Holiday tipping 411: Who should you tip and how much

Holiday tipping is going to be extra crucial this year amid a global pandemic and tumultuous jobs market. It’s a way to thank the people who make your life easier. So why is it so hard to figure out whom to tip and how much? 

The demand for delivery services skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, but a survey published in July of American adults found that this didn’t necessarily translate into more or better tips for service workers. 

A poll of more than 2,500 U.S. adults in June on behalf of found that sit-down dining is the most likely to garner a tip — but the figure fell slightly from pre-pandemic times.

RELATED: Americans' tipping habits didn't improve during pandemic, poll finds

Roughly 75% of customers said they "always" tip while eating at a restaurant, while just 5% said they "never" tip in the 2021 survey. That number dropped two percentage points from 77% who said they always tip in a survey conducted in 2019.

So will this be a factor for workers who depend on tips this holiday season? 

Here’s all the etiquette you should know.

Yes, holiday tipping is a thing

Plenty of people don't even realize that holiday tipping is a thing. Others want to tip but struggle with budgets already strained by other holiday spending.

"From an etiquette standpoint, we try not to say, ‘You have to do it exactly like this otherwise it's wrong,"' says etiquette expert Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont in a previous interview with the Associated press. "There are so many varied relationships that we have, or our budgets might not be able to accommodate it the way our hearts would like."

Gen Z is more likely (51%) to give higher tips during the holiday season while baby boomers are expected to give less at 42%. Millennials meet in the middle at 48% and Gen X at 43%.

A massive 87% of adults believe it’s important to shop at local, small businesses during the holidays as the U.S. continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. This includes 90% of women and 84% of men; 93% of baby boomers and 80% of Gen Z.

Cash is often best, but not absolutely required

If you can afford to give only a few dollars, a small gift or homemade item may be a better way of expressing appreciation. Post remembers her parents baking cookies and making candy for their mail carriers, garbage collectors and newspaper delivery folks. Of course, not everyone is good in the kitchen -- or welcomes homemade goodies.

Match the tip to the relationship

The amount you give can reflect the quality and frequency of your interactions. You