How Much Should You Tip Over The Holidays? Our Guide

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Tipping isn't a city in China and it's certainly for more than just cows, but during the holidays, our general 15- to 25-percent rules are thrown into a tizzy. Who gets a gift? Is giving cash insulting? With so many different, complex relationships in our lives — our barristas often act as therapists and confidantes — how much is enough? We linked up with Tessa Miller at Lifehacker (a site that breaks down holiday tipping more scientifically in a stellar post) to chat about holiday extras, and whether or not to give the old greenbacks, or a more personal gift.

1. Every Day Relationships: Cash
Your old, faithful doorperson. That mail carrier who gives you a friendly wave. The superintendent who really helped you out over Sandy. All of those people deserve to be thanked during the holidays, but common etiquette is a sliding scale: You don't have to tip everyone equally. Those who have helped you plenty in the past should get a heftier tip than those who you rarely see. The more they have helped you, of course, the more you ought to tip. For instance, $20 to your amazing UPS guy makes sense, while $100 for the guy who has been helping you wrangle groceries all year. No more than $100 is needed.

2. Your Regular: Cash
This is the time of year where you get to thank your manicurist for always reserving a little time for you, even when the salon is packed. With people you see regularly (a barrista, stylist, trainer, or spa specialist, for instance), tipping about 40-percent usually balances nicely — and it feels extra special when their tip is included in a note, not simply tacked on at the end of your visit. A lot of sources suggest tipping the cost of one visit, too.

3. In The Office: Gift
As Miller writes, "Don't forget about the people who help around your office. If you have regular cleaning or maintenance staff, an office pool is a great way to say thanks. If everyone gives just $5, it adds up quickly." While personally gifting secretaries, assistants, door people, or cleaning people isn't necessary, making sure your office teams up for a gift is certainly nice. For people you have a rapport with, a gift based on their interests is best. For cleaning people or attendants, a gift card is perfectly appropriate. In both scenarios, make sure to include a handwritten note.

4. Seasonal Service: Cash
If you've ever worked in the service industry, you'll know that the holidays are a double-edged sword. On one hand, you are, erm, working over them, but on the other hand, you have the ability to make more money than ever because you are working over them. Which means that, when you are dealing with people who help you over the holidays (be they waiters, bartenders, hotel concierges, or taxi drivers), up your usual tip rate by five- to ten-percent — typically, more for urban areas, where tip rates are higher.

5. Child/Home Care: Gift/Cash
Depending on your relationship, those of us who rely on teachers, babysitters, housekeepers, or live-in help should absolutely spring for a great gift. "When relationships are closer (say, a babysitter or nanny, for example), it gets trickier. Do you give a gift instead of cash? That part is up to you," says Miller. "If picking out a gift seems too daunting or personal, cash is still okay, but make sure you add a note (make it heartfelt!) expressing your thanks."

Some of us might be working with a limited cash flow over the holidays, but that doesn't mean we can't say thanks with a handwritten card or note. A kind sentiment is always appreciated.


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