Give Cash: A Holiday Tipping Guide

For many Californians, the holidays are a time to show gratitude through thoughtful generosity. For loved ones, we may want to spend time looking for the perfect gift or planning a sweet surprise. But for people outside our circle of friends and family, including the service workers we rely on year-round, money can be the most versatile gift.

In the past, some Americans have seen giving money or a gift certificate as impersonal. But Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert and founder of the Swann School of Protocol in Carlsbad, California, notes that in some cultures, money is a common gift; witness, for example, the Asian practice of handing out cash. red envelopes or the Panamanian traditions followed by Swann’s family.

A 2021 Zelle report tracking American holiday trends found that money was the most desired gift to receive for the holidays, nearly twice as popular as experiences or tangible gifts. (In the same report, money was listed as the number one source of stress during the holidays.)

“We’re starting to see that shift in acceptance,” Swann said. “Now, it is absolutely socially acceptable to give and receive money as a gift.”

But who should we tip during the holidays and how much?

During the pandemic, tipping increased because people understood the risk many service workers were taking. Swann hopes to see a similar spirit of generosity throughout the rest of the year.

But no matter what you decide to tip, always tip within your personal budget, she said.

Swann partnered with digital payment network Zelle to create a new vacation and tipping guide that was released Tuesday. Here are some highlights:

  • For kindergarten, she recommends giving a nanny a night’s pay and a gift from your child; for a nanny, one week’s salary plus a gift; and for each daycare provider, $25 to $50.
  • For pet grooming, she recommends $25 to $50 (or the cost of one session) for the dog walker and $15 to $25 (or the cost of one service) for the groomer.
  • For home cleaners, he recommends a vacation tip that’s up to the cost of a day’s work.
  • For building staff, he recommends tipping parking attendants $25 to $75, landscapers $25 to $50 and maintenance workers $20 to $30.
  • For personal care, including hairdressers, massage therapists and personal trainers, suggest tipping the cost of a service or giving a gift.

Other tipping tips

Prioritize the people who have helped you throughout the year. It’s more important to go above and beyond for a parking attendant who works in your office building than it is for a restaurant server with whom you’ve had minimal contact. Think “hairdressing that fits us”. [their schedule]… the nanny who stayed the longest without asking questions, or the housekeeper who did something else,” Swann said.

Don’t be afraid to move forward. Gifts don’t always have to be a secret surprise. “It’s perfectly fine to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a gift for you, and I just want to confirm your email address because I’d like to send you some,'” Swann said. “The surprise and the pleasure of getting this extra amount are already big.”

Personalize the money. If it’s someone you chat with often, you can add a note like “I know you’ve been saving up for a new designer bag” or “I know you love your own self-care services and here’s money for to it’ to show you’ve listened and done some research, Swann said.

Coordinate a group gift. This could mean getting the parents of the school together to go together for a gift for the teacher. It could mean choosing an amount you can afford to tip the salon staff and splitting it between the person washing the hair and the person doing the styling and cutting. Or it could mean buying a selection of baked goods for all the nursing home employees to enjoy.

Zelle’s Holiday Guide to Tipping and Gifting also includes suggestions for how much to tip throughout the year.

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