With Tight Budgets, Creativity Key in Tipping for Services

It’s the giving time of the year. Traditionally, we are accustomed to giving those whose services make our lives easier — doormen, baby sitters, mail carriers, and hairstylists — a little extra in the form of cash tips or gifts during the holiday season. But with people experiencing severe economic hardship it’s going to be a lot harder to tip than it has been in the past. According to the Consumer Reports’ Holiday Shopping Poll, 65% of Americans plan to cut back on overall holiday expenses such as gifts, tips, travel, and entertaining.

But that doesn’t mean its okay to forego showing your gratitude. “This is not the time to give in abundance, but it is time to give in appreciation,” says Angelo Ellerbee, celebrity etiquette coach and CEO of public relations firm Double Xxposure.

So, as you prepare your tipping and gift list, be of good cheer. Lizzie Post, author, lifestyle guru and great, great granddaughter to etiquette expert Emily Post says you should definitely tip service workers, but you do not have to tip or give a gift to professionals such as your doctor, dentist, or therapist. Hairstylists and professional trainers are an exception to that rule. You should tip them the cost of one visit or an equally valuable gift.

Post recommends that you not give your boss a gift. “There is a chance for it to look like you are trying to buy favoritism,” she says. But a group gift, from the department or team is OK.

However, if you have $5 or less to give, opt instead to give an equally valuable gift. Although every little bit counts, some professionals might be offended to receive such a small tip. Plus, a thoughtful gift could be received as more heartfelt.

If money for a gift is simply not available at all, Post and Ellerbee, agree there are other ways to show your appreciation:

Get creative in gift giving. Use your talent and time to make service providers something special from the heart.

Communicate your gratitude. Make sure you tell the worker verbally or in written communication how much you appreciate their services.

Holiday Tipping Recommendations from The Emily Post Institute:

Regular babysitter

— One evening’s pay and a small gift from your children.

Home health employees/ Private nurse

— Check with agency first about gifts or tipping policies. If there is a “no gifts/tipping policy,” consider a donation to the agency. Otherwise, give them a thoughtful gift from you.


— Up to the amount of one week’s pay and/or a small gift.

Barber/Beauty salon staff

— Cost of one haircut or salon visit or a gift. Give individual cards or small gifts to each staff member who works with you.

Personal trainer

— Up to the cost of one session or a gift.

Newspaper delivery person

— $10-$30 or a small gift

Apartment doorman/superintendent

— $15 or more, each for multiple doormen, or a gift.


$20-$50 each or a gift


— A small gift (not cash) or note from you as well as a small gift from your child.

Mail carriers

— United States Postal Service workers may not accept cash gifts, checks, gift cards, or any other form of currency. Give them small gifts that have little intrinsic value (travel mugs, hand warmers, etc.) that are worth no more than $20 in value.


Emily Post Institute’s full tipping recommendations

Average tips given during the 2008 Holiday

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