So my barista was telling me that there’s a competition to see who’s the biggest tipper. I appreciate that kind of wit in the person who controls my fate every morning. That’s why I’m going to make sure I remember her when I sit down to make my year-end holiday gifts. 

Some Rules of Thumb by Category

  • For people who help you in fixed sessions — like a dog groomer, hair stylist, or personal trainer — the appropriate holiday gift is the amount of one session.
  • For people who help you on a continual basis, most etiquette authorities recommend one to two weeks’ pay based on performance.
  • Each person who works with your children (outside of the home) should always receive a small gift from the kids on top of a modest tip in the $25-$50 range.
  • Government workers like trash collectors and postal workers generally cannot accept cash or any gift over $20 in value.
  • If you live in a building with support staff you see regularly, such as doormen, you can feel secure keeping it under $100.
  • For anyone you employ, such as a personal assistant, one to two weeks’ pay based on performance is warmly appreciated.

In addition to your planned giving, you can do what I do and leave big tips for anyone who is working while everyone else is off. 

Some people think tipping is impersonal and prefer to give gifts. While you’re free to do that, I encourage you to think back — or ahead — to your wedding day. What if every guest got you something off of the registry instead of cold, hard cash?

Giving money is not impersonal. You’re giving away your blood, sweat, and tears when you gift money. That’s why it means something to reward someone else’s blood and sweat (I don’t make people cry) with the crinkly green stuff.