then adding a small gift or card is a good way to make it special for the holidays. A small gift—scented candles, fancy soaps or baked goods—could be appropriate. Just be sure you won't trigger an allergic reaction or violate other personal diet restrictions.
- Know some of the boss's rules. For example, mail carriers can't accept cash and gift cards must be worth $20 or less—and not eligible for cash exchange. Be cautious of giving gift cards, in general, because of fees or expiration dates. And store-specific cards become useless if the retailer goes out of business.
- If you give cash to a teacher, it could be misconstrued as a bribe. Instead, try movie-ticket coupons or something similar, or join other parents and pool resources toward something like a gift certificate for a local shop.
Some no-extra-cost tips:
- Crisp new bills from the bank will seem more special than wrinkly old ones out of your wallet.
- A handwritten note is nice too.
- And if possible, try to deliver your tip in person.
Our last annual tipping survey showed that many service providers don't get a holiday tip at all. Thirty five percent of women and 41 percent of men said they didn't tip any of the providers on our list. The least commonly-tipped was sanitation workers (only 12 percent of those who used their services tipped), followed by mail carriers and fitness trainers, which were tied (21 percent each). The most tipped was child-care providers (61 percent), followed by housekeepers (59 percent) and then teachers (48 percent).
If your budget is tight, and you just can't afford it, hand-write a note of thanks, because something is always better than nothing. For more advice, see Tips for holiday tipping.
And for some savvy shopping tips, check out our holiday-shopping guide.