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Holiday Tipping: The Right Thing to Do

Patricia Deese of Mount Dora, Florida, is stocking up on grocery store gift cards this holiday season. Like a lot of people, she plans to give a little something to people who make her life easier or more enjoyable all year long.

“My newspaper delivery person always receives a $20 gift card from me. Having that paper on the driveway by 5:30 a.m. each day is a necessity,” she told LifeZette. “No paper means a bad start to my husband’s day.”

Laura Barclay of Tampa, Florida, said she, too, likes to thank the newspaper delivery person by giving him $20 in cash in a nice envelope. “He faithfully delivers my Sunday paper by 2:30 a.m.”

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Whether it’s a present, gift card, or cash, many believe they will reap the rewards in the long run by being generous.

Sam Samsel of Winter Haven, Florida, prefers to give cash. He gives the garbage men $20 each. It’s a small investment, he said, that reaps big dividends. “They never reject anything I put out by the curb and they even bring the garbage can back up to the house after they’ve emptied it,” he said.

Holiday tipping is ingrained in American culture. It is not clear when the word “tip” came into the English language but some speculate the origins of the word came from Samuel Johnson.

Johnson frequented a coffee shop that had a bowl labeled “To Insure Promptitude,” and Johnson and other guests would put a coin into the bowl throughout the evening to receive better service. This soon was shortened to “T.I.P.” and then simply tip.

Related: Go Ahead, Kids, Say Merry Christmas! [1]

Holiday tipping originated as a way to give thanks to service providers who went above and beyond or provided exceptional service all year long. It can get confusing, though — not to mention overwhelming. Who should you tip and how much? That can range from a few dollars to a few hundred, depending on your relationship and the length of service. Be aware that in some metropolitan areas, higher tipping amounts are expected.

Obviously, you can’t tip everyone or else you’d go broke. That’s why it’s important to create a budget. Sit down and make a list of all those who are most important in your life. Some, you may never see, but you experience their good service. Take your top three to five people and tip them first. Then decide whom you want to tip after that.

Sit down and make a list of all those who are most important in your life.

In some instances, like the U.S. Postal Service, cash is not acceptable, but a box of homemade cookies would do. If you’re not sure what to give someone, call or go online to check their company policy.

The guidelines below are a starting point for whom and how much you should tip, though the precise amount depends heavily on your relationship with the person, the quality of their work, the frequency with which you use their services.

For example, if your handyman helped you out occasionally during the year, you may want to give him cash or a gift card equivalent to $25. But if he took on a big project or comes during weekends or off-hours, consider giving him more.

The bottom line: Give what you can. Tips are appreciated but not mandatory. When possible, deliver your gift in person accompanied by a handwritten card. Gifts are generally delivered the entire month of December, but may be given whenever you have contact with the person, even after the holiday season.

Related: God and Faith Are Good for Your Kids [2]

Here are some people you may want to consider tipping:

Manicurist: $25 to $50, or a gift

Hair stylist: $50 to $100, or a gift

Barber: up to the cost of one haircut, or a gift

Personal trainer: up to the cost of one session or a gift

Housekeeper: up to the cost of one visit

Au pair or live-in nanny: up to two weeks’ pay and a gift from your children

Teacher: A gift card or gift certificate for up to $25, or pitch in with some of the other parents and buy a more expensive gift certificate

Day care provider: $20 to $70 each, plus a small gift from your child

Babysitter: an evening’s pay, plus a gift from your child

Massage therapist: up to the cost of one session or a gift

Superintendent: $20 to $80 or a gift, depending on how helpful your super has been to you

Doorman: $15 to $100

Mail carrier: small gift or gift card up to $20

Newspaper carrier: $10 to $30

Sanitation worker: $10 to $30 each for private service; check your local municipality for regulations, as some areas may not allow tipping

Yard or garden worker: $20 to $50 or a gift card

Handyman: $15 to $50 or a gift card

Pool cleaners: up to the cost of one cleaning or gift card

Dog walker: up to one week’s pay or a gift

Pet groomer: up to the cost of one session or a gift