Holiday tipping guide: Who to tip and how much

The holidays are traditionally a time to tip those who have made your life easier, more convenient or more enjoyable throughout the year. Christmas tips also provide a financial boost to workers who may be struggling to make ends meet during the holiday season.

“Tips go a long way to supplementing income, which in recessionary times, means a lot,” says Karen Cleveland, an etiquette expert and co-author of “The New Wedding Book: A Guide to Ditching All the Rules.” Just as importantly, a holiday tip is a way to recognize and show appreciation and gratitude for service workers.

Still, tipping standards can be confusing, and some workers may not be able to accept tips at all. Keep reading for a holiday tipping guide that lays out who you should tip, how much they should get and when tipping isn’t appropriate.

Who Should Get a Holiday Tip

There are no hard and fast rules on who to tip, but an extra gratuity can be appropriate for any person who provides a service on a regular basis.

“It’s important to tip those you routinely visit and who provide you with a loyal service,” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.” Rising inflation and a rocky stock market may mean holiday tips are even more important to workers this year.

However, people need to be cognizant about their own financial situation when distributing tips. “While you may not be able to be as generous as in years past, gifting what you can comfortably afford, along with a heartfelt note of gratitude, is always a generous and kind gesture,” according to Gottsman.

As a general rule, it’s appropriate to tip the following people at the holidays:

— Delivery drivers.

— Babysitters or nannies.

— Door attendants and building managers.

— Maintenance workers such as repair people, housekeepers, pool cleaners, trash collectors and landscapers.

— Pet walkers, groomers and sitters.

— Personal trainers.

— Hair stylists and beauticians.

— Newspaper carriers.

[READ: 7 Things to Buy Early This Holiday Season.]

You may end up with a long list of people to potentially tip, but you are under no obligation to do so. “Do what you can,” advises Amanda Belarmino, assistant professor of hospitality for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She notes that most people know finances are tight for many households right now. “This year, with record inflation and high gas prices, I think it’s really challenging for consumers,” she says.

Once you have your list in hand and know how much you can afford to tip, prioritize those whose services you value most or use most often. If you can’t afford to give tips to everyone, still provide a holiday thank you in the form of a handwritten card or small gift if possible.

How Much to Tip for the Holidays

Holiday tips can vary depending on the service, your relationship with the worker and regional customs. “It should be something more meaningful than just your change,” Gottsman says.

The following represent generally accepted holiday tipping standards, according to Gottsman:

— Restaurant delivery drivers: 20% of the total bill or $5, whichever is higher.

— Babysitters or nannies: One evening or one week’s pay, respectively.

— Hairstylists or beauticians: Equivalent to one visit.

— Door attendants: $20 to $100, depending on the level of service provided.

— Maintenance workers such as housekeepers and landscapers: One week’s pay.

— Repair people: $20 to $100.

— Newspaper carriers: $10 to $30.

— Trash collectors: $10 to $25 per person, if allowed.

— Dog walkers: One day or week’s pay.

— Dog groomers: Equivalent to one visit.

“For people who might roll their eyes … or say that’s too rich, I’d say that if you can afford those luxuries, then you can afford to tip,” Cleveland says. She encourages people not to think in terms of dollars and cents but rather in the spirit of the season and see tipping as a chance to show gratitude to those who provide great service all year long.

“In general, it is a nice practice to tip all of those who help you more generously during the holiday season,” says Sam Zietz, CEO of Grubbrr, a company providing self-ordering restaurant technology solutions. A 20% tip is now the industry standard for meals at full-service restaurants, with 15%-20% being appropriate for quick-serve or fast-casual establishments, according to Zietz.

The level of service provided by a worker also influences the tip amount. That means the holiday tip for a housekeeper who is at your home weekly should be different than the holiday tip for a hairdresser you see once a month.

For home and family service providers such as cleaners, nannies, gardeners and private chefs, a holiday tip of one week’s pay is often suggested by etiquette experts. Meanwhile, it is appropriate to tip personal service providers — including hairstylists and manicurists — the monetary equivalent of one visit.

[See: 25 Practical Gift Ideas.]

Tipping Advice for Delivery Drivers

Delivery drivers play a vital role as many families opt to shop from home. If you want to provide a holiday tip for your regular delivery drivers, Gottsman offers the following guidelines for major carriers:

U.S. Postal Service: Government ethical standards prohibit postal carriers from accepting gifts of cash or gift cards. However, they can receive gift items with a value up to $20 for a special occasion such as Christmas.

FedEx: Employees can receive gifts valued up to $75 but may not accept cash or gift cards.

UPS: Delivery drivers may accept small gifts or nominal gratuities.

Another option to thank delivery drivers is to fill a basket with grab-and-go snacks, water or similar items. Attach a note thanking drivers and inviting them to help themselves. Place the basket by the normal delivery drop-off spot. This option may be a good choice for households that receive deliveries from multiple drivers.

As for food and grocery delivery workers, many are able to accept tips. If you order from a service that charges a delivery fee, don’t assume it goes to the person who drops off your order. “There is a difference between a delivery charge and a gratuity,” Gottsman says.

When to Gift Rather Than Tip

A cash tip may not be appropriate in all situations. “If the relationship is more personal, a small gift or homemade item may be a better way of expressing appreciation,” Zietz says.

In particular, you shouldn’t tip people you normally don’t pay directly. These can include the following:

— Co-workers, supervisors and bosses.

— Teachers, principals and school staff.

— Long-term care facility workers.

What’s more, there are some professionals who may not be able to accept tips because of ethical or employer restrictions. These workers may include:

— Public service and government workers.

— Health care workers.

— Lawyers.

— Realtors.

— Accountants and financial advisors.

For all the above workers, a gift may be more appropriate than a tip. If gifts are not in the budget, “a handwritten card is a really nice gesture,” Cleveland suggests.

[SEE: 10 Best Budget Apps.]

How to Give a Holiday Tip

Ideally, a holiday tip would be placed in a card with a note thanking the person for their service. “If you want it to be seen as a holiday gift, it should be presented as a holiday gift,” Belarmino says.

The tip can also be given to the worker at the same time as their normal payment. However, that isn’t always possible. Tipping the newspaper carrier, for example, in this way can be hard if you’re not home during delivery times. In that case, leaving a card or envelope in the door or delivery box may be an option, assuming theft is not a problem in your area.

And if you don’t have time to buy a card or write a note, don’t stress over the perfect presentation. Putting cash in a plain envelope with a note on the front is perfectly acceptable, too. Or if you are tipping a hospitality worker, handing them cash and wishing them happy holidays or merry Christmas is appropriate, Belarmino says.

Holiday tipping is not an obligation, but it is a nice gesture if you have the financial means. And at the end of a year which has been difficult for many households, a holiday tip can provide a much-needed boost to both a person’s morale and bank account.

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Holiday Tipping Guide: Who to Tip and How Much originally appeared on

Update 12/08/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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