Holiday tipping and gift giving guide

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My husband and I tip well throughout the year so I don’t feel obligated to tip extra during the holidays. But I do like to thank those who have provided services for us, that we don’t usually tip (like our trash and recycling collectors and our mail carrier*)……*Mail carriers working for the United States Postal Service may not accept cash gifts, checks or any other form of currency.

According to a Consumer Reports Survey on holiday tipping etiquette, child-care providers, housekeepers and teachers are the three people most likely to get a tip from families during the holiday season and sanitation workers are the least likely.

Our children are out of school, we don’t have a gardener, doorman, personal trainer or housekeeper (examples of who people tip/gift during the holidays), so I don’t even have to think about that. When I get my hair done, I always leave at least a 20% tip so I don’t feel the need to make a trip to the salon and leave an extra something. If I happen to get my hair done during December, I might leave a higher tip or bring in a little (inexpensive but thoughtful) gift bag. To me, tipping/gifting during the holiday season is determined on who I want to say an extra little “thank-you, we appreciate the service you’ve provided this past year” to.

For many, budgets are tight and it’s all you can do to buy gifts for your family, much less anyone else. Homemade gifts from children are acceptable for teacher gifts. Expressing gratitude with a card or note is acceptable for those who don’t have money to spare for tips/gifts. Food items you’ve made are nice and not too terribly expensive ways to say thank-you too.

I personally make my tipping/gifting decisions based on how much interaction I’ve had with someone. Here’s some examples….

When my son was young, he was “sickly” and we were at the pediatrician’s office every week it seemed. The office staff would call me at home to check on him, they’d work us in on days we really needed to be seen and they were a comfort to my son and me….I always brought in a big platter of cookies, breads or even a luncheon for the staff during the holidays. Now we see a doctor once a year or so, and I don’t gift during the holidays.

When my son was in elementary school, there was a cross guard we got to know and saw every day for years, and I always made a gift basket for her during the holidays.

Throughout the year when we have service people, delivery people or someone at a store that provides, what I think is above and beyond the expected service, I write a note and send it to the company, expressing what a great job they did….

We have excellent service with our trash collectors (Best Way) during the year. We have a long, uphill driveway and a lot of times in bad weather, they will bring our trash bins up the driveway for me…they don’t have to but they do. And I appreciate it. Typically I’ll make up a bag of homemade goodies for them, with a note and a $5 gift card to Starbucks or McDonald’s or something like that. (I give homemade goodies to our mail carrier too.)

Dollar stores are great places to find small, inexpensive gifts you can use too.

Tipping or gifting isn’t mandatory and you shouldn’t go in debt to do so. If you have the resources to tip, then do so. If the budget is tight, write a thank-you note or make up a batch of homemade goodies. Think of your situation, who provides exceptional service and base your decisions on who to give to on that.

Here’s a couple of guides on what some etiquette professionals think on the subject…

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