Should you tip more at the holidays?

Do You Tip the Garbage Man? Holiday Tipping Guide
Do You Tip the Garbage Man? Holiday Tipping Guide

While many people still quibble about how much to tip their server at a waitress (psst, it's generally 15-20 percent for good to outstanding service) there's even more debate around what to tip at the year's end. Even if you don't celebrate a winter holiday, the end of the year is nigh, and your paper boy is coming around for his two dollars, plus tip.

As Emily Post points out, first and foremost, you shouldn't feel obligated to tip beyond your budget. Just because your neighbor gives the doorman $100, if you can't fit that number into your monthly expenditures, think about other options. You could give a smaller amount, or try for a small gift or homemade treat of some kind. Tipping is partly about the gesture, after all. Still, many service workers are low-paid and tend to rely on tips as their holiday bonus money for gift giving.

Who Gets More at the Holidays?

We're not necessarily talking about people you only encounter once in a lifetime, like a cab driver or wait person. Holiday tipping is often about giving a token of appreciation to those you interact with in a service capacity throughout the year.

Real Simple breaks down who should get more at the end of the year, and they include your doorman, regular cleaning person, a nanny, or your newspaper carrier. If you live in a big apartment building or have an HOA (home owners association) your collective neighbors may already have an annual gift in mind "from the group," so check with them before tipping out someone that serves the whole gang. The amount may be up to committee, however, so expect a little static if you don't agree on the amount that a group likely haggled about for a few months.

So You Don't Want to Tip. Are You a Scrooge?

Short answer, probably not, but it's important to understand what tips mean to workers in various jobs. Tipping is a gesture, but it's also unfortunately built into our pay structure – although that might be about to change. Lots of U.S. restaurants where tipping was the norm are even moving toward a system where tips aren't necessary, because they're able to pay their waitstaff a living wage.

On average, waiters and waitresses are only paid $4.94/hour according to PayScale data (yep, that's significantly below minimum wage). They're paid so low because of the system of tipping in place. While someone you encounter daily like a doorman is paid an average of $14/hour (which seems like a lot except in cities like New York or Chicago which have a lot of doormen and are also very expensive to live in), which is more than a waiter, but still not a whole lot in big urban environments.

So hey, if you can, and you want to, and you think they've done good work, go ahead and tip the guy or gal who helps you out during the year. It's just nice. Don't overthink it.

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