Top5 Holiday Tipping Tips

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By AnnaMaria Andriotis,

Rising unemployment and a slow economy are causing many consumers to limit their expenses this holiday season – and that may include the holiday tips set aside for the service providers who've cared for them throughout the year.

Want to show your appreciation without breaking your budget? First, assess how much cash you can give. Consumers on a tight budget should focus on the people they depend on to, say, babysit or walk their dog. They take priority over those on a regular salary, since gratuities are often included within their paycheck, says Sheryl Garrett, a fee-only certified financial planner.

Also, consider the kinds of tips you can give. While many service providers prefer cash, small homemade gifts, like cookies or jam, are also appreciated, and will cost less to prepare. With every tip or gift, include a handwritten note expressing your gratitude.

Here are the top five people you should thank this holiday season and how much you should consider giving. (Specific amount recommendations are provided by the Emily Post Institute.)

1. Those Who Care for Your Loved Ones

The most important people to thank are those who take care of your children or aging parents throughout the year.

Give your most generous tips to live-in help, such as an au pair or nanny, and the babysitter you depend on when you're yearning for a night out or dealing with an emergency, says Cindy Post Senning, a director at the Emily Post Institute, which specializes in etiquette. Most child-care providers accept cash. When possible, accompany a cash tip with a small personalized gift from the child.

Au pair or live-in nanny: One week's pay and a gift from the child.

Regular babysitter: One evening's pay and a small gift from the child.

Day-care provider: A gift of $25 to $70 for each staff member and a small gift from the child.

In most cases, the nurses and home health-care providers who care for your elderly parents aren't permitted to accept money. Check with their agency's rules before tipping them. Instead of a cash tip, consider a small gift like a book or a potted plant or even a donation to the agency.

Home health employees and private nurse: A small gift.

Nursing home employee: Most nursing homes won't accept cash gifts. Instead, send a gift that the staff can share, such as flowers or a fruit basket.

Personal caregiver: Between one week to one month's salary, or a gift.

2. Those Who Care for Your Pets

Dog walkers brave rain, snow and hail to care for man's best friend. That makes them top priority on your holiday tipping list, says Post Senning.

Dog walker: Up to one week's pay or a gift.

Pet groomer: Up to the cost of one session or a gift. A holiday tip is only necessary if you've come to rely on a specific pet groomer throughout the year. But if you've been tipping them for each appointment, an extra holiday tip typically isn't expected, says Post Senning.

3. Those Who Care for Your Home

Whether they're cleaning your home every week or fixing leaky faucets, service providers help keep homes in tiptop shape regardless of whether you live in a single-family or a high-rise.

Apartment dwellers should check with their building association to see if residents are contributing to a holiday fund for the building's personnel or if everyone plans on tipping separately. Home owners who rely on seasonal service providers, like gardeners or pool cleaners, should tip them at the end of the season.

Housekeeper/cleaner: Up to one week's pay and/or a small gift.

Garage attendant: $10 to $30 in cash, or a small gift.

Superintendent: $20 to $80, or a gift.

Doorman: $15 to $80. If you have multiple doormen, then tip $15 or more each, or give a gift.

Elevator operator: $15 to $40 each.

Handyman: $15 to $40.

Gardener: $20 to $50 each.

Pool Cleaner: Cost of one cleaning split among the crew.

4. Those Who Pamper You

If you splurge on weekly manicures and pedicures or spa treatments and tip each time, you don't necessarily need to give an additional tip for the holidays. However, if you request the same service provider every week, try to add a little to your tip during this time of year as a way of showing your appreciation, says Post Senning. Meanwhile, those who get a mani-pedi a few times a year don't have to worry about holiday tips.

Barber: Cost of one haircut or a gift.

Beauty salon staff: In many instances, the services you receive at a beauty salon -- manicure, pedicure, facial -- are offered by a team of people. For holiday tips, divide the cost of one salon visit among each staff member who works on you.

Massage therapist and personal trainer: Up to the cost of one session or a gift.

5. Those Who Deliver

Almost everyone depends on a delivery man – a postal worker or a UPS guy – for important work packages or even for the morning newspaper. This is the perfect time to show your gratitude for their work. Cash is typically the tipping currency of choice for the newspaper boy. However, with other regular delivery workers, such as the mailman or package deliverer, check their employer's gift policy first. According to the U.S. Postal Service's gift regulations, postal workers can't accept cash or checks.

Mail carrier: A small gift worth no more than $20, such as travel mugs or hand warmers. Or, send gifts -- like a fruit basket or cookie tin -- with a note, to your local USPS branch that the postal workers can share.

Package deliverer: A small gift in the $20 range.

Newspaper deliverer: Give $10 to $30 or a small gift.

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