Holiday tipping is a touchy subject in a tough economy. Here are three ways to tip within your budget, and three more standard tips on tipping.
The holidays are a festive time, and we all want to spread good cheer. But cash tips can be costly, and in some cases, inappropriate. Thankfully, there are plenty of guidelines for tipping and some great alternatives to cash gifts.
Deciding how much to tip during the holidays can be a daunting task. Here are some great ideas on how to divvy up your tipping budget, including what to do when you just can't afford to offer cash, and a few standard tipping guidelines that you should keep in mind.
Dividing Your Tipping Budget
• Create a tipping budget. Holiday tipping is about offering what you can afford, not what you can't. Once you and your family have decided how much cash you can spare for tipping, the next task is...
• Divide your cash tips appropriately. When distributing your cash tips, keep the following in mind: How much do you normally pay each service provider? How long have you known this person? Finally, how strong is your relationship? For example, a trusted housekeeper or babysitter who has visited your home for years should certainly be offered more than the anonymous person who empties your garbage. Once you run out of cash...
• Offer creative non-cash tips. A sincere, well-written note of appreciation is oftentimes a favorite. Offering a regular service provider some paid time off is also an indisputable winner when it comes to non-cash gifts. Finally, homemade baked goods can go over great, as long as you are sure the recipient does not have any food allergies or dietary restrictions.
Some Standard Tips on Tipping
• Tipping service providers that you pay. While the Web is filled with guides to tipping, such as Emily Post's, these lengthy guides can often be boiled down to a few simple rules. In most cases, the recommended tip for regularly paid service providers is between one week and one month of service, depending on the length and depth of your relationship.
• Guidelines for tipping public employees. The only thing worse than giving someone no tip is offering one that can get the recipient into trouble. For example, mail carriers are only allowed to accept small snacks and beverages, or items that have less than $20 in value. They are forbidden to accept cash, checks, or even gift cards. If you choose to tip teachers or other public school employees, check with the administration first.
• Holiday travel tipping. It's always a good idea to recognize the people in the travel industry who have to work on the holidays. For example, last year I had the occasion to travel on Christmas Day. Knowing that the employees I would meet would be the unlucky ones who had to work that day, I handed out small bags of Godiva chocolates with the following note: "Thank you for taking time away from your family so that I could see mine." These gifts were inexpensive, but their appreciation was priceless.
Don't stress about holiday tipping, and above all, don't go into debt to do it. By following some basic guidelines and being creative, you can show your appreciation to those in your life who you rely on every day.