Who To Tip And How Much

Ah, holiday tipping, that peculiarly American pastime that erupts into an orgy of envelopes and awkward “thank you”s at the end of every year. Kiplinger tries the impossible: putting together a guide for who to tip and how much to give. Even they admit that it’s nigh impossible to create a definitive guide—they suggest “handing out end-of-the year tips for one to three people who have given you exemplary service during the year.”

Here are few of their suggestions:

How much to tip: The cost of one visit if he or she visits weekly or bi-weekly. If you use a cleaning service that works in a team, a box of chocolates for the team is customary.

How much to tip: The U.S. Postal service says gifts must be under $20 in value [and should not be cash] . A gift card at Dunkin’ Donuts or a similar store that could serve as an off-duty for the carrier’s route is acceptable.

How much to tip: Nanny or au pair — one week’s pay and a small gift from the child; regular sitter — one to two nights’ pay; day-care provider — $25 to $70. Only give a holiday tip if you’ve frequently used the sitter during the year or you had to call on them in an 11th hour emergency.

We just wish there was some sort of anti-tip for our perpetually angry mailman, who actually throws boxes up the stairs so he doesn’t have to climb them. (Yeah, we’ve complained. It still happens.)

“Holiday Tipping Tip Sheet” [Kiplinger]
“What You Need to Know About Holiday Tipping” [Kiplinger]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. realjen01 says:

    do i need to tip the doorman at my building even though i’ve only lived there a couple months?

  2. j03m0mma says:

    I’d say yes but nothing big. Good to get in on their good side early.

  3. Shadowman615 says:

    “Oh, I get it. Why waste time making small talk with the doorman? I should just shut up and do my job, opening the door for you.”

  4. Waydownriver says:

    You should have tipped your doorman the week you moved into your building.

  5. fuzzycuffs says:

    *must hold tongue about tipping culture*

  6. JollyJumjuck says:

    What about the full-serve gas station attendant who pumps your gas (keeping your hands free of that gasoline smell) and checks your fluids? When I was a student, I used to work as a full-serve attendant at a gas bar (no canopies over the gas pumps to keep the snow and rain off the attendants — those were only at the self-serve stations). Despite the fact that we had to run around like mad servicing cars, get our paychecks dinged for overpumping (customer asks for $10.00, whoops you pump $10.02, that $0.02 comes out of your paycheck), and the fact that we made minimum wage (our self-serve counterparts sat on their fat asses in the warm booth reading/listening to music and only having to take money AND made $1.50 an hour more) wasn’t enough for ungrateful customers to give us a measly tip except maybe a few dollars over the course of the month of December. No, let’s mention tipping servers, hair stylists, and newspaper deliverers, but not the full serve gas station attendants who work at least as hard if not harder than those others mentioned.

  7. Emrikol says:

    WTF? Door man?! What kind of bizzaro world are you living in? All you need to do is step on the mat, and in you go!

  8. DrGirlfriend says:

    I’m just gonna throw my money up in the air, and people can dive for it.

  9. macinjosh says:

    Dwight Schrute: “Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did, however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.”

    But seriously.. what would be a good tip for the manager of my apartment complex?

  10. dirtymoney says:

    TIPPING THE MAILMAN??!!?!?!?!?! WTF? I am supposed to tip a person for doing what they are supposed to do? Do you tip the ups man also?

    Now if you are talking about a yearly chistmas gift to a mailman… that is different…. it isnt a tip… its a christmas gift.

    What the heck is with people making assumptions that you have to tip for everything! You have to do something to actually DESERVE a tip! If you are a waitress & were attentive while I was your customer… then you deserve a tip. If I am coming to pick up a to-go order & all you did was slap my food into a styrophone to-go box…. you get no tip! However if you deliverd it to my car… then you probably deserve a tip.

    Different parts of the country tip differently. I was once told by a floridian “we tip just for getting smiled at” … which to a kansan is just absurd! You have to actually do something worthy of a tip… you dont automatically get one.

    Presumed Tipping ettiquette is just out of control!

  11. The Count of Monte Fisto says:

    @dirtymoney: I think the assumption is that this is more a gift than a “tip,” per se. Frankly, as far as tips go, I’ve found “buy low, sell high” works in almost any situation.

  12. Copper says:

    I’ve waited tables and lived on tips before, I still think tipping shouldn’t be required. It’s stupid to tell people how much you should tip. It’s stupid to tip a babysitter. You’re already paying them and it’s usually tax-free.

    This is ridiculous. I’m not tipping my postman for doing his job. He already gets a good salary and great government benefits for the amount of work he does…why does he need my money?

  13. kantwait says:


    “Oh who cares, no one’s going to believe a doorman!”

