Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays: End-of-Year Tipping Explained

Laura Shin

TippingIt’s only the first week of December, but if you’ve been following our Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays, you’re in the home stretch. Gifts? Check. Travel plans? Check. Etiquette? Check. Donations? Check.

But before you rest on your laurels, let’s tackle one of the trickier holiday practices: end-of-year tipping for the service people who regularly help you.

They help you when you’re struggling to get a package in the door. They fix your leaky faucet before it becomes a flood. They brave rain and snow to get you your mail every day.

All around us, there are real-life angels—our manicurist, doorman, superintendent and more—who make our lives easier just by doing their jobs with care and pride.

So, at the end of the year, we want to thank them for their great service. And the best way to do that is to give them an end-of-year gift, which can be an actual present or a cash tip.

But if you were to indiscriminately tip all the service people in your life, you could easily end up in the red. It might sound easy enough to keep an informal running tally of how much you’ll tip each person, but that type of mental accounting can be bad for your budget.

Before You Start Stuffing Envelopes …

Here a few helpful guidelines you can use in deciding who to tip and how much.

First, weigh the quality of service. This means that you should prioritize those who have provided you exceptional service this year, like the super who dug you out after the surprise blizzard.

At the same time, consider how frequently you use each person’s services. According to U.S. News, it’s not necessary to give an end-of-year tip to service people you see less than once a month (a 20% tip per visit is standard in those cases). Depending on your personal situation, some service people that might fall in this category include your hairstylist, another type of aesthetician, or a handyman.

Also take into account whether or not you already tip this person regularly. If so, you can opt for a more modest tip or even refrain from an end-of-year tip altogether. For instance, if you tip your housekeeper every time she comes, you may give her a smaller tip than the guideline below suggests.

Then, look at your own situation. If you’re unemployed, or your budget just doesn’t allow you to dole out cash tips this year, you may be able to give a thoughtful gift like homemade cookies instead. It’s best to use this strategy for those people you don’t employ quite as often, and if the idea makes you uncomfortable, include a note thanking them for their service and explaining that you’re not tipping because of your circumstances, and not because of a lack of good service on their part.

Last, but not least: Stick to your budget, so you can continue to enjoy their services next year!

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Who to Tip and How Much

The chart below contains recommendations, not requirements. If you live in a large city, err on the higher side of the ranges provided below. And, keeping in mind the advice above, let your individual circumstances and the relationship you have with each person be your ultimate guide. If you’re still unsure and the service worker is employed by a larger establishment, call the employer and ask what the company deems acceptable and what other customers typically do.

Lastly, no matter what you do, always accompany each tip or gift with a handwritten note (two or three sentences is fine) expressing your appreciation for that person’s help throughout the year.

Profession Tip
Housekeeper/Cleaner A tip of one week’s pay or less, or a gift
Beauty salon staff Individual tips (or cards and gifts) for each person who works on you, all totaling the amount of one salon visit. (It’s not necessary to tip the salon owner.)
Mail carrier Small gift whose value does not exceed $20 (postal workers are prohibited from receiving any amount of cash and gifts whose value is greater than $20)
Superintendent A tip of $20-$80, or a gift
Handyman A tip of $15-$40, or a gift
Doorman A tip of $15-$80 (if multiple doormen, $15 or more), or a gift. Because the range of $15 to $80 is so large, you should find out what is typical in the building. If you’re new, ask longer-time residents for guidance.
Garage attendant A tip of $10-$30, or a small gift
Newspaper delivery person A tip of $10-$30, or a small gift
Dog walker A tip of one week’s pay or less, or a gift
Yard/garden worker A tip of $20-$50 for each, or a small gift
Personal trainer/ Massage therapist A tip of one session’s cost or less, or a gift

tipping-guideMore From LearnVest for the Holidays

Find out what a “Retro Christmas” is, and why you should consider having one this year.
It can be hard to budget for charitable giving on top of other gifts. Read our ultimate guide to year-end giving here.
Make DIY gifts for an inexpensive but very personal gift: Check out these ideas.

  • bd

    Should the gift be in the form of cash or a check??

    • Anonymous

      Hi bd,

      Great question. We recommend using cash instead of a check.


      • Findyourvoicenow

        Thank you so much for posting information about Tipping during the Christmas and New Year holidays.  I was getting a little over whelm with giving.  The information you have provided truly is a benchmark on tipping.  Merry Christmas everyone and bless New Year

        • Katherene

          This information is very helpful.  Thank you so much!  Happy Holidays!

          • Findyourvoicenow

            Thank you.

  • Jschiavone

    What about trashmen and recycling men?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jschiavone,

      Thanks for your question. If you’d like to tip the people who pick up your trash and recycling, you can tape a $10-$20 gift card for each person to the lid of the trash can or recycling bin. As we said in the story, $20 is probably more appropriate if you live in a larger city with higher living costs and $10 probably works in less expensive areas.


      • Anonymous

        I can only imagine the problems it would cause if people actually started taping gift cards on their bins.  Most places once it is out of your space the bin/trash is public domain and if they are city workers there are limits on gifts.

