We’ll be the first to tell you budgeting during the holiday season is hard. Buying gifts for your parents, siblings, and all your closest friends, can put a giant hole in your wallet year after year. Case in point: A whopping 74 percent of Americans reported that they failed to appropriately budget for the holidays last year, according to Varo Money.
Not to mention, gifts for your inner circle isn’t even scratching the surface of what’s socially acceptable, according to etiquette expert Myka Meier. Your doorman, dry cleaner, and superintendent (i.e. all of the people who make your life easier year-round) should be feeling the spirit of giving once a year too. Meier, a British-American who was trained by a former member of the Queen’s Household, says, “We tip people usually who provide a service, so you can think through which services you use regularly and decide who you may want to give a tip to.”
That might seem overwhelming, but international etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer has an easy way to figure out your list. “Tip people who have been especially loyal,” she says. “In other words, for those of us who have pets, children, parents, or grandparents, if there is someone who has done consistent care for you and those treasured ones on a regular basis, during the holidays is when you want to express your appreciation for that.”
Your list should be catered to your life so think about yourself, the people in your life, and reflect on who’s really helped you this year. The people you can really count on should be at the very top of your list. Schweitzer’s dog walker is an example. “They walk our golden retriever and if something happens when we’re out of town, they’ll also take our pet to the emergency room. At the end of the year, because of their loyalty and the special things they do, we’re going to give them an extra gratuity because of the things they’ve done [beyond what’s expected].”
Before you start to stress, everyone’s financial situation is unique, so there are things to consider before you run to the closest ATM. “You should only tip what you can afford,” Meier says. “If your overall budget to tip is $150, make a list of everyone you want to tip, then break your budget down into amounts next to each person’s name until you know how much each will receive. This will also ensure you don’t go over budget.”
Shweitzer encourages people to go above and beyond and “give crisp, new dollar bills and put them in a nice card or a bank envelope. Write a handwritten note that expresses why you’re giving it to them and what it is that you truly appreciate. Even if it’s a short two sentences.”
Meier adds, if you really don’t have the extra funds, a nice card or a batch of freshly baked cookies are just as meaningful as pure cash.
Keep in mind that tipping amounts vary from state to state, says Schweitzer, who’s based in Texas. “What people tip in New York is going to differ from Dallas or Seattle,” she says. “The cost of living is different. Every state and every locale has different customs and different standards of living.” With all of that in mind, here’s a helpful list you can apply to your life to get started.
Nanny, babysitters, caregivers: one week’s pay
Building super: $25 to $100
Doormen: $25 to $100. But be sure to ask your management if there’s a tipping pool if you have more than one doorman. “Many large buildings will ask that all tips be put into a pot and split evenly,” Meier says. “If you have five doormen and have a great relationship with two, you can tip them slightly more than the others.”
Housekeeper: $25 to $100
Mail carrier/package courier: $10 to $30
Car park attendant: $20 to $50
Weekly help; i.e. trash collector, newspaper distributor, gardener, or dog walker: $10 to $30
For legal and ethical reasons, you shouldn’t tip government workers, doctors, or teachers. (See Schweitzer’s website for a full breakdown). But that doesn’t mean you can’t show them your appreciation in some other non-monetary way. Schweitzer, for instance, sends all of her doctors fruit baskets every year. And while you might feel the urge to tip delivery people for working so hard this time of year, check the policy on the company’s website before you do so, Schweitzer says.
Now that you’ve got all of that down, the timing of when to tip is also important. Meier says, the second week of December is ideal. “It’s a nice thing to be able to let someone take the money they earned in tips and put that toward their holiday shopping,” she says. Schweitzer says it’s still socially acceptable to wait until New Years, but really “the sooner, the better. You do not want to wait.”
This story is part of Glamour‘s guide to tipping. Tips are approximate and based on varying factors. Learn more about how much to give in this seven-part series.