  14. britne says:

    Second the anti-tip for the mailman. On more than one occasion, he’s refused to do a package pick-up, probably because of the number of packages.
    (Yes, all the paperwork, etc. was right. Yes, I was home. Yes, I was waiting all day. No, no one knocked. Argh.)

  15. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    How much should we tip the really good commenters on Consumerist?

  16. trickonion says:

    When I pay my credit card company every month it goes something like this

    I owe: $13.46
    I pay: $13.46

    Then they come back and say “hey, why are you being rude?”
    “what?” says I.
    “you’re supposed to pay what you owe us, PLUS twenty percent, cause we.. you know.. did our jobs..”
    “Oh I didn’t realize, how rude of me!”, then I promptly write them a check for an extra $2.68 and move on my merry way

  17. dirtymoney says:

    I wonder if a day will come when you can be sued or jailed for not tipping? Seems that is the way we are heading.

    actually now that I think of it…. you COULD concieveable be arrested for not tipping when the gratuity is already included in the bill & is the policy of the restaurant.

  18. humphrmi says:


    I am supposed to tip a person for doing what they are supposed to do?

    In my mind it’s a matter of personal choice whether you tip or not. I’ve had at least one or two times where the mailman in my area has gone above and beyond for one reason or another… once ours stopped by after his normal route because he felt the package was too valuable to leave at the door and wanted to deliver it in person. Sometimes he helps us out with our mail stops while we’re on vacation, i.e. making sure that the other crap that people leave in mailboxes without postage doesn’t start to pile up and give away that we’re not home. He deserves a tip.

  19. Squeezer99 says:

    who the heck tips their postal carrier?

  20. morganlh85 says:

    What should I give to the letter carrier who mercilessly stuffs, crinkles, folds, and bends all my mail into all sorts of shapes? I nearly had to re-order a debit card this year because of that asshole.

  21. Sonnymooks says:


    I tip my mailman, and delivery guys (UPS).

    On the upside, I am or seem to be the only person on my block who has never had a problem with his mail or packages everything comes perfect….i.e. no stuff bent, folded, damaged, etc unlike my neighbors.


  22. Witera33it says:

    Giving a holiday gift is not a tip, but a gesture of good will.
    Tipping your waitstaff is something that has become an institution. The moment wait staff gets paid a living wage, instead of living on tips, I will stop tipping. Until then, they deserve at least the gesture of a tip.
    I also tip cabbies, for choosing my preferred route or picking me up in bad weather, or any other preferential treatment for that matter.

    Tip your tattoo artist. It doesn’t have to even be money. Just like a hairstylist, we spend alot of time with you,(sometimes days, sometimes weeks,) trying to make the experience more bearable. If your experience is bad then don’t tip, but most of us go to great lengths to make sure you are happy when you leave.

  23. Zimorodok says:

    Not tipping your UPS/Fedex drivers at the end of the year, even a small amount, is a sure-fire way to ensure future package mangling.

    Is it right? No. Is it effective? Yes.

  24. Shred says:


    Um, you tip them because you *didn’t* do it for yourself. *They* did it for you.

  25. Shred says:

    I tip gladly and generously for the many, many service workers who make my life so much easier.

  26. swunder says:

    UPS delivers to my house usually once a week, but I don’t always have the same UPS driver each time…especially during the holidays. Since my dog goes ballistic when UPS or any delivery person dares come near my front door, it’s pretty much ding, dong, ditch with them. When I used to send via FEDEX each week, I would give them some candy even though it wasn’t always my regular driver.

    We have those lock box mailboxes in my ‘hood, so I never see my mailman.

    And I don’t tip the person who delivers my newspaper, either. I guess I’m going to H E double hocky sticks :(

  27. maztec says:

    Note on Tips:

    That automatic gratuity that is added on by restaurants when you have “too many people” is not [to my limited knowledge] enforceable in at least some states. I regularly scratch it off and write my own tip in. If there is bad service, I write a negative tip, scratch it off, reduce the whole thing to no tip. Simple as that.

  28. XTC46 says:

    I agree, forced tips are retarded. tips are becasue you did more than you have to, or you did something very well. This year I am tipping the maintenance’s guy for the building I moved in to 3 months ago becasue he is always really friendly (says Hi every time I see him) he saw me struggling to find a spot to park our moving van when I bought a new couch and blocked traffic so I could pull in THEN helped me move the couch in (despite it being clearly stated that building staff should not be asked for this assistance in the rule book). I think that is going above and beyond so my girl friend is going to bake him some chocolate chip cookies and ill get him like a 50 dollar gift card or something.

