Holiday Tipping Guide 2008

Despite the tough economy many people still rely on proceeds from holiday tipping for a large portion of their seasonal income. But tipping is not reserved for only traditional service professions such as restaurant servers.  Around the holidays there are many other tipping opportunities for people who provide a service to you throughout the year.

Things to Consider Before Leaving Your Tip

Quality of the service provided.  Obviously, if you are unhappy with the service you are receiving you should not only not leave a generous tip, but should probably discuss the level of service with the provider.  When determining how much of a tip to leave let the service level guide you.  Does the individual go above and beyond, or just enough to get the job done?

Tip within your budget.  Sure, it would be nice to add to your paperboy’s tuition fund around the holidays, but a large tip might not be in your household’s budget.  Do not feel pressured to live up to a tipping standard (like the ones offered below) if your budget does not allow it.

Tip frequency throughout the year.  Do you typically tip for this service during each transaction?  When I venture out to get a haircut I typically leave a few dollars extra as a tip throughout the year, so at the end of the year I don’t leave a particularly large Christmas tip.  However, I do not tip our newspaper delivery person throughout the year, so I’ll include a little extra with the December bill as a thanks for keeping the paper out of the yard and on the pavement.

How Much Should You Tip This Holiday Season?

Like I mentioned above, a general rule of thumb should be to allow the level of service guide you.  Still, it is good to have a baseline, or starting point, when determining how much to tip.  Hopefully the following amounts will help get you started.

  • Newspaper delivery person: $20, or less if you are like me and only receive the weekend editions.
  • Baby sitter: Equivalent of one evening’s pay (in addition, a small gift from the child is a nice touch).
  • Hairstylist:  If you tip throughout the year, double your normal tip amount.
  • Mail carrier:  Gift up to $20, but not cash.  Personally, we like to bake a few goodies for both the mail carrier and the policeman that directs traffic after school.
  • Housekeeper:  Consider a tip equal to the cost of one service.
  • Personal trainer: If you see your trainer regularly (as in more than once a week), $30 to $40 ought to be sufficient.
  • Gardener: Equivalent of one week’s pay.  This should be reserved for lawn care providers or gardeners that provide a regular, weekly service.  Give less for seasonal lawn care providers.
  • Day care staff: A tip of $25 to $50 to each care provider plus a small gift from your child.

This is also a good time for a reminder that tips are appreciated by those in service industries all year.  One of my family members used to deliver pizza while in school and said you would be appalled by the amounts of some tips he received – in the $1 or $2 range, if any at all.  Think about it, food delivery drivers brave the elements and navigate traffic to deliver your meals.  Why do they receive less than the standard 10%-20% of the total bill that servers in restaurants receive?  Never quite figured that one out.

We are going through rough economic times, and tip income seems to be down for those in jobs that typically rely on tips for income.  People are eating out less, and canceling unnecessary services, minimizing the opportunities for those that work for tips to earn their money.  If you can afford to be a little extra generous, now is a great time heading into the holiday season.


  1. How much should you tip when you get take-out (non-delivered) meals? I typically don’t tip when I pick up my own food at a restaurant mainly because I don’t know what’s appropriate in such a case. Any ideas?

  2. Having worked in the service industry, I usually leave a generous tip.
    It can be a challenge dealing with people so I will allow for honest mistakes, bad days, etc.
    Of course, if the person is downright rude or nasty, they can kiss the tip goodbye.

  3. FD, are you still going to do the generous tip to a restaurant server right around Christmas? I remember you mentioning it a while back and was just wondering. Now that I’ve been able to get ahold of the money situation in the last year, I’ve made sure to tip generously (when deserved) to make up for those college years when I couldn’t afford to tip very well. I tend to tip those who work for it rather than just give to charity. I’ve personally seen way too many non-profits waste funds and not give a damn about determining if the recipient really needs the charity or is just standing in line for a handout.

  4. It is usually not customary to tip when picking up your food yourself. Tipping a delivery person is done because you don’t want the inconvenience of having to do it yourself.
    Also, servers and drivers don’t get paid the same as the cooks who prepare the food.

  5. @FD I’m curious why you recommend to tip more to someone you tip throughout the year. I can understand from just a nice perspective since it’s the holidays, but the reality is you are tipping for the service. So hairstylists, waiters, etc to me shouldn’t be dealt with differently.

    Where it matters is more the once a year people who rely on the holidays for a substantial amount of their income like a doorman.

    • @Craig: I probably should have clarified this point–thanks for bringing it up. What I really meant was for those that you do business with throughout the year, but tip on a regular basis (such as hairstylists, etc.), consider simply doubling the amount of your normal tip. People you don’t traditional tip throughout the year, or that you do infrequent business with, may deserve a higher “Christmas bonus” tip, assuming their service is top notch.

      @DavidK: Yes, are still planning the Christmas Eve tip for someone in our area. It is a tradition I look forward to sharing with my children this year!

  6. I realize this may be terrible in your mind, but I regularly only tip 2 dollars for pizza, and if they are rude or ridiculously late I take away the tip. I had one driver once that made me leave my apartment to come pick up the food at the car. No tip for you! But seriously… if you are out delivering 6 pizzas an hour (which is a seriously conservative estimate), 2 bucks a pizza, thats 12 bucks on top of your normal wage. That is sufficient in my mind.

  7. I also tip the garbage / recycling guys who pick my trash and recycling. I at least buy them a 12 pack of beer for picking up my waste …

  8. How do you tip people such as the garbage/recycling folks? Do you wait until they come and then run out with a card? I work strange hours and am often not home when such services are provided. How do I tip them??