Where to Tip (and Where Not to) for the Holiday Season

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By Kimberly Palmer

Like company holiday parties, tipping is one of those annual traditions that can feel more awkward than welcome. Just how much to hand out, and to whom, is often unclear, and the rules are constantly changing. If you're confused about why you can hand cash to your doorman but not your postal service worker, here's a guide to help you sort out this year's tipping traditions:

  • Don't tip the owners of establishments or salaried staff. Generally speaking, there's no need to tip the owner of a hair salon, salaried staff (like salespeople), full-service gas attendants, furniture delivery people (charges are included) or a flower delivery person.
  • Skip the postal worker. Like other federal employees, postal workers are prohibited from receiving cash or any gift worth more than $20. That means you can hand your carrier baked goods as a sign of appreciation, but don't hand out bills of any denomination.
Think About It
  • Tip the cabdriver but not the Uber driver. If you're a frequent taxi user, then you probably know to tip 10 to 20 percent of the ride's fare, but confusion has cropped up with the popularity of private car services like Uber. Uber specifies on its website that "there is no need" to tip drivers, and it's generally not expected. (The only exception is when you request a taxi through the Uber app, in which case an automatic 20 percent tip is added to your bill.)
Tip More
  • Tip more at restaurants. The holidays are also a good time of year to be more generous while dining out, especially given the new standard of tipping is closer to 20 percent (and up) than 10 to 15 percent.
  • Do thank personal caregivers with cash or gift certificates. Personal caregivers, such as day care teachers or aids to older adults, can receive cash gifts as a sign of appreciation. If the caregiving is in a group setting, like at a day care, then parents can team up to give a group cash gift or gift certificate, typically ranging from $100 to $300.
  • Do tip doormen. Plan on giving each worker at least $20 and sometimes closer to $100, depending on the type of building and its traditions. Ask longtime residents or the building manager if you're unsure. If the doorman provides extra services throughout the year, like bringing up your groceries, you can tip around $5 per trip.
  • Do thank housekeepers and housecleaners. If someone cleans your home on a weekly or biweekly basis, then thanking him or her with a gift equivalent to one home cleaning is appropriate, along with a more personal gift, especially if you've known the person for a long time.
  • Do tip hairstylists, trainers, aestheticians, massage therapists and other service providers. Similar to the cleaning service recommendation, consider giving a tip equal to the value of one visit. This guideline only applies to people you see regularly (more than once a month). Otherwise, a 20 percent tip per visit without an additional holiday boost is standard.
  • Do tip newspaper deliverers. A gift of between $10 and $20 or more in an envelope will help show your appreciation for all those cold and rainy mornings you can pick up your paper without a coat.
  • Do tip garbage collectors. This thankless job often gets overlooked at tipping time, but consider giving each worker at least $20. If you leave extra garbage any time throughout the year, then leave an additional $10 to $20 for their effort.
If it seems like tipping rates keep rising, it's because they are, since prices are rising. Given the rising cost of living and inflation, life is more expensive for everyone -- including service providers.

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