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The 2019 Guide to Holiday Tipping and Gifting

holidaytipChristmas tunes are playing on the radio, you took advantage of the Black Friday super-sales and you gave generously on Giving Tuesday …. so what’s next on your holiday list? Tips … and all the questions surrounding them. What are you tipping the trash guys? Are you allowed to give a cash gift to the mail carrier? If you get your hair highlighted right before Christmas, should you give more than the usual tip?”

Why do we tip? Some people tip and gift simply because it brings them joy. Others say they want to show appreciation for those who make their life easier or better while some tip out of obligation or fear that they won’t get good service if they don’t tip at holiday time.

Most just want to know what everyone else is doing so that they can tip the right people the appropriate amount.

The Emily Post Guide to Etiquette suggests thinking about tipping at holiday time in the following way and giving based on the following:

• The quality and frequency of the service you receive
• Relationship with service provider
• Years person has provided service
• Budget: only give what you can afford
• It’s always okay to give baked goods and a note showing your gratitude

The guide also states that all gifts or tips should be accompanied by a personal note.

It takes a village to answer the tipping question and thankfully, our village loves to respond to surveys. Here’s a breakdown of your response to our survey:

The Nanny: As a regular in the household, it is no surprise that nannies get the biggest gifts from the families for whom they work. The overwhelming majority of people give their nanny a full week pay as a bonus or tip. Some people say that they give a smaller amount of money ($100-$200) and a gift like a nice handbag or perfume. Etiquette sites warn that nannies do not want gifts related to kids, particularly your kids (like a framed picture), but they do recommended that your children write a note or draw a special picture for their nanny accompany the gift. A note of gratitude from the parent(s) goes a long way.

The cleaner/housekeeper: These are other people in many people’s lives that are not regularly tipped. Two-thirds of respondents show their appreciation with a gift of one-week’s pay. Another 15% give $200 which may be more or less than they pay their crew weekly. About 10% of people give a $100 bonus to their cleaning help during the holidays. Again, if this is someone you have a personal relationship with, a note of thanks is always appreciated.

The Beloved Babysitter: If you love and appreciate your babysitter, it’s nice to give this person a card expressing your gratitude and a little extra spending money over the holidays. Most people give $50, $100, or an average week’s pay. If your kids add on to this with an art project or card, that’s even better.

The Trash Pick-Up Team: Although it’s not a glamorous job, being a sanitation worker has its perks. Whereas Scarsdale's Department of Sanitation has a policy stating that sanitation workers cannot accept or solicit monetary gifts, it seems like a good number of you either ignore this or don’t know about it since only 8% of people don’t give cash. Of those who do tip, 45% leave $25 per person, 33% leave $50 per person and 14% leave $100 per person. One person responded that they leave a week’s pay, but I’m not sure how we know what that is.

A very common question is HOW do you tip them, as in where do you leave the money and cards? Some people tape gifts onto their garbage or recycling bins but if you worry about someone else taking it, you can leave a note asking them to ring your doorbell and then hand them their gifts on garbage collection day. Of the 8% who do not acknowledge sanitation workers with cash, the most common reason they give is because they are salaried employees with benefits and are not dependent on tips.

The Mail Carrier: Postal workers are usually acknowledged during holiday time, although the United States Postal Service (USPS) does not allow mail carriers to accept cash gifts, checks, or any other form of currency. They may accept snacks and beverages, gifts valued under $20 including gift cards to a specific retailer, or gift baskets that can be shared with other staff. That being said, of the 80% of people that give a cash gift to the mail carrier, half give $25. Other denominations include $50 (26%), $100 (14%). A few people give a token $10 thanks. Again, mail carriers are not tip-dependent workers, so if your budget is tight and your mail delivery person doesn’t show much love, consider skipping the tip.

The Delivery People: Newspaper delivery people depend on tips for income, so it’s nice to give a bit extra ($10-$25) to these people during the holidays if they provide a good service. Private delivery services (like FedEx and UPS) may accept monetary and non-monetary gifts, but they are salaried employees and do not depend on tips for wages. One-third of people give cash gifts of $25-$50 to their package delivery people but two-thirds give nothing extra to them during the holidays.

The Teacher: Almost everyone appreciates their children’s teachers and all but 5% acknowledge them at holiday time with a gift or a cash equivalent. Of the 78% of respondents who have kids in school, 25% give a gift valued under $25 and 6% give a gift valued over $25. Another 25% give $25, 10% give $50 and 8% of people give their child’s teacher $100. Although it is likely that some respondents have children in private school with different policies, Scarsdale school policy states that class parents can ask for contributions of up to $10 per family for a group gift for the teacher and individual gifts must remain under $15. Hmmmm….

The Lawn Service: Less than 20% of people gift their landscaping/lawn service companies during the holidays but those who do give about what they pay their lawn company for one or two weeks of mowing. T’is not the season for lawn care so that may be the reason people forget the gardener.

The Bus Driver/Monitor: Less than half of respondents have a bus that takes their kids to school, but of those that do, most give $25 or $50 to the driver and monitor. If your kids are on a bus with other kids you know, it might be a good idea to pool money and give one larger gift to the driver and monitor. It’s also nice to have your kids write a card or draw a picture if they like their experience on the bus.

The Groomer/Dog Walker: Only 25% of those surveyed use groomer and dog walking services. Those who do tip give about $50-$100 or what they’d pay for a week of walking or a pup grooming session. If you have a personal relationship with this person, it’s thoughtful to include a note of thanks for treating your furry family member well.

The Trainer: Most people don’t have a personal trainer. Of the 25% of people with a personal trainer, most give $100-$200 or the equivalent of one week of training. As this is someone you spend time with, a personal note of gratitude should accompany any gift.

The Coaches/The Tutor: A quarter of people responded that they do not give an extra tip to a coach or a tutor at holiday time, but about 20% people give a tangible gift, 20% give $50, and 15% of people give $25 or $100. This was quite a range which suggests that relationships with coaches or tutors vary.

The Hairdresser and The Manicurist: Most people (65-75%) have a hairdresser and/or a regular person for manicures and pedicures. Of those, 30% give nothing extra to their hairdresser and 50% give nothing extra to their manicurist. About 25% give $50 to their hairdresser and 17% give $100. For nail technicians, most give $25 and some $50. A few people bring small gifts. If you go to your regular hairdresser or nail salon to get your hair or nails done during the holidays, it is appropriate to give a bigger tip than usual (and up to the cost of the service).
However, some etiquette sites say that if you regularly tip someone, there is no need to tip a significant amount extra during the holidays. If you’re getting your hair cut, colored and styled and think you are expected to give the cost of the hair treatment, this can add up to a lot of dough.

Here are the results of our survey of what your fellow Scarsdalians are giving this season:


Remember that there is no right or wrong amount to tip and that a personalized card is a most sincere gesture of gratitude. The above list is just a guide of who you may want to consider giving a gift to but is by no means exhaustive. Quite a few people wrote in the comments saying they also tip the dry cleaner, the handyman, the boss, the administrative staff or co-workers, the milkman, the vet, the gym instructor and the tennis pro.

If you don’t feel comfortable giving a tip consider a special gift like a bottle of wine, a fruit basket or a gift card to a local restaurant to show your appreciation. A donation in someone’s name is also a nice way to show that you are thinking of them, particularly if it’s to a charity that’s meaningful to them.

We hope this season brings you joy with your gift-giving and that this helps takes the stress out of the whom and the how much.

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