Holiday Tipping Done Right

PHOTO: Holiday card with tip money
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A child-care provider, housekeeper and teacher are the three people most likely get a tip from families this holiday season, according to a Consumer Report survey on holiday tipping etiquette.

On the other hand, the garbage man is least likely to be tipped. Only 12 percent of of those surveyed will include sanitation workers on Santa's list during the holiday season.

For those who are able, here's some advice for creating a holiday tipping list: "Before you start considering who you're going to give holiday gifts to, identify what you can give and then look at the people that provide the service to you, and then begin to make some allocation to the people you most want to give a gift to," said Peter Post, an etiquette expert and a director at the Emily Post Institute.

"You have to decide those people that are most important to you and then you can allocate that budget."

As some gift-givers struggle with money because of a tough economy, creating a plan of action can help you you determine what is least likely to hurt your wallet.

For those unable to provide a gift or cash tip, expressing gratitude with a card or note is one of the greatest gifts one can give. And it's free.

"We don't ever advise people to go into debt to tip and we don't expect people to live beyond their means," Post said, adding that he recommends giving a card using your words to express your appreciation.

While explicitly stating why you cannot give is unnecessary, Post recommends writing a note along these lines but from the heart:

"Thanks for so much for all you've been able to do. It's a very tough year; I hope to be able to do more for you next year."

Or,

"Thank you. I wish I could do more but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate everything you have done."

Don't fret, gift-givers, there's also an updated Tipping Guide for you based on advice from our etiquette experts.

Here is starting point on what to tip:

The Nanny

A gift from the child and one week's pay is recommended by tipping experts. "Tip right before they take off for Christmas," Wendy Sachs, editor-in-chief of Care.com, said. "If they leave without a tip, they may be very disappointed, and may not come back."

The Babysitter

For the occasional babysitter, consider giving a holiday gift of one day's pay and make sure to include a gift from the child, which could be anything from a painting to a card.

The Day-Care Provider

The Emily Post Institute recommends a gift or cash gift valued between $25 and $75. And, like the babysitter and the nanny, a gift from the child is also highly recommended.

The Boss

No gift. No cash. It might seem harsh for those motivated to give to any and all but experts state that giving to an employer might be seen as bribery. "Giving a gift to an employer is a mistake," Post said. If you want to get together with your fellow employees, that's great. The problem with individual gifts is it can become a competition."

To avoid competitive gift giving, Post recommends employees consider a group gift.

The Teacher, The Doctor and Other Professionals

While some etiquette experts recommend shelling out for a gift with a price tag of about $25, Post recommends that parents be cautious when giving gifts to a teacher, doctor, nurse or any other professional. "Check with the school to see if they have any policies on gift giving," Post said. "If the school doesn't have a policy, check with the class or parent organization to see if there is anything being done as a group. The goal is to take competitiveness out of gift giving.

The Office Assistant

A gift for the person who helps the office run smoothly is a little tricky. It depends on how large your office is and how frequently you work together, said Yahoo! Finance columnist Laura Rowley. "But, for someone who is below you in the chain of command, it is nice to give them a gift," she said.

The Hair Stylist

One expert recommends tipping based on frequency and-or doubling the tip of your favorite hairstylist. The Emily Post Institute recommends taking the total price of a typical visit to the hair salon and dividing it between all the individuals that assist with your hair.

The Newspaper Carrier

The minimum tip for a newspaper carrier is $10 and the maximum is $30, according to experts.

The Doorman

If you live in a building with numerous doormen, determine what to tip based on frequency of use. The minimum tip for a doorman, who works over the scorching summer and bitter winter, is $20.

The Mail Carrier

Check the rules before you give to mail carriers who come to your house six days a week. It might not be permissible to give a cash tip. If you're able, and it's allowed, consider giving a gift that fits the governmental guidelines.

The Dogwalker

The experts are divided when it comes to tipping the person who takes care of the family pet. The suggestions range from a $20 minimum to one week's pay.

Housekeeper or Cleaning Lady

Our etiquette experts say a few days worth of work to up to one week's salary is the most appropriate gift for the person who helps keep your house in order.

Important Note: "Don't just give a gift, include a card," Post said.

The most important part of holiday tipping is the willingness to show appreciation.

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