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We can get stuck in the mindset that gifts for our employers have to be generic. We spend (we hope) time and effort getting thoughtful presents for our loved ones, sometimes we run out of steam and neglect to put in the same care when it comes to the team around us. Our housekeepers, babysitters and nannies, doormen, and children's teachers are vital components to our routine. Here are some tips on how to wow them without taking too much time out of that holiday schedule.

What to Tip Your Nanny or Sitter
  • While anyone would love the cash (we learned that nannies average their weekly salary and a half as their holiday bonus and doormen rely on their holiday gratuity as it can be about 10% of their yearly income) sometimes we are either maxed out, or, want to go the extra mile but are unsure how.

    As a former preschool teacher, I completely understand the desire to be thoughtful, but come the holidays, I was up to my ears in coffee mugs and cookies. While generous, I had no idea what to do with them and was forced to do some re-gifting. 

    One year, instead of mugs, my student's families pulled together and got me a coffee-maker. (My love of coffee is known far and wide). It was something special that was appropriate and conveyed effort and appreciation of me.

    We did some research and asked some local nannies what things they really enjoy receiving during the holiday season. Of course, "just the cash" was the immediate answer, but after a little digging we got some useful feedback.

    How to Tackle Holiday Tipping

    All tipping should take into account length of time they have worked for you; frequency of their service (daily, weekly, monthly); quality of service and personalized attention; extra services they may provide, and, most important-- your relationship with them. 

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    • Make a list and create a plan of action early in the season. In this tough economy, you may have to decide which people are the most important to you before allocating your budget.
    • Keep list of your tipping, whether cash or gift--from year to year. Although you may forget, the recipient probably will not.
    • Try to give all end-of-the-year gifts graciously in person.
    • Present gifts of cash and gift certificates as early in the season as possible, as some recipients may be depending on them for holiday gifts or spending.
    • Child care providers, nannies, and teachers appreciate gifts selected or suggested by your children. These could be in addition to your gift.
    • Gifts of food should be selected with the recipient's diet, food preferences/allergies, entertaining needs, and schedule in mind. Otherwise they will surely be re-gifted.
    • If you would like to give more but cannot this year. Do not apologize, but thank recipients in person and/or with a note. Then say that you hope to be able to do more for them next year. Or say that their gift will be coming soon, perhaps for another occasion, such as a birthday or the Chinese New Year.
    Gifts for Your Household Employees

    The Case for Giving Gift Cards

    Gift cards are always a safe bet. But if you want to let the receiver know it's personal, think about what they like. For example, if your sitter always comes with coffee in hand, a Starbucks card might be good. Or if they're always sporting a new book, your local bookstore or even a Barnes and Noble would be nice. And if your sitter gets crafty with the kids, take if from the Pipe-Cleaner-Queen herself that a certificate to Michael's or Etsy would rock their world.

    For the occasional sitter, these are splendid and hopefully well-deserved. One nanny even said that a family she worked for gifted her their sky-miles so she could take a trip anywhere she liked. Sweet deal! Something like this is awesome since most travelers rack up miles and are just sitting on them. It's not a great expenditure for you, but gives your nanny an experience they might not of had otherwise. Experience gifts are wonderful-- ie: spa day, mani/pedi, massage, class, etc. These are gifts that make them do something for themselves that they ordinarily wouldn't do. Say "happy holidays" in a fresh and thoughtful way without all the fuss. You (and your nanny) will thank you for it.

    The Sins of Gift Giving. 

    What not to do...

    • Give money or gifts to employees of a company unless you are certain that their policy allows it.
    • Give gifts worth more than $20 to postal workers. They are not allowed to receive cash, gift certificates, or gift cards. A special gift: a letter of appreciation addressed to the postmaster of the local office to be added to their personnel file.
    • Gift your boss, except in unusual circumstances, as this could be seen as bribery. A group gift will prevent competitive gift giving at the office.
    • Give cash to teachers or other professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, financial planners, etc. However, sometimes parents may join to give a collective gift to a teacher.
    • When tipping the same individuals annually, do not set up expectations that you may not be able to meet the next year.
    • Present the tip in such a way that you make the recipient feel like a charity case.

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