  29. amyu24 says:

    @ MAZTEC
    Dear scrooge,
    Tipping is a way to show thanks to someone who has provided a service to you. If you are too selfish and frugal to go out to eat then don’t. When you go to a restaurant they are providing a service to you and if you can’t afford that service stay home. You shouldn’t have to be told what to tip, but tip what you feel is appropriate for each situation. This is the one time you show thanks to those who make your life a little easier.

  30. consumer_999 says:

    A tip is just that – a tip. Something you felt like doing for a good reason, not something you’re obligated to do. A ‘forced’ or ‘assumed’ tip is a surefire trip to ‘no’ tip.

    But a tip… for a letter carrier? Are you joking? Try getting MY mail in MY box, at least once a week. Maybe then we’ll see about you getting tipped just for doing your job.

    Mmmm… actually, no we won’t. You’ll just do your damn job.

  31. Mary says:

    Okay, HOW would I tip a newspaper delivery person? They throw my newspapers towards my door in the morning, and I doubt they really get to the top of the steps considering where it lands.

    I don’t have a problem with that, but I see no way to give them money.

    Same for the mail carrier. The way mailboxes are structured here, I doubt they’d see anything I put IN the box, and if I put it on the outside somebody could easily steal it, assuming it’s a tip.

  32. TangDrinker says:

    For newspapers – contact your customer service department and ask them – they will tell you your carrier’s number id and you can send a check to the newspaper to them. They will get it. My father in law was in newspaper circulation for over 40 years. They appreciate the tips – especially now that most are independent contractors – with no benefits from the newspaper.

  33. XianZomby says:

    Why tip the doorman? Or the people that sit at the desk at the front of your apartment complex 24/7 and let you in if you forget your key? Here’s why I’ll be getting them something this year:

    For the last five years, the same crowd of elderly men and women have sat vigil at 2 or 3 am Friday and Saturday nights at the front of my building and witnessed the seemingly endless parade of 20-22 year old sketchy twink boys I’ve brought into my apartment for random hookups. A new guest star every weekend! And then on Monday morning, the same people would watch me leave my place in my heavily startched cammies.

    These are people that I want them to know I know what they know, and that I appreciate it that they keep it to themselves. Yea!

    Oh. They know your business.

  34. DanGarion says:

    Tipping the mailman has got to be one of the biggest jokes. It must be a east coast thing.

  35. trollkiller says:

    The only people you should tip/gift at Christmas is the ones you have some sort of personal connection with. If your mail carrier is nice and you want to get them something then do so. You should not be guilted into it because they did the job they are being paid for.

  36. trollkiller says:

    It is illegal to place something in a mail box without proper postage. As nutty as this country has become that tip to the mail carrier may get you arrested or tased.

  37. Digitamer81 says:

    Holiday tipping for servers should not be forgotten either, however, the same rules apply as normal for server tips. I’ve got a post of those said rules on my website, The Rules for Tipping at RagingServer.com. These rules apply to restaurants across the country, for as we all know, servers don’t get paid a high wage like in Europe.

    Servers should not be forgotten during the holidays, in fact, they should be remembered. They are the ones who make life a little better when you’re stressed out from missing that Wii or that newest Elmo doll for your kids. They’re the ones who provide that much needed alcohol and an ear to complain to about the husband that doesn’t help. Read the rules, and don’t forget those of us who work hard every single day.

  38. Me. says:

    Most of the time, the difference between being a complete asshole versus a good tipper is only $1-$2 dollars.

    I live off of tips, so I’m speaking from experience…

  39. trollkiller says:

    Most of the time the difference between nothing and a good tip is good service.

    I give tips, so I speak form experience.

  40. rachaeljean says:

    I worked my way through college as a day-care provider. It was extremely rare to get a “holiday gift” (I never thought of it as a tip!!)… I’d say maybe 2 or 3 families out of 50 or so would do it. But, oh, how I loved the holiday gifts! Daycare workers make just as crappy a wages as wait staff, but actually take care of your offspring rather than your custom salad. PLEASE remember them! :) Something little goes a long way. And consciously or not, the goodwill will transfer to your little darling, even if they’re holy terrors most of the time. :)

  41. Is it just me, or does some of this seem exhorbitant?

    A visit to my hairstylist runs me around $100 before tip, and I usually tip around 20%. I’m getting my hair done before Christmas, but I’ll bring my guy a nice bottle of wine, not a Benjamin.

  42. Rusted says:

    @Me.: Good service, even not-so-good service but an honest effort, no problem. I don’t mind a few bucks extra. Been there in the ranks of the under and non-employed.

    It really depends on the customer service. A tip for a snarl isn’t going be much.

    UPS, FEDEX and the USPS, not just money, but say thank you and be peasant. I used to have free coffee for anyone who delivered and picked up to my building when I was a facilities guy. To say that paid off would be an understatement.

  43. sophistiKate says:

    @Witera33it: Are you suggesting that the decision whether to tip should be based exclusively on whether the customer service employee who just helped you is making a living wage? That seems like bad logic to me. I think many of us would argue that the minimum wage is also not a living wage, yet I would guess that you do not tip cashiers, fast food workers, CNAs, hotel housekeepers, baristas, restaurant hosts, the person who gives you your plastic number in big box store dressing rooms, gas station attendants, grocery store employees, et cetera let alone the myriad employees you never see who still provide you with service at minimum wage like kitchen staff and farm workers. Yeah, regular minimum wage is more than what a server makes, but it’s still not a living wage and we depend every day on others’ accepting it to keep our lives going the way we like.

    I don’t mean to sound sharp; I just get really angry that so many people are imagined to be able to live off of less than $6 an hour. It seems to me like this system is really messed up.

  44. RandomHookup says:

    @meiran: I love the newspaper carriers who include an addressed (but not stamped) envelope for those customers “who want to know how to recognize good service”. Since the carrier’s name seems to change every 3 months, I feel no compunction to tip when they try that hard.

  45. deserthiker says:


    I worked in a restaurant and if you’d scratched off the tip for large parties and wrote a lesser tip you’d better not go there again. Well, at least if you don’t like the taste of phlegm with your Fettucine.

    Cheap bastards like you are the reason for automatic tips. There were too many times that waiters and waitresses busted their asses for people only to be left a little or insignificant tip and the anger caused by such careless customers affected the service given by a pissed off waitstaff to other customers.

    Don’t like tipping? Eat at McDonalds, spend your vacation at Motel 6 and get a Flowbee to cut your own damn hair but don’t shortchange those who choose to serve others.

  46. OMG, Chris and I must have the same mailman, mine pitches packages at the doorway TOO! When she knows I work from home! On the day Harry Potter 7 came out and she delivered it to practically every house on the block and the entire neighborhood was outside having a giant garage sale, she pitched them against every single door!

    @Copper: “It’s stupid to tip a babysitter.”

    You obviously did not babysit in a tight market. :) Good sitters are hard to get at any time and booked solid during the holidays. If you want your regular sitter during the holidays, especially for New Year’s, you book early and you pay WELL (or you won’t get her next year). Wage-and-a-half or double-wage, new release movie rentals, higher-quality snacks, and a tip (“end of year tip”) are standard for your regular teenaged sitter on New Year’s Eve. Also generally a well-behaved sitter friend to keep her company. Other holiday perks I enjoyed at various times included rides home in the limo, if they had one for the evening, sparkling cider, and cheesecake.

    I’m 29 and I still have $1800 left over from teenaged babysitting. I paid almost all my discretionary expenses in college and part of my wedding with that babysitting money! (Also half my regular babysitting clients were AT my wedding, which I guess means I did a good job. Are wedding gifts late tips?)

    @meiran: “HOW would I tip a newspaper delivery person?”

    Around here you get a card in with the paper. Usually with all their kids’ names on it, for the guilt factor.

  47. SpdRacer says:

    What’s absurd is paying 100$ for a haircut, I’m sorry a hair style. Not tipping is a good way to have your food/stuff messed with, especially if you frequent the establishment regularly. I had a customer who would order two or three times a week, pay with mommy and daddys’ credit card and NEVER tip. After about 3 weeks of no tip, his food started to be delivered cold/not right. Oops.

  48. mike_s says:

    So many of you say “Why tip someone to do their job” – It’s not just the job, it’s about how they do their job, and sometimes take the little extra step…..

    It’s the garbage man’s job to empty the bin; NOT to place it back upright in a proximity near your drive way.
    It’s the post man’s job to place the mail in your mailbox; NOT to knock on your door when there is a parcel too large to fit.
    It’s the door man’s job to open the door for you, NOT hold the umbrella for you when you get into the taxi.
    It’s the cable guy’s job to run new coax around your house and staple it everywhere, NOT crawl through your attic to make it pretty.

    It’s all a matter of perspective, and paying attention to what people do for you, that little extra that you did not have to ask for. When it goes noticed, a little something to show you appreciation will go a LONG way; like NEVER getting wet mail, and having your trash bins neatly placed on the side of the house; the little things that make you day slightly better. If you can afford a few bucks, hey – spread the cheer; it does come back to you, often 10 fold.

    Happy holidays all !!!!

  49. DanGarion says:

    @mike_s: Actually it is the cable guys job to run cable through the attic if that is what the customer is requesting…