In U.S. culture, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year is when U.S. Americans choose to express their gratitude with a ‘gratuity’ or holiday tip.
Remember the reason for the tip is to show gratitude, thanking loyal and trusted employees, service providers, and family caregivers.
There is no hard and fast rule about how much, and who, to tip in the U.S. Remember these are only suggestions and not rules:
- Budget: First, stay within your household budget. Holiday tipping is not an obligation. Second, ponder your routine tipping: do you tip regularly at the time of service? If so, consider a modest tip or a small gift instead. Finally, consider local and regional customs, service quality and frequency, relationship length. No budget for tips? Consider our alternatives listed below. Avoid overspending. January bills are unforgiving!
- Make a list and check it twice:Prioritize your most important service providers. If someone’s work eases your life immeasurably, place them at the top. The trusted housecleaner, the dependable au pair or nanny, and the parent caregiver may receive more than an infrequent provider.
- Creative Alternatives:Memorable handmade cards are personal touches that add holiday spirit. Consider a baked specialties like Czech kolache or baklava, tea towels crafted by a local artisan; a bar of fragrant, organic soap; votive candles; gourmet coffee, or fine tea. Floral arrangements are welcome.
- Encourage Child Participation: In some cases, your child may want to give a small gift to a babysitter, nanny, or au pair. Encourage your child to give their own card, handmade craft, or small gift. Suggestions to pair with this:
- Live-in nanny or au pair: a week’s pay
- Babysitter: evening’s pay
- Day Care Center Staff: week and a month’s pay.
Business (check corporate policy):
- Clients: Business gift baskets of chocolate, edible fruit, nuts, cheese, wine, cookies, petit fours; golf balls & non-logo gifts.
- CEO/Boss: Group gift to their favorite charity or non-profit foundation
- Assistant: Bonus or gift based on relationship length
- Colleagues: gift they will like for sports, hobby, or dining, gift card.
- Office Gift Exchange: don’t go rogue, follow the spending guidelines.
Education & Schools (follow policy):
- Professor: greeting card, no gift
- Teacher: Consider a group gift with parents pooled funds
- Assistant /Aide: $25 – $50 gift certificate
- Multiple Teachers: small gift, candle, baked goods, gift certificate.
- Principle: Holiday card & baked goods
- School Secretary: café gift card, small gift or gift certificate
- School Nurse: café gift card, small gift or gift certificate
Home or Building Personnel:
- Live-in help (cook or butler): between a week-month’s pay, plus a gift
- Housekeeper: once a week, equivalent of a day’s pay, or $50. Daily, equivalent of a week’s pay, and possibly a gift
- Gardener: equivalent of a week’s service
- Landscaping crew: equivalent of a week’s service, divided among the crew
- Pool cleaning crew: equivalent of one session, divided among the crew.
- Garage attendant: between $15 and $40 or give a small gift
- Garbage/recycling: if city permits, $10-$30 each for extra holiday effort
- Doorman: between $50 - $100 each, or gift, depending on extra duties
- Elevator Operator and Handyman: between $20 - $50 each
- Newspaper delivery: between $10 - $35, or give a small gift
- Private health care nurse: week’s pay or a gift of similar value
- Home health employee: follow policy / generous gift basket of holiday treats
- Nursing home staff: follow policy / gift basket of holiday treats for all
- Hairstylist, manicure, pedicure, specialist: equivalent of a visit
- Barber: haircut & shave equivalent or give a gift
- Massage therapist/personal trainer: session equivalent or give a gift
- Groomer: equivalent of one session or give a gift
- Walker: week’s pay equivalent or “1-2 visits” per com
- Sitter: a week’s pay and a paw print note from your pet
Package & Mail Delivery:
The United States Postal Service provides the public with a tipping and gift receiving policy on their website, FedEx and UPS do not. The information provided for FedEx and UPS is from customer service representatives who preferred not to give their names.
United States Postal Service:
- Employees may accept baked goods (homemade/store bought) items to share with the branch office. Customers may give edible arrangements, gift cards for merchandise or services valued up to $20 per interaction. Gifts cannot exceed $50 per calendar year.
- Gifting cash, VISA, MasterCard, or gift cards that may be used as cash are prohibited per USPS Employee Tipping and Gift Receiving Policy.
- Company policies discourage gift cash or gift cards. The driver will politely decline the holiday gratuity. If the customer is insistent, gifts up to $75 maybe accepted by the driver.
- UPS does not have an official limit, but due to safety concerns would prefer drivers not to accept cash; tipping is left to customer’s discretion.
Avoid giving holiday tips to people on this list; send holiday e-cards instead:
Accountant/CPA Attorney Auditor Banker Bookkeeper Dentist Doctor Executive Coach Members, Board of Directors or Trustees Seamstress/ Tailor Veterinarian
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.