Mixed Bag Monday – Holiday Tipping

It’s nearly here; in less than a week, Christmas will be upon us, an event which many of us have been planning and attempting to prepare for since Thanksgiving (if not earlier). Among the many, many other issues you need to consider in the final run up to the big day is the issue of holiday tipping. After all, there are probably more than a few service providers in your life that you would like to thank and to whom you’d like to show your appreciation.

Trying to keep all the rules regarding tipping and the advice provided can prove to be a bit tricky, however. There are some many different people you want to show your appreciation for, and so many different sources of advice on how much they each deserve. To try to sort through the muddle, here’s the Amateur Financier guide to end-of-the-year tipping and rewarding of service providers:

Don’t Tip if You Can’t Afford It: There’s a fair to good chance that money is a bit tight right now. That’s understandable; it’s been a rough period for many people (myself included), and tipping all the people who provide us services can be expensive even at the best of times. Luckily, no less an authority than Emily Post notes that you aren’t expected to go beyond your personal budget when tipping for the holidays. How do you show your appreciation, then? Well…

Send Thank You Cards to Those You Cannot Tip: Given the many, many service providers most of us deal with on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis, all but the richest of us are going to prove unable to give substantial monetary tips to everyone. Instead, consider sending a thoughtful, hand-written card to those you cannot provide a monetary tip. You’ll still show your appreciation, while paying a fraction of the cost of even a modest tip.

Consider Gifts Instead of Tips: Another possible option to save money, giving a gift can also serve as a means of showing that you know what your service providers need and want for the holiday season. It can be a tricky option to pull off in practice, though, as some of the people to whom you want to give gifts may not be truly forthcoming with ideas, and you are less likely to have discussed personal hobbies with, say, your doctor than your friends and family. Still, if you know that your regular babysitter is a huge Justin Bieber fan, maybe his newest CD would be more appreciated for the holidays than a check.

Or a Gingerbread House; Everyone Loves Gingerbread Houses, Right?

Know the Standard Tips: Alright, if thank you cards or other gifts aren’t on the table, tips are certainly likely to be appreciated, particularly at this time of year when everyone is a bit strapped for cash. Different service providers expect different levels of tips, though, and knowing what is typical can help you to derive the proper level for the tip you want to give. For more on the proper level, make sure to:

Know the Rules: Different organizations have different rules about what their members can accept in terms of gifts. The US Postal Service, for example, does not allow its members to accept cash, and gifts must be worth under $20. Similarly, your school district might limit gifts to teachers, or your other service providers might be unable to accept gifts. In that case, a card expressing your heartfelt thanks might be more than enough (just check to make sure that such a card would not be against the rules, as well).

There’s quite a few rules to consider while trying to tip for the holidays. For all those who expect holiday tips, thanks for your service, and here’s hoping you get some nice tips.

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