How (and Who) to Tip During the Holidays

It's customary to tip those who make your life easier during the holiday season, but who gets what and how much?

How (and Who) to Tip During the HolidaysYou’ve made your list, you’ve checked it twice, but have you included the service people who have been more than just nice?

According to Lisa Wright, an etiquette coach and co-founder of The Etiquette Advantage in Toronto, holiday bonuses are for people “who have been kind, attentive or have done something above and beyond the job all year long.” But too many gifts can stretch an already tight budget, so who should you acknowledge with a token of your appreciation? There are four rules that apply, says Wright.

  • Is it a meaningful service provided throughout the year?
  • Do you have a personal relationship with the service provider?
  • Do you tip them throughout the year?
  • What is your budget?

Wright says you should also consider the quality of the relationship. If your baby-sitter came through when you had a major emergency or if your hairstylist treats you like a star every time you sit in his chair, be more generous. Some providers are seldom seen and still do a great job (newspaper and mail carriers), but it is understandable not to tip someone you have never seen or for a service where staff changes regularly.

Who do you tip?

“My son’s nursery school teachers both get a $25 gift certificate from Indigo and for my daughter’s Grade 1 teacher, I chipped in $20 toward a gift certificate to a local mall from the class’s parents. I definitely tip the cleaning lady. She gets about $80. We get Christmas cards made with photos of the kids so I give her one of those. I’m an awful gift giver and heartfelt note writer, so I figure money is easier and probably better appreciated.” –Marta Saunders, mom of Julia, 7, Charlie, 4, and Henry, 1

“I don’t actually tip more at Christmas for people who I usually tip — waitresses, taxi drivers, etc. — but I do give bonuses (to my cleaning woman; usually a day’s pay) and Christmas gifts (to my kids’ teachers). My latest favourite gift for teachers, probably because it’s what I would want myself, is $25 SAQ — Quebec’s state-owned liquor stores — gift certificates.” –Imogen Brian, mom of Sam, 11, and Jacob, 8

“I’ve gotten up to $100 for Christmas and I get lots of gifts,” says Prema Garraway, owner of Salon Daniel & Spa SoHo in Toronto. “I’ve been doing my clients’ hair for such a long time that they become friends. I get wine, chocolates, flowers, even lingerie, from the ones who know me very well.” On her end, Garroway says she too gives bonuses to those whose service she values. “I give to both my assistants, my newspaper guy, and the person who helps clean up around my house. Most times it’s money in an envelope or a bottle of wine.” –Prema Garraway, mom of Lauren, 22, and Candice, 20

Senior editor Robin Stevenson appreciates her daughter’s daycare staff and her newspaper carriers who have no idea that delivering her papers by 7 a.m. makes her deliriously happy.

The Going Rate

Before getting carried away with the holiday spirit, select only the service providers who have made the biggest impact on your everyday life and add them into your budget. “It’s great to be generous,” says Lisa Wright, “but if we tipped everyone who helped us, we might just end up broke.” Here are some tipping guidelines to help you with this holiday conundrum.

Regular babysitter: Half to whole evening’s pay and a homemade gift (ornament, drawing) from your child.
: Half to whole amount of the cost of one haircut
Child’s teacher/tutor: Small gift (how about a stylish set of gloves for yard duty?) or a gift certificate to a book store, video store, movie theatre or coffee shop
Child’s daycare provider: Small gift (gourmet treats or coffee/tea gift basket) or a gift certificate
Dog walker: Half to whole amount of one week’s service
Fitness trainer
: Half to whole cost of one session
Housekeeper: Half to one day’s pay plus small gift if you have a close relationship
Mail carrier: Canada Post permits carriers to accept nominal gifts of up to $100
Nanny: About one week’s salary and a homemade gift or card from your child
Newspaper carrier: $10 to $30
Apartment superintendent: $25 to $100, depending on relationship

4 responses to “How (and Who) to Tip During the Holidays”

  1. CalgaryMom says:

    Seems a bit disproportionate that your child’s daycare provider gets a small gift like a coffee gift basket – this is the person caring for the most precious of people in your life – while the mail carrier might ‘accept nominal gifts of up to $100’, and the hairstylist gets half or a whole cut’s worth (don’t know about you, but in Calgary that’s $60 and up… faaaar more than a coffee gift basket). Misplaced priorities.

  2. wiskis says:

    Teachers earn a hundred grand a year, almost, for nine months work. They don’t need a “tip” or gift.

  3. barrys says:

    I’m typically the last to defend teachers’ compensation (the unions are ridiculous, but another story), but most teachers don’t make a hundred grand, or even almost. Completely agreed on not needing a tip however, but to be perfectly honest, nobody ‘needs’ a tip. I think it’s essentially become part of the widespread entitlement felt by most people that has unfortunately become commonplace.

    Tipping really should just come down to giving extra to people that have done extra or been extra special to you; otherwise, it should neither be expected nor customary “just because”.

  4. J.D says: