Trae Talks: Holiday Tipping 101 with Mister Manners

posted in: Holidays


Meet Mister Manners


Thomas P. Farley, a.k.a., Mister Manners, appears regularly on the TODAY show and has been a guest on other favorites, like Rachael Ray, Dr. Oz and CNN, sharing solutions for some of the most common social faux pas—from party guests who don’t RSVP to coworkers who try to one-up you. 

His goal? To teach people how to be their best selves. When he’s not on TV, he works with everyone from executives to coal miners or pharmaceutical reps, providing strategies to get along and get ahead. 





I asked Mister Manners my burning questions about holiday tipping, from whom to tip to how much to tip.


How important is holiday tipping in general?

“The holidays provide an important opportunity for us to express appreciation for the services and assistance of individuals who help us shine all year long. From the babysitter to the landscaper, the superintendent to the hairstylist, the housekeeper to the massage therapist, they handle tasks that we either don’t have the time to handle or the skills to perform. Although we may be tipping some of these people at various points during the year, the holidays are a time to take a breath and convey true gratitude for their talents, dedication and professionalism.

Important for all to realize is that the amounts I share here are guidelines only. You may choose to give more, less or none at all. Tipping is a very personal decision. I do think those who don’t tip at all (even in modest amounts) are missing a vital opportunity to show gratitude. Rather than resenting giving tips or looking at them as bribes (as many people do), think of them as a bonus for a year’s work well done.”

What are a few of your favorite gifts to give if you are not giving money?

“Although cash is king, if you prefer to give something more personal, seek out an item you know will have meaning to the recipient. For example, if your professional works hard and never takes the time she deserves to focus on herself, consider giving her a set of beautiful bath oils. Wine and spirits also make a good alternative to cash, providing you are certain the person drinks, and taking care to give a bottle you know he or she particularly enjoys. And regardless of your gift, be sure to include a handwritten card that expresses your gratitude in words, too.”

Holiday Tipping 101

Tipping Housecare Providers

If we hire someone to help out with housecleaning, should we tip that person? 

 “The housekeeper is definitely on the list of someone to tip. In fact, a recent Consumer Reports study indicated that the housecleaner is the number-one person tipped across America, with the median amount being $65. I recommend those who have a regular housecleaner tip the equivalent of one week’s pay.”

What about someone who cares for our garden or lawn? 

“A landscaper or pool cleaner, particularly one who provides an ongoing service (as opposed to a onetime annual visit) is another individual to consider tipping, with the suggested amount being the cost of one visit.” 

 Or collects our garbage and recycling?

“This is a trickier proposition, as many Americans do not know and never even see the individuals who haul their trash and recycling. Nor is there a straightforward way of presenting them with a holiday tip. (Particularly because of the risk of an envelope of money being missed and winding up in the trash instead.)

With that said, if you know your sanitation workers’ names (or at least their faces), and want to express your gratitude for their leaving your trash cans in order and your receptacle area looking clean and tidy after they leave, by all means, do so. Ideally, you should hand them their envelopes personally, in an amount anywhere from $20 to $50.” 

For apartment dwellers, what service providers do we tip and how much?

“Particularly in large cities with their full-service buildings, there are a great many people to tip. You should be tipping the doorman, the super, the garage attendant, the porters and, if you are fortunate enough to live in a building with an elevator attendant, he or she should be on that list, too. Be certain to tip each of the doormen, each of the porters and each of the garage attendants….not just the ones you happen to see. And don’t change up the amounts from person to person, as they may compare notes, and you don’t want to cause hard feelings.

The amounts you will tip vary greatly depending on region of the country and level of luxury in the building. As a general guideline, doormen can get anywhere from $20–$400; porters, $20–$80; the super, $50–$500 and garage attendants, $20–$80. When in doubt, I recommend checking with several neighbors to see how much they are tipping…you don’t want to be the outlier who is giving far less (or far more) than everyone else in the building.”

When it comes to the folks delivering your mail and packages, do you tip them? Should the tip be monetary or an actual gift, like a gift card or baked goods?

