Your Money
Holiday tipping tips
Using these 5 Tips to determine who to tip and how much can prevent a holiday headache.
December 19, 2003: 1:35 PM EST
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - 'Tis the season to spread the wealth.

There's no better time to show appreciation to the people who provide services for you throughout the year. But sometimes trying to figure out just who to tip and how much can cause a holiday headache.

Is the anxiety of the tipping game causing a nightmare for you before Christmas?

Here are today's 5 Tips.

Tip 1: Deciding who's been naughty and nice
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CNNfn's Gerri Willis shares five tips on who to tip and how much this holiday season.

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Trying to figure out who to tip can be confusing and quite expensive. All of us have different ideas of what constitutes good service and nothing is etched in stone of what is appropriate to tip, but here are a few guidelines according to some etiquette experts.

Babysitters: It really depends on how often they watch your children. One to two evenings' pay plus a small gift from your child is good for the occasional babysitter. If they come to your home everyday, a week's worth of pay, plus a small gift is appropriate.

Hairstylist: The cost of one visit. And, depending on your relationship with your hairstylist, you may also consider giving a small gift.

Newspaper Carrier: $10 to $25 is appropriate, depending upon whether you tip them during the year. Tipping is sometimes a year-round gesture for some subscribers.

Everyday Money
The Holiday Tipping Table

Mail Carrier: As a government employee, postal workers are prohibited from accepting cash gifts or gifts valued more than $20. However, a small gift worth less than that amount is fine. Some examples are cookies, chocolate, or gift certificates from a particular store.

Wine is not a good option since carriers can not have alcohol in their vehicles.

Better yet, write a letter of appreciation on behalf of your carrier to the postmaster.

For more tipping guidelines, check out and search for the "holiday tipping guidelines."

Tip 2: The green is not for everyone

Sometimes it is not appropriate to tip with cash. Think about it, you wouldn't give a friend money just to say thanks for being a friend. The same holds true for doctors, teachers, personal trainers, accountants, and even colleagues at work.

Instead, a thoughtful gift is recommended. Consider the relationship you have with the person and whether or not cold, hard cash would be the best choice.

Tip 3: The how to of tipping

Etiquette expert Rosanne Thomas of Protocol Advisors says tips should always be put inside a holiday card and never just in an envelope. Cash is preferable if you are handing the tip to the person, although checks may be safer if you are mailing the gift.

If you are on a budget and you are concerned you will not be able to tip as much as you tipped in previous years, you can either cut everyone's tip across the board, or eliminate some people.

Etiquette guru Peggy Post says if you are crossing some names off the list, the last people you want to remove are those who take care of you and -- especially -- your children.

If you really can't afford to tip, a card is always nice, a letter to that person's boss is a good gesture, as are homemade cookies and sweets.

Tip 4: Out of sight, out of mind?

You may ask yourself, "I never see my mailman... do I have to tip him?" The answer is yes. One ethics expert I spoke to says you are ethically obligated to give a tip to someone who has done a service for you.

Tip 5: Travel tipping

Many of you will be traveling this holiday season and with that comes the additional task of tipping the hotel and resort staff. Some resorts say tipping is included. Still, you'll want to call ahead to see if that includes waiters, maid service, bellhops.

Also, some all-inclusive resorts such as Club Med prohibit tipping.

Cruises can be complicated when it comes to tipping. Tips are suggested per passenger/per night and there are minimum suggested amounts per week.

Here are a few examples: cabin stewards and dining room stewards normally get $25 per week. Busboys get $8 a week.

Tip bartenders and servers as you would in a restaurant. If you have any questions contact your travel agent before you board.

If you are traveling to another country, different cultures have different views when it come to tipping. For example, in Singapore, tipping isn't customary and it is prohibited at the airport. Except for bellboys, it is also discouraged at hotels.

Check out, which has tipping guides for the worldwide traveler.  Top of page

Gerri Willis is the personal finance editor for CNN Business News. Willis also is co-host of CNNfn's The FlipSide, weekdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (ET). E-mail comments to

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