Holiday tipping etiquette: Who should you tip and how much?

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Holiday tipping etiquette: Who should you tip and how much?
What is the best practice when it comes to tipping this holiday season? Who and how much should you tip? We break down the latest etiquette.

'Tis the season to think about thanking the people who help us all year long and make life a little easier. But in recent years, holiday tipping has run up against inflation, record credit card debt, remote work and more.

The rules around tipping can be confusing. There's the etiquette side and the economic side and sometimes those sides don't add up - especially right now, when consumers have seen their budgets stretched.

"When it comes to holiday tipping, the easiest thing to think is that it's really holiday thanking. It's a time to say thank you to the service providers in your life," said Lizzie Post from The Emily Post Institute.

Amid high interest rates, rising credit card debt and lingering inflation, it might be challenging.

But as Americans face more options to tip everyday, Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman says they seem to be drawing distinctions with those they see more often.

"Everything from complaining about the pre-tip screens to thinking that we're just being pressured too much and tipping has gotten out of control, I think a lot of people are separating that now. Maybe some of it is that holiday cheer and, and goodwill," he said.

The Emily Post Institute has a full list of holiday tipping recommendations on their website,

Here are some examples:

  • For a regular babysitter, up to one evening's pay.
  • For a dog walker, up to one week's pay or an equivalent gift
  • For a barber, up to the cost of a haircut or a gift
  • For a trash and recycling collector, $10 to $30 cash or a gift that complies with municipal rules
  • And for a handyman, $15 to $40 or a similar gift

But Lizzie says those are just guidelines. It's the sentiment - whether cash, homemade treats, a small gift or just a card - that really matters.

"You might not be able to afford to hit all of them on your list. And that's ok. You can always write a card stating your appreciation to anyone and this is a great time of year to do just that," she said.

When making a tip list, check the rules on who can accept cash tips and who can't. That might include city workers like sanitation employees, postal and package carriers and home care and nursing home workers, depending on their employer.