Every year, as it gets closer to Christmas, I see more and more stories about holiday tipping etiquette and who I should tip. I understand tipping in the hospitality industry. For example, waiters make most of their money on tips, and they have an established custom on what to tip. I don't always agree, and if the service was poor, I tip less, and if the service was great, I tip more.
But with higher inflation, workers having to do more with less, and simply showing your gratitude, let's talk about holiday tipping (and some food for thought on tipping in general).
When Do You Tip?
I'm a firm believer that a tip should be given for going above and beyond. That's why I have a problem with holiday tipping - what am I tipping for? For someone who is doing their job? I have no doubt that the person receiving the tip would be grateful - I would be if I received a tip. But really, should I tip the mailman? I don't know this person, they have never done anything extra for me, although they do their job everyday by delivering my mail.
On the flip-side, your mailman (or mail woman) likely knows you. They likely deliver your mail and packages (lots of packages if you're anything like our family), and they likely try hard to ensure that nothing is missed. You likely have a regular mail-person on your route, and likely a regular backup as well. Given it's a regular person supporting your life - you should probably thank them.
Who Do You Tip & How Much?
Here is a solid list of what is recommended for tips:
- Baby Sitter - One to two nights pay
- Cleaning Person - Cost of one visit
- Dog Walker - A week's pay
- Hairstylist - Cost of one visit
- Mailman - Can't accept money, but something (candy, snack, trade show item, etc.) less than $20
- Newspaper Delivery Person - $10 - $30
- Nursing Home Worker - Personal Gift
- Personal Trainer - $50 to the cost of one session
- Teacher - Small Gift
- Trash Collector - $10 to $30
For the mailman specifically, here are the USPS regulations.
What About Other Delivery Drivers?
Let's face it, the days of only USPS delivering your mail and packages everyday are long gone. Today, most houses get a slew of deliveries, from various drivers. You'll have USPS, UPS, FedEx, Amazon. Then, you'll also likely have random couriers that are side hustling (think Amazon Flex) or Instacart.
So, what do you do about these other delivery drivers?
First, if you can, tip them in the app. If that's not possible, you could consider leaving out a basket of water or treats for them to take as they deliver.
I have a couple issues with this list. First, be careful, because some localities prohibit tipping of public workers. For example, in my city, you can't give the trash collector cash gifts, only perishables (weird, huh?). Similar to the post office.
Also, for places such as the hairstylist, I tip when I go. Same would go for the babysitter - I would just tip that night. Why would I pay a special tip for the holidays? Unless they are a regular in your home, you probably don't need to go beyond what you'd normally do.
Finally, I would definitely tip my cleaning person, since they would put up with a lot of junk around my house. I would also tip a nursing home worker - same reason. Last, but definitely not least, I would definitely tip my child's teacher, as I would want them to know I value the work they do, and I normally don't directly pay them.
Readers, do you have any holiday tipping advice?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared toward anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
Editor: Clint Proctor Reviewed by: Chris Muller