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Ultimate holiday tipping guide
Love it or hate it, holiday tipping time is here. Read on for how to give, and who to give to.
November 21, 2005: 12:29 PM EST
By Katie Benner, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money.com) Who's in the running for a $300 tip this holiday season?

Nannies, personal trainers and even dog walkers might possibly nab tips in the hundreds of dollars...though it's certainly not required.

"You tip the people who perform services for you year-round, who are there for you when you need them and whom you have a valuable relationship with," said Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and author of Essential Manners for Couples.

Linda Sondik, a personal trainer at New York Sports Club, said that one woman who tipped her in the hundreds had set a difficult goal at the beginning of the summer and reached it by Christmas.

"It was really emotional for both of us," said Sondik, adding that when tips far exceed the norm, it's often because a relationship with a client has become very intimate.

Extraordinary holiday generosity is great, but etiquette experts emphasized that tipping isn't designed to put you in debt.

"Forget about what you ought to do. Do what you can, and do it in the nicest way you possibly can," Post said.

How much...and how to give

Tipping experts said, and tip recipients implied, that cash is the best way to say happy holidays.

Hilka Klinkenberg, founder of Etiquette International, once gave one of her doormen CDs because they had often discussed opera, while the other men received cash. "He looked at me crestfallen," she said. "Tipping is not a time to try and be original."

Whether we tip with a song or a grumble, handing over the envelope should be done graciously.

Klinkenberg said to also include a short note thanking the recipient for their hard work, and to give the tip in person whenever possible.

Other tipping tips include

  • If you frequent a restaurant daily, it's a good idea to tip your regular waiter. An extra $5 in a card is a kind gesture at your regular lunch spot, while at the Four Seasons you could shell out $40-$50, plus similar amounts to the maitre d and captain.
  • Don't forget the snowplow man. He comes when you're in a bind, every year, every time it snows.
  • You don't have to give as much to the new hairdresser, doorman, etc. because you haven't forged a relationship with them yet.
  • Alcohol is not recommended. Just because you may enjoy the extra splash of cheer, it might not be right for someone else.

Otherwise, when in doubt, follow the table below.  Top of page

CHILD CARE
Babysitter 1 evening's pay + small gift from child
Au pair 1 week's pay or a gift + small gift from child
Nanny 1 week's to 1 month's pay + small gift from child
Daycare providers $20-$70/each + small gift from child
Child's teacher Gift (but check school's policy to see if it's allowed)
Coaches, tutors, music teachers,
ballet instructors, etc:
A small gift from the child

HOME/CAR CARE
Housekeeper 1 week's pay or more (depending on length of service)
Trash collectors $15-$20 each
Parking attendants $10-$35 each or up to half a month's parking bill for the group if they regularly provide extra service
Gardener $20-$50. If the gardener's last job before spring is a fall clean up, it's best to tip in the fall

APARTMENT SERVICE
Doormen $25-$100 each (those who provide the most service for you should get more than those whom you barely see)
Superintendent/custodian $50-$300 (tip more if there's no doorman and the service has been particularly attentive, but tip less if you tip throughout the year)
Porters/handymen $10-$50 each
Elevator operators $15-$40 each

PERSONAL CARE
Hairdresser Cost of 1 cut (or $20-$100) if you go frequently + small gift
Manicurist Cost of 1 session (or $10-$50) + small gift
Personal trainer $25 up to 1 week's pay (or cost of 1 session)
Massage therapist $50-$100 or cost of 1 session

PET CARE
Dog groomer Small gift + 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of 1 session
Dog walker/regular dog sitter Cost of 1-2 week's pay (as with a nanny, a small gift is optional)

DELIVERY SERVICES
U.S. mail carrier Gifts under $20*
UPS Company policy discourages drivers from accepting tips, but they can accept something of nominal value. Tipping guides offer $15 as a guideline, but the amount and choice of gift are up to you.
FedEx Company policy does not permit cash tips, but a gift worth up to $25 is okay.
Paper carrier $15-$25 for daily delivery ($5-$15 for weekend delivery)
*Civil servants are not allowed to receive cash tips. But if you wish to recognize your mail carrier, the U.S. Postal Service asks that your gratuity not exceed $20 in cash value.
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