Rethinking Your Holiday Tipping Philosophy

Tip Jar on Piano

The holiday tip. How did a simple gesture meaning, “Hey, thanks for all your help this year!” morph into a angst-ridden calculation of Who, Why and How Much?

Is it because we outsource so many services? Because these days a heartfelt card seems empty without some cash inside it?

Much depends on your personal tipping philosophy, as our recent unscientific survey of readers and friends revealed. Here’s some insight we’ve gleaned, along with guidance from etiquette expert Cindy Post Senning:

  • The policy. Even if your tip is just a small gift certificate for a peppermint mocha, making someone feel appreciated strengthens your relationship, says Senning. That’s good for both of you. So be generous (knowing that generosity doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot).
  • The people. Women tip a surprising range of folks. This includes those involved in regular grooming (of people or pets); mail carriers; gardeners; garbage collectors; doormen; sitters (of kids and pets); housekeepers; personal trainers; school bus drivers (really); piano teachers; soccer coaches, and more.

    Some women also tip their child’s teacher, often with a gift card (depending on school policy)!

  • Cash, gift or card? At the very least, give a card, notes Senning, especially if money is tight. Beyond that, a gift is appropriate if you know the person well enough—otherwise a cash tip or a gift card is usually fine.

    Senning and some women agree that if you’ve tipped someone regularly throughout the year (or been generous with bonuses), there’s no need for a big end-of-year tip.

Tip over. Who do you tip this time of year, how much, and why?