It’s time once again to talk about the age-old, American (and kinda Canadian) tradition of giving people money because society has collectively decided not to pay them a reasonable wage in the first place. That’s right boys and girls; today we’re revisiting American tipping culture: The Holiday Edition.

Holiday Tips

In contrast to the regular tipping of around 15-20% for wait staff, hotel staff, and various other service industry professionals, holiday “tipping” is more like an end of the year bonus for professionals you interact with regularly. For instance, you may want to tip your letter carrier, doorman, babysitter, barber/stylist, etc. If you’re new to holiday tipping you may have a few questions. Who gets a tip and who doesn’t? How much is appropriate? Do I have to tip? Let’s attack that last one first.

Do You Have to Give Out Holiday Tips?

No. Whether it’s because you can’t afford it or just don’t want to, you never HAVE to tip anyone (Unless it’s built into the bill. But at that point, is it even really a tip?). That said, while it shouldn’t affect the service of those you don’t tip, it can. More than that though, it’s a pretty sizable societal faux pas.

How Much Is Appropriate?

It depends. You’ll want to figure out all the people you intend to tip. Cross-reference that with how much your personal budget will allow for and decide whether you want to distribute it evenly or play favorites. Again, this isn’t a mandatory thing, so there are no floors or ceilings. Keep in mind that a holiday tip doesn’t necessarily have to be money (though, it’s what most people would prefer). It’s a show of appreciation. Be as appreciative as you feel you should while taking into account what you can afford.

Who Gets Tips and Who Doesn’t

This is where we get to the nitty-gritty. First of all – unlike conventional tipping – if the service provided is substandard, don’t tip. We’ve made tipping part of the American pay structure at restaurants. However, holiday tips are right and truly a reward for a year of good service. You by no means are expected to reward bad service. Similarly, if you can’t afford holiday tips, just don’t do it. It’s not supposed to be something that puts a financial strain on you. It’s really just a nice gesture. There are also certain professions who aren’t supposed to accept tips, like postal workers. They will. But they’re not supposed to. Technically, you can give them a gift valued at $20 or less. But again, most of them won’t turn down ‘thank you cash’ if no one makes a big deal out of it. The most common people who don’t have rules against holiday tips are housecleaners, personal trainers, caregivers, babysitters, handy workers, garbage collectors, basically anyone who provides you with a service on a semi-regular basis. Some people give holiday gifts to their younger kid’s teachers. This is one where cash probably isn’t the best idea, as it kinda skirts ethical lines. But hey, to each their own. If you feel awkward about giving cash, gift cards are often just as good. You can also include a simple thank you note of some kind. It’s more for your benefit than theirs; if we’re honest. But, it will class the whole thing up a bit. Happy Holidays!