Holiday tipping: How much to give in tough times

@CNNMoney December 13, 2011: 5:16 AM ET
The economy may rise and fall, but holiday tips should not.

The economy may rise and fall, but holiday tips should not.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- 'Tis the season to show your appreciation for the help you've received throughout the year. And when it comes to saying thanks, cash is best.

"Holiday tipping is really holiday thanking," said Daniel Post, a spokesman for The Emily Post Institute and the great-great grandson of Emily Post.


"It's a great way to remember the people who really support us in our lives -- that can be the person who takes care of your kids and your home or the person who plows your driveway or the doorman in your building," said Post.

About 70% of Americans said that despite the current economic situation, they have not changed their tipping habits, according to a recent survey by Meanwhile, 16% of respondents said they will tip less this year because money is tight.

"That's a reflection of the financial difficulties that many people are experiencing whether it's prolonged unemployment, reduced income or dealing with things like foreclosures or other late payments," noted Greg McBride, Bankrate's senior financial analyst.

Holiday Money

In that case, it's important to remember that holiday tipping is "never an obligation but it really is an opportunity to show gratitude," Post said.

With a limited tipping budget, start with those closest to you -- even "if it is with little personal gifts like handcrafts or baked goods," Post advised.

"These are the people that change diapers and plow snow at 3 a.m. so you can go to work," said Jodi R. R. Smith, author of The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners.

As for what to give, cash is generally preferred, said Post. "Not to beat around the bush but people love to get money."

The appropriate amount is "roughly the equivalent to a single service," he said, whether that is a week's pay, a day of housekeeping or a personal training session. And those tips should be distributed any time between Thanksgiving and New Year's, he added.

If you have had an economically down year, if you have lost your job, or if money is tight, consider tipping what you can and then including a note that says "this tip is not reflective of your service but rather of my budget," Smith said.

And when your finances are fluid again, whether that is in January or June, send a more appropriate tip, she added. To top of page

Help! We need a makeover
Young dad, $15,000 in credit card debt
Readers' Choice

Carlos Rodriguez is trying to rid himself of $15,000 in credit card debt, while paying his mortgage and saving for his son's college education.

$400,000 portfolio, too many holdings
Readers' Choice

Susan Carson and Laura DeLallo make $225,000 and have half a million in retirement savings, but their sprawling portfolios is proving hard to manage.

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
Rate data provided
View rates in your area
Find personalized rates:
  • -->

    Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.