Dos and Don’ts of Holiday Tipping (a.k.a. how to not go broke tipping everyone you’ve had contact with this year)

I spent 6 years living in Europe and it was easy to get disused to tipping. These people get paid. Why do I have to tip every barrista, sales person, and delivery person. If it’s expected, it’s no longer a tip; it’s a tax (not to the government, but essentially a service fee).

Guess what? I still feel that way. I’m very parsimonious (fancy way of saying tight-fisted) about tipping even though I waited tables all through college.  I know that some new (very popular) restaurants in the US are no longer allowing tipping. Service is included. Bra-VO!

Remember: a “tip” is a “thank you” not a bribe, or a way to show others how wealthy you are. Making cookies or not tipping with cash can just as easily say “thank you” in many cases.

  • DON’T tip your letter carrier in cash. He/she can only accept a small gift worth less than $20 or small food/beverage gift like chocolates or cookies.
  • DO mind your budget. If you cannot afford a cash tip for everyone on your list at an acceptable level, consider homemade gifts like cookies or crafts
  • DO make a list of everyone who you want (remember the word WANT, do not feel obligated) to tip. Stick to the list. Don’t add people randomly. Think about it.
  • DON’T tip people you don’t interact with at least weekly or bi-weekly. There is no need to tip service providers you see seasonally or every few months (landscapers, car mechanics) unless your relationship is longer than 5 yrs.
  • DO consider buying a fun/edible gift for everyone at a store or service location if you see different technicians every time you go instead of tipping everyone separately.
  • DO enclose a handwritten note with each gift or card. You’re not paying a fee, neither was the tip specifically required so make it what it is – a personal thank you.
  • DON’T tip professionals and owners. If your stylist or dog walker also happens to be the owner, you don’t have to tip, nor do you tip a doctor, therapist, or accountant. A small gift of homemade cookies for a year where you were an extra pain to them, is a nice gesture, but make sure it’s for the whole office.
  • DO thank technicians or service workers you see regularly (1x/week or 1x/2 weeks) with the value of one session. Your cleaning person charges you $85/week, you can thank him/her with $85 cash or a gift card with a similar amount.
  • DON’T tip to show off. Be tasteful not excessive.  There’s a thin line between a ‘thank you’ and a feeling of charity or condescension. No need to tip more than the price of 1 session.