Holiday Tipping: Tips and Taboos


The expected ritual of holiday tipping need not be awkward, uncertain, or stressful. Because many service people with whom we deal on a regular basis throughout the year expect to be recognized with cash, determining the correct amount can be tricky. Each season brings a plethora of general guides for allocating your tip money; however, these amounts will vary considerably from community to community.

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. Your appropriate '??TIP'?, a nineteenth century acronym for '??to insure promptness'?, will, hopefully, ensure continuing reliable service.

Because you are expressing gratitude, a note or card is what makes your gift special. In general, cash is the most impersonal gift, a gift certificate is more personal, and the chosen, wrapped gift the most personal. A thoughtful gift not only says '??thank you'?, but demonstrates that you have taken the time to know them as individuals.

Here are some tipping do'??s and don'??ts from Qualipedia Founder, Dawn Bryan.


  • 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.

Do Not:

  • 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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