Holiday Tipping Guide: Don't Forget the Mailman and Babysitter

The ABCs of tipping in a recession.

ByABC News
April 26, 2010, 4:05 PM

Dec. 24, 2010— -- 'Tis the season to show your appreciation to everyone that makes life easier.

"Tipping is for the services you received through the year and a way to guarantee good service throughout the year," says Laura Rowley, a Yahoo! Finance columnist.

Despite an economic climate that has sent the real estate and job markets spiraling downward, holiday tipping is recession-proof. Tipping the babysitter or newspaper carrier is a way of showing your appreciation for services received. It's an act of appreciation that does not depreciate because of economic stressors.

"There's no one more important in a parent's life than the person taking care of a child when they're not home. You don't want to be a Scrooge when it comes to holiday tipping," says Wendy Sachs, editor-in-chief of, a family care organization. And that's even if you don't celebrate Christmas.

ABC News talked to Sachs and Rowley for our Comprehensive Guide on Who and What to Tip:

The Nanny
What's the rule of thumb for a person who takes care of the children? One week's salary. "Aside from the one-week salary, it's really nice to give a gift from the child," says Sachs. A drawing, brownies, a card, or any token of appreciation from the child should be included in the nanny's tip.

"Tip right before they take off for Christmas," says Sachs. "If they leave without a tip, they may be very disappointed, and may not come back."

The Babysitter
A part-time babysitter will cost you less than a nanny in tips this holiday season. Instead of a week's salary, our experts say the bill for one to two days of service is a fair holiday tip option. If the babysitter is a teenager who watches the children on an occasional Saturday consider an iTunes or Target gift card between $25 and $50 in lieu of cash.

The Teacher

There's no minimum or maximum for the teachers responsible for educating your offspring, but a median gift price is about $20. Skip the pound of apples and consider a more forward-thinking gift like a gift card from a gourmet coffee spot, a scarf or a candle. But don't forget the gift receipt, which our experts recommend for any item with a personal touch.A daycare provider should receive a gift or a tip similar to that for a teacher. Just remember, "You absolutely want to show the love. These are the people that will be showing the love for your little ones," says Sachs.

The Boss
Avoid! Giving your boss a gift could look too much like a bribe, says Rowley.

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, says Rowley. "But, for someone who is below you in the chain of command, it is nice to give them a gift."

The Hair Stylist
Tip your hair stylist based on frequency. If you only visit the hair salon every 6 to 8 weeks, then don't feel the need to pay out an exorbitant tip. "If you have a hair appointment in the month of December double the tip," says Rowley. A $20 tip on a normal dye job will spread holiday cheer if doubled to $40.

The Newspaper Carrier
It shouldn't take much to keep the newspaper carrier happy. A $10 tip should keep you in his or her good graces.

"If you don't tip that newspaper carrier, you're going to be walking all the way down that hall or to the end of the driveway to receive your newspaper," says Rowley. "You're never going to see that newspaper anywhere near your door." A tip is an incentive for you to "keep getting that newspaper right by your door," she says.

The Doorman
Before tipping the doorman, compile a list and check it more than twice to make sure you include all the individuals who have provided service throughout the year. To determine the amount of the tip, Rowley suggests you ask yourself, "How often do you get service from this person; is this someone that you never see or someone who runs to open the door?" The minor details will help you decide how to divvy out a tip. "The minimum tip for a doorman is about $20," says Rowley.

"These are people who are not highly paid and they rely on tips," says Rowley. If you have to trim from your holiday list, Rowley says, "Cut back on a distant relative."A cash tip may not be permissible but there are other ways to show your gratitude. Since booze and cash are not options, consider gifting your U.S. postal carrier with a gift card, say our tipping experts. Skip the silver letter opener.

The Dog Walker
Many people consider pets a member of the family, so tipping during the holiday is like giving a gift to a family member. How much should you tip? "Depending on how many hours they're coming to walk your dog it tends to fall between $35 and $60," says Sachs. Rowley suggests a minimum of $20.

Housekeeper or Cleaning Lady
Our experts had different opinions on what to gift your housekeeper or cleaning lady at the end of the year. But, anywhere from a couple of days' worth of work to 50-100 percent of their weekly fee seems fair.

Senior Ctizen Care Giver
"If someone is providing senior care, make sure to check with agency about tipping policy," says Sachs. "If they work for themselves, I would also say an appropriate tip is similar to what you give a nanny." That's a week's salary.

Garbage Collector
The median tip for the man who comes to your home multiple times a week to rid you of waste is $10.

The Dry Cleaner
Skip. "That person provides a service for which they're paid," says Rowley. "That's their business. I wouldn't tip a cleaner or a laundry person. If you want to give a gift, then give a card." The difference between a dry cleaner, a butcher, and other sales people is there is no personal relationship. "They don't come into your house. The job fits into outside services," says Rowley.