  • VB

    What about the dry cleaner? (I use their wash-and-fold service regularly.)

    • Anonymous

      Hi VB,

      There’s no need to tip the laundry staff directly. But if you have your laundry delivered, then it’s nice to tip the delivery person.

      If you tip him or her every time your laundry is delivered, it is up to you as to whether you’d like to give an extra holiday tip. However if you don’t tip this person throughout the year, then you should give an end-of-year tip. We recommend tipping between $10 and $30, depending on how frequently you use the service, how large your loads of laundry are (i.e. a family of four would tip more than a single person), whether they climb stairs for you, etc.


  • Elisabeth

    Thank you SO much for posting this!  I was just struggling with this exact question.  This site is brilliant.

  • SJY

    I just think it’s way too much to tip so many people and in such large amount of cash, for example, the salon tip: equal to one visit, so if it costs me $80, I will tip $80, and doorman at least $15/pp, I have 3-4, then super, $20-80, so only these people will cost me fortune!!!

    • J.J.

      so you’ll spend $80 at the Salon and pay the salon but you don’t think the people that wash/cut/color/style your hair are deserving of a little extra? You live in a building with doormen but don’t have the cash to tip them once a year?

      • SJY

        I would love to give them some extra but not as much as I pay for the visit, for example, as they suggest, I would have to pay $200 for the massage! And this is the not the only one, so I will end up paying about $1000! Don’t you think it’s too much, JJ?!

    • Anonymous

      Remember that all of your tips are a bonus for service people, whoever they are. Any amount will be appreciated. Remember that it is the thought that counts.

      • SJY

        Yes, I like what you said “any amount will be appreciated”, and I was and am going to give them my thoughtful gifts or tips no matter how much it is.

    • Jen G

      You will be amazed at the relationships you will develop by saying thank you to these people…you may not think you need them but you never know what can happen!  Also giving feels goods and it will be money well spent!  All of us purchase things we don’t need and we could be giving instead…

      • SJY

        I never said I didn’t want to tip or give gifts, actually I did and am going to do again, just the thought of giving $1000/yr stresses me out! And yes, I never worked in any service area, but I can understand them and appreciate their services, that’s why I thank them all the time and I have great relationships with all of them, they LOVE me!!!

  • Gwen Jimmere

    What about babysitters and daycares? My son attends a home daycare and I have a personal relationship with his daily child care provider (she’s 34). I also have a regular “date night” sitter who my husband and I employ on an as needed basis and she’s always there when we need her (shes 19). Not sure if the age makes a difference in the tip amount, but just wanted to add it in case it does.

  • Anonymous

    What about Milkmen and Delivery guys? I am married to a milkman and every year he gets his weight in cookies. Please consider even a $5 gift and a nice card for these guys. Our waistlines appreciate it. :)

  • NoScrooge

    Here’s a money-saving tip: don’t tip ANYONE. These people are paid to perform services. I pay them the going rate and thank them regularly. People spend too lavishly on gifts–including tips–this time of year.

     [The only exception is when someone does something truly exceptional; I then tip them in cash.]I have not noticed any effect on service, and I would no longer employ someone whose performance varied based on a tip. Either they take pride in their work and do it well, or they can work for someone else.The one thing I recommend for household help [cleaners, babysitters, etc.] is to use this time of year to reevaluate if you are still paying the going rate. If they are due for an adjustment, many people appreciate getting it around now.

  • Ali

    I too am wondering about babysitters/child care workers. You suggest to tip dog walkers but not the people caring for your children?

  • Jen G

    Great guide!  Thank you!  And for all of you non-tippers, you’ve clearly NEVER worked in the service industry.  I did it all through college and those are the hardest and non-rewarding jobs–both financially and emotionally…please hook the people up who are doing a great job! 

  • Asb700

    How much would I tip the service manager at the car dealership who goes out of his way to help me any time my car needs service?  He helps me a few times a year.  I have a luxury car.  Thanks!

  • Roza Lee

    I am not american but the idea of tipping everybody sould crazy for me     You are talking on a month pay  to tip everybody    You almost gave me a heart attack lol

  • Anonymous

    I used to worry over this and the amount.  Then one year as I was making little gift boxes for friends/neighbors I put together a very small paper bag (like a cupcake size) of home made cookies w/ a few hard candies thrown in and a note explaining how I appreciated them. I’ve seen them share the goodies and post the notes, maybe I’m just lucky.  People seemed more impressed that I had made the effort than when I gave them $.  I never went back to the old way.  The postman gets a card w/ a candy cane attached as does the meter reader and that sort of person.  I think we need to get over the whole end of year tipping thing.

  • Stunned

    Last year I tipped my hair stylist the tip you recommend. I thought she would have acknowledged the extra gift. She said nothing all year. I called the salon to ask if the stylist know how much each client tips. They told me they do know. I was stunned that she never thanked me for the gift. I have always tipped her 20% every time I needed a hair cut but since then my tip is now 15% and I will not be giving her an extra $52.00 this Christmas. Is a verbal or written thank you expecting too much? Does anyone else get a thank you after you have given a end of the year tip or gift?