“Although federal law specifies that letter carriers may not accept cash or a cash equivalent (such as a check), what you give to a USPS letter carrier will be between the two of you. To abide by the law, you may give a gift in monetary value (including a gift card to a store) in an amount of up to $20 or less. As with the sanitation worker, you may never see your letter carrier, nor even know if it is the same person from week to week. However, if you have at least a friendly hello relationship with your carrier, consider giving something, bearing in mind the limits mentioned. To ensure your gift goes to the correct person, it is ideal if you can hand the gift or envelope to your carrier in person.

For an overnight courier such as UPS or FedEx, and again, where there is an ongoing professional relationship (perhaps you see this individual weekly or even daily), consider a gift of up to $25. (FedEx policy bars its drivers from accepting anything of value exceeding $75.)”


Tipping Child Care Providers

Do you tip a nanny or regular sitter?

“In the case of nannies, an au pair or a regular babysitter, a holiday tip is very much appropriate. Consider giving one to two weeks’ pay for the nanny or au pair and the equivalent of one session’s pay to your sitter. If you only hire a babysitter once or twice a year, no tip is necessary. For each of these individuals, however, don’t forget the cards—one from you and one from your child/children. Another nice touch is giving a small gift from the children, which they pick out themselves.”

Do you tip or give gifts to your child’s teachers? If so, how much/what is appropriate?

“A teacher is not a service professional who is tipped during the year, nor an hourly employee. With that said, a gift or gift card is customary for teachers. Just make sure the school permits gifts. Often, a class will go in on a joint gift from all students. If you are giving a solo gift, consider something in the $25–$30 range, demonstrating as much thought in the gift selection as possible. Whatever you do, do not give a mug inscribed with the words “World’s Greatest Teacher.” Trust me…they have more than enough of those.”

Tipping Personal Service Providers

If you receive a salon service, like a haircut or manicure, around the holidays, should you tip extra or add a gift above and beyond your regular tip?

“Absolutely. Your personal care practitioners (hairstylist, manicurist, haircolorist, massage therapist, waxer) should be given a gratuity equivalent to the cost of one visit. Don’t avoid seeing these individuals around the holidays just to get out of giving a tip. And if you are there for a holiday visit, the holiday tip is separate and apart from the tip for your December visit.”  

What about a personal trainer, or someone providing regular medical care, like a physical therapist or home caregiver?

 “An appropriate gift for an in-home assistant or caregiver would be one-week’s pay. Think of this more as a holiday bonus than a holiday gratuity. For a physical therapist or personal trainer, consider a gift of the cost of one visit.”

What about the people who care for your pet, i.e. a dog walker or groomer?

“A dog walker would receive one week’s pay as a bonus; a groomer, the cost of one visit as a gratuity.”

Tipping Car Care Providers

Do you tip the folks who work at your regular parking garage?

“Yes, whether this garage is a part of your building or simply a place where you pay a monthly fee for parking, consider a gift of anywhere from $20 to $80 to each attendant, again, basing your amount on the level of care and consideration they give to your vehicle. Is your Lamborghini waiting, shined and ready to go, with the heat cranked and your favorite satellite radio station tuned in when you arrive to pick up your car? To not tip at year end would be ungrateful to say the least.”

What about at the car wash?

“At the car wash, in the spirit of the holidays, feel free to put a bit of extra into the communal tip jar at the end of the wash. And if you are a regular customer, and there is one particular worker who always gives your car extra attention, feel free to thank that individual with a separate gratuity of $20 or so.”

Thank you, Thomas! Isn’t he amazing? 


Make sure you follow Mister Manners on social media so you don’t miss a thing:

Twitter: @MisterManners

Instagram: @MisterManners

Facebook: MisterManners




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I ask Mister Manners my burning questions about holiday tipping and how much to tip people who provide services during the holidays. #holidaytipping #tipping101 #holidays #christmastipping

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Smart Shopping Expert

Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.

2 Responses

  1. Candi O

    Thank you for this tipping guide, Trae. As a city dweller, this info is a great reference tool (& reminder) on how to compensate the folks who help you throughout the year.

    • Trae

      Thanks so much, Candi. I am thrilled that you found it helpful!