It can be tough to navigate the world of tipping and gifting around the holidays, but there are simple guidelines you can follow to ensure that everyone in your family’s life feels genuinely appreciated.
“You generally want to recognize people with whom you enjoy a relationship throughout the year,” Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and owner of the Protocol School of Texas, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Consider quality of service and your budget, and tip or gift from the heart.”
The people who care for our children are one of the biggest categories to consider when planning holiday gifts. In a December survey on Park Slope Parents, a parenting group in Brooklyn, New York, 425 respondents indicated a few average tip or gift amounts. For babysitters, a week’s pay (or $80 for an occasional sitter) was the typical gift. At a preschool or daycare, the head teacher got around $63 while a secondary teacher’s take was around $47. In the K-12 world, teachers averaged $39, as did special services teachers, and afterschool providers got $37.
Gottsman tells Yahoo Parenting that, especially in a school environment, it’s important to know the district policy on gift giving. “Cash is not appropriate everywhere — it can be seen as a bribe for teachers or the principal,” she says, adding that gift cards, ideally to general stores where people can purchase things they will truly want and need, are usually acceptable.
While showing thanks to your child’s teacher is common, Gottsman urges parents to consider whether there are any other special relationships within the school setting that merit recognition. “For example, if your child has a health issue and has had regular positive dealings with the school nurse, you may want to express your gratitude,” she says. “My own daughter was allergic to nuts and the cafeteria manager took very special care to be cautious with her, so I always wanted to remember that around the holidays.”
Who else to acknowledge? “Anyone who is a positive part of your daily or weekly routine,” says Gottsman. Trash collectors are on her list at $10-$25 per person, especially if they are people you see daily in the neighborhood and they do a good job keeping your cans and property neat. “Handing them a card with something from the heart inside works,” she says. “If you don’t know their names or don’t see them often, you can call the corporate office and ask, then drop off or mail in your gift, making sure you clarify the municipal policy on what they can accept.”
Mail carriers and package services like UPS and FedEx have strict guidelines on their websites about what can and cannot be given to their employees, so while it may be tempting to hand out envelopes with bills, you should get clear on policy before you do so. For example, the US Postal Service is very clear that mail carriers may not accept cash gifts or cash equivalents, and nothing over a $20 value. Gottsman suggests “something you know they can use easily,” like a gift card for a nearby lunch spot or coffee shop.
The most important thing to keep in mind when tipping and gifting the people who provide services in your life is that your goal is to express gratitude. “You don’t want to be in debt in January, you just want to show some appreciation to the people you see and interact with most often,” says Gottsman. No matter what you give — cash or gift certificate or something homemade — Gottsman says to make sure it’s heartfelt. And a handwritten note with specifics on how this person makes your days brighter never hurts.
(Photo: Corbis Images)