Holiday tipping guide 2019: Who to tip and how much

When tipping for the holidays, remember to stay within your budget.

When you’re making your list and checking it twice, consider giving a little extra to those who’ve made your life a little easier this past year. And in most cases, nothing says “thanks for your help” better than cash. 

Rather than being gauche or impersonal, an envelope of cash is the one gift that all generations have at the top of their holiday wish lists, according to Zelle’s Holiday Most Wanted trend survey, ranking higher than tangible gifts, experiences, and money for bills or experiences.

“This year, don’t blow your budget on gifts that are probably going to end up re-gifted or in a landfill,” said personal finance expert and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Lapin, in a Zelle press release. “Give the gift everyone wants – money.”

Yahoo Money consulted the Emily Post Institute, the preeminent authority on all things etiquette and class, to bring you the best guide on who to tip around the holidays and the suggested amount. There’s nuance that comes with tipping, such as the length of your relationship with each provider and the quality and frequency of the service you receive. 

Spend around $25 on a small gift and include a thank you note from your child.

When working with a limited budget, prioritize gifting to your child’s teacher over the manicurist you use quarterly. Gifting should come from holiday spirit and not out of obligation. 

To those who watch your children…

  • Au pair or live-in nanny

    The cash equivalent of up to one week’s pay and a gift from your child(ren).

  • Babysitter

    The cash equivalent of up to one evening’s pay and a small gift from your child(ren).

  • Daycare provider

    A gift from you or $25 to $70 for each staff member who works with your child(ren) and a small gift from your child(ren).

  • School bus driver

    Spend between $10 and $20 on a gift card or consider gifting a nice pair or driving gloves. 

  • Teacher or tutor

    Spend around $25 on a small gift and include a thank you note from your child(ren). Gifts for middle and high school teachers are less common than they are for elementary school teachers. 

To those who make your house look great…

  • Housekeeper/Cleaner

    The cash equivalent of up to one week’s pay and/or a small gift.

  • Live-in help (nanny, cook, butler, housekeeper)

    The cash equivalent of up to one week to one month of pay, plus a gift.

  • Building superintendent

    $20 to $80 in cash or a gift

  • Doorman

  • $15 to $80 in cash, $15 or more each for multiple doormen, or a gift.

Tip $15 to $80 in cash, $15 or more each for multiple doormen, or give a gift.
  • Elevator operator

    $15 to $40 in cash

  • Handyperson

    $15 to $40 in cash

  • Trash/recycling collectors

    $10 to $30 each in cash, but check city regulations if it’s a municipal service.

  • Yard/garden worker

    $20 to $50 each in cash

  • Pool cleaner

    The cash equivalent of up to the cost of one cleaning to be split among the crew.

  • Garage attendant

    $10 to $30 in cash or a small gift

  • Newspaper delivery person

    $10 to $30 in cash or a small gift

  • Package deliverer

    A small gift in the $20 range. Most delivery companies discourage or prohibit cash gifts.

  • Home health employees

    A thoughtful gift from you. If there’s policy against gifts/tipping, consider a donation to the agency.

  • Nursing home employees

    A gift that could be shared and enjoyed by the staff, such as flowers, fruit basket or cookie tray.

Give the cash equivalent of up to the cost of one salon visit divided for each staff member who works with you. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

To those who make you look and feel your best…

  • Barber

    The cash equivalent of up to the cost of one haircut or a gift.

  • Salon staff (hairstylist, manicurist, pedicurist, waxer)

    The cash equivalent of up to the cost of one salon visit divided for each staff member who works with you. Give individual cards or a small gift to those who work on you.

  • Personal trainer/Pilates or yoga instructor

    The cash equivalent of up to the cost of one session or a wellness-minded gift.

  • Massage therapist

    The cash equivalent of up to the cost of one session or a gift.

  • Barista

    A $10- to $20-cash tip to the barista who greets you every morning with a smile and a cup of joe before you even order it. 

  • Dry cleaner

    A tray of cookies or holiday sweets that can be shared among the staff. 

  • Personal caregiver

    Suggested amount or gift: The cash equivalent of up to one week to one month’s salary or a gift.

  • Private nurse

    A thoughtful gift from you.

Give your dog walker the cash equivalent of up to one week’s pay or a gift.

To those who make your pets look and feel their best…

  • Pet groomer

    The cash equivalent of up to the cost of one session or a gift.

  • Dog walker

    The cash equivalent of up to one week’s pay or a gift.

  • Pet sitter

    The cash equivalent of up to the cost of one day’s worth of services or a gift.

Philadelphia, PA: Letter Carriers with the USPS aren't allowed to accept cash gifts.

When a tip isn’t appropriate…

Don’t tip doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, therapists, financial advisors, accountants, lawyers and professional servicer workers. Cash gifts are generally prohibited, but a holiday card sent to the office or gifts like flowers, fruit or baked goods that can be shared among the staff is a thoughtful gesture.