Tips on Tipping

He calls his extravagance, generosity; and his trusting everybody, universal benevolence.
- Oliver Goldsmith

Rumor has it that the origin of the word "tips" is: To Insure Prompt Service.

The end of the year is your chance to show your appreciation for those people who make your life easier. Please keep in mind that tips are very subjective. Tips are dependent on your relationship with the individual and the norms for your area, as well as your budget. Tips should be crisp, new bills placed in an envelope with a card or note of appreciation. When appropriate, small gifts can be given along with the tips. Below are some guidelines for holiday tipping:

Child Care:

  • Babysitter: Two nights' pay
  • Nanny: One weeks' salary 1st year, more for each additional year
  • Au Pair: One weeks' salary 1st year, more for each additional year
Apartment Living:
  • Custodian: $20 - $30
  • Doorman: $25 - $100
  • Handyman: $15 - $25
  • Superintendent: $25 - $100
  • Parking Attendant: $20 - $30
Home Care:
  • Cleaners: One weeks' salary
  • Dog Walker: One days' pay
  • Garbage Person: $20
  • Regular Delivery Person: $5 - $20
  • Lawn/Snow Crew: $10 per person, a bit more for the boss
  • Newspaper Deliverer: $5 - $20
Personal Care:
  • Hairstylist: Cost of one session
  • Shampoo Person: $5 - $20
  • Manicurist: $15 - $30
  • Masseuse: Cost of one session
People who do not receive tips:
  • Mail Carrier
  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Professionals such as plumbers and electricians
For these people, a small gift accompanied by a note of appreciation is appropriate.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I am planning to tip my daughter’s daycare providers, but I am not sure if I should also be giving the director something. She doesn't directly care for my daughter, but does spend time with her. And my daughter often follows the director around during the day.

A: As you have already pointed out, daycare providers are tipped, usually cash along with a small gift. (For a child in full time daycare, the tip is generally $25 - $50 per provider.) As for the director, if your child has developed a special relationship, then a gift would be appropriate. I would recommend a gift certificate for a spa treatment or a local restaurant.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ Why do I need to tip people for a service I already pay for?

A: Tipping is a customary practice and is very culturally specific. A tip is considered a reward for a job well done. (And keep in mind that many people rely on tips to supplement their salaries.) While you are not legally bound to tip, culturally it is the appropriate thing to do.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I hate the idea of giving people money at the end of the year, is it acceptable to give gifts instead?

A: For the jobs listed above, a cash gift is always appropriate. However, if you truly prefer to give a gift, just be sure the gift is appropriate, desired by the recipient, and worth approximately the amount of what you would have tipped.

Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ When adding up all of the people I should be tipping, the amount can be quite high. Do I need to tip everyone?

A: If you find that end of year tipping is putting a strain on your budget you should first consider your lifestyle and the number of services you require during the year. Tipping should not require you to financially overextend yourself. Like other gifts, the less money you are able to put into the gift, the more time and thought that must be expended. For example, if you are unable to offer a cash gift, you may want to make some homemade sweets to give instead.