Tipping for the Holidays

by Ron Haynes

Scanning through my RSS reader (I use Google Reader and it’s fabulous), I ran across a post on what “etiquette” says we should tip for the holidays according to Emily Post. It seems “Ms Post” hasn’t heard that there’s a recession going on. She also hasn’t heard of frugality … or a budget.

Service Provider

Recommended Tip

Live In Nanny One Week’s Pay
Regular Babysitter One Night’s Pay AND a small gift
Day Care Providers A Gift AND up to $70 to each person who works with your child(ren)
Any Live-In Help Gift AND up to one month’s pay
House Cleaner Gift AND one week’s pay
Barber or Hairdresser Cost of one visit
Trash Collectors $10 to $30 each
Personal Trainer Cost of one session
Dog Walker or Groomer Cost of one session
Newspaper Carrier $10 to $30
Handyman $15 to $40
Building Superintendent $20 to $80
Yard Worker $20 to $50
Teachers Small gift or note from you AND a small gift from your child

I just gotta say:

Holy Guacamole, Are You Kidding Me?

I’m sorry, but are these positions not paid enough? Do the employees have to depend on the kindness of customers? I’ll exclude teachers (they’re arguably the most important of the group) —  we should help them out, even though my kids attend a private school that charges me over $10,000 per year in tuition and then nickels and dimes me the rest of the year ($14 for my family to go to one high school basketball game?). As far as the rest of the people on this list, no way. I either don’t use them or it isn’t practical.

garbagetruck The trash guy? Gimme a break! He drives off nonchalantly when he negligently spills trash all over my yard with his giant robotic arm that slings my trash can around. The barber has gone up for the last 5 straight years even though he’s cutting less and less of my hair! I can’t imagine tipping a building superintendent since I own my own home. I don’t use paid babysitters (I have teenage daughters), only had one massage in my life and it was rather uncomfortable when I couldn’t help but wonder halfway through it if the masseuse was the older sister of my daughter’s best friend.

I don’t get the paper and I’ve had four different mail carriers this year alone. I walk and groom my own dog, work on my own lawn, fix what needs fixing, and clean my own home. This could be a list of “save money by doing these things yourself!”

Has tipping just gone too far?

Maybe tipping in and of itself hasn’t gotten out of hand, but the expectations sure have. It seems that everywhere I go someone has put out a tip jar, and it’s suspiciously primed with coinage and a few bills. Everyone from the Starbucks drive through to the dry cleaners to the deli has a clear bucket by the cash register just waiting on a tip. I wonder if the Salvation Army could increase their kettle donations if the kettle were clear plastic? What are your thoughts on all this tipping madness? I waited tables for over a year when I was first married so I know what it’s like to live on $1.85/hour plus tips. But when you have a job with the city, driving a truck and picking up trash with a robotic arm while making $43,000/year, it’s a little different in my book. When I tip, I tip extremely well, but I usually only tip waiters or someone that I know lives on tips AS their income. The instances cited by Emily Post are for jobs that have a steady paycheck. In these cases, a “tip” is really a gift and I reserve gifts mainly for people who are close to me.

What about you? Do you tip at the holidays? Why or why not?

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Ron – I have to agree with you. It seems that everyone expects a tip whether they have actually provided top-quality service or not. I’m not stingy. I’m more than willing to offer a nice tip for good service, but the guildelines provided above are nonsense in my book. I tip waiters and I give the guy that does my yard a tip at Christmastime, but that’s about it on a regular basis.


hi ron
i give my live-in paid a month paid extra in decembre . i give a bit extra here and there. but i tio very wel the building attendant at my GM house. he go to her every night around 9 to see if every is fine, he give her a call in the morning, help her in many ways for more then 30 year. he will retire pretty soon and i plan to give him a pay holiday to puerto rico where his from. the guy is a gem and really nice to every one( man , he is nice to the yuppies that yell at him). some people schoud get a bit more because they do more.i will never tipp my hairdresser or nanicure but i do not live in the US. bella


Tipping used to mean something and people actually expected to EARN the tip. Today, they just expect it for doing their job.

Notice to Everyone! A tip is given for extraordinary service – not just the basics. So if you want an extraordinary tip, provide extraordinary service and stop whining!

Credit Girl

I totally agree! People just expect to be tipped nowadays, but honestly only people whom I see working hard are those who I will actually tip well because I received superb service. Ron, at first I thought that was YOUR list and I thought it was a bit outrageous until I realized that was Emily’s post. Some of those services are already paid enough like a personal fitness trainer? Not necessary.


I personally agree with you on the tipping issue, but I think the audience for Emily Post’s etiquette “rules” are people of a completely different socioeconomic plane than either of us.

Rules of etiquette do not originate with the middle class, working class, or the poor. Traditionally people who employ live-in help, nannies, dog walkers, personal trainers are among the most affluent in society and place a premium on hiring people who provide exceptional service de facto (at least in their estimation). These are people whose children attend the most exclusive private schools in town (or even boarding schools)–in their world, a “small gift” could be a diamond-encrusted apple pin from Tiffany & Co. These are people who have drivers and landscapers and other hired help that we not only do not have, but do not need because our means and lifestyles are considerably less.

The idea is that people of this economic level can reasonably afford and do generously compensate those trusted service providers. They may very well be frugal in other ways, but people who strictly adhere to these principles many times are exceedingly generous with the people who attend to them all throughout the year.


I agree with you on the origins of etiquette, but the original article addressed things that the middle class regularly uses: barbers, hairdressers, trash collectors, babysitters, day care providers, teachers, mail carriers, handymen, etc. And the article includes these gems: First and foremost, you shouldn’t feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget. If your budget does not allow for tips, consider homemade gifts … doesn’t sound like anyone on a different socioeconomic plane than me!

And I honestly don’t believe many of those upper class blue bloods actually read Emily Post.

Barbara G Meyer

I agree with you too, Ron. I give annual bonuses to some people, like my extraordinary hairdresser. Some people I know get a lot of heavy mail during the year, I suggest they give a bonus to their mailman, again as a reward for extraordinary service. But mostly: I HATE tips. Like you mentioned, they are being used to NOT pay people an honest wage. I would prefer to spend a little more on good food, served by people who are PAID to give GOOD service, and not have to be manipulated into “rewarding” them for doing their job as they should do it.

David Vega

I agree…I knew tipping went too far when I was expected to tip at a walk up counter….let me repeat that, a walk up counter! I was at Chili’s getting takeout and usually I wait in the car for someone to bring the food out (where a tip is absolutely in order). On this day, they were busy so I had to go inside to get my food (no big deal). When the girl swiped my card she asked “how much would you like to leave as a tip?” Ummmm, nothing….you didn’t provide an extra service.

She didn’t like that answer but I didn’t like the question.

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