Home > 2013 > Personal Finance

6 Steps to Stress-Free Holiday Tipping

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Tradition makes this the time of year to show appreciation to the people whose services makes our lives more pleasant or easier. But money stress can put a serious crimp in your “Ho, ho, ho.”

What’s Proper?

When you think about tipping, you need to focus on three things: etiquette, your budget and your relationship with the person performing a service for you.

Etiquette is less about rules than about thoughtfulness. Etiquette maven Emily Post says, “First and foremost, you shouldn’t feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget.” (Emily, by the way, was an author and expert on social graces and behavior. She died in 1960 and today “Emily” is a family business.)

If your budget is seriously tight: You don’t have to give cash. Do, however, find ways to say thanks to the people who make your life easier and more pleasant.

A 6-Step Guide

Here’s how to approach holiday tipping sensibly:

  1. Draft a budget you can truly afford.
  2. Make a list of people you want to tip or gift.
  3. Arrange the list in descending order with the most important people at the top.
  4. Assign an amount for each person’s tip or gift.
  5. Stop when you’ve reached your budgeted limit.
  6. Decide how to thank the others without money.

Whom to Tip

Consumer Reports lists typical recipients of holiday gifts or tips: lawn-care folks, kids’ teachers, garbage collectors, mail carriers, newspaper delivery people, housecleaners and handy people, hairdressers and barbers, manicurists and pet-sitters and walkers.

When you’re deciding whom to tip, think about the quality of the relationship. Consider how often and for how long you’ve used the service. Also, holiday tips can reward exceptional service.

A tip should “primarily be based on your personal financial situation, as well as your emotional connection to your loyal and trusted employee, service provider or trusted family caretaker,” says manners expert Diane Gottsman.

When you give money, or anything else, always include a handwritten note saying thanks.

Local customs count too. Ask friends and co-workers their policies, especially if you’re relatively new to an area. One of my friends who lived briefly in Hawaii recalls, “In my Honolulu neighborhood, it was customary to leave a case of beer on top of the trash can for the garbage collectors on Christmas morning.”

How Much?

Consumer Reports’ yearly survey offers a peek at who gets tips and how much. The magazine is still getting around to this year’s survey but in 2012 it found that:

  • The median tip (half are more, half less) was $50.
  • The most-tipped workers – 64% – were house cleaners.
  • The least-tipped workers: garbage collectors.
  • Slightly more than half of people surveyed said they gave no holiday tips.

“Some non-tippers said they reward only exceptional service, and about one-fourth said they don’t tip at any time, period,” Consumer Reports says.

Workers in some jobs can’t accept cash (or booze). Those include schoolteachers and mail carriers. Mail carriers can accept a gift – or a gift certificate — worth no more than $20, says Emily Post.

Wondering what’s appropriate for a teacher? Call your school for guidance. A gift certificate under $20 is always a good bet.

You’ll find other tipping guides at CNNMoney, Real Simple and U.S. News & World Report. A word of caution on these, though. They may advise very large tips and offer advice on tipping the doorman, the elevator operator, your nanny and your personal trainer.

What My Friends Do

I asked a few friends about their customs. One wrote, “I’ve read these tipping articles before and always think they are written by someone who lives in a big highrise in NYC and most of it doesn’t apply to me.”

Most of my pals tip 20% or more all year long for personal services like haircuts and nails. Some tip slightly more at the holidays and are especially generous with babysitters and house cleaners. But others give cookies, homemade jam or a bottle of wine, especially when their budgets are tight.

The bottom line: Be generous by all means, but your financial health comes first.

Non-Cash Alternatives

If you’re not giving cash, do give:

  • A thoughtfully written thank you note.
  • A small gift of cookies, jam, pickles or some other treat from your kitchen.
  • A gift or card crafted by your kids.

Money isn’t everything, Consumer Reports concludes. Daniel Post Senning, great-great-grandson of Emily Post, told the magazine:

“We like to say that holiday tipping is really holiday thanking,” he points out. “Words mean a lot, so you can say something even if you’re not a crafty person or a baking person. A genuine and thoughtful thank-you goes a long way.”

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

More from Money Talks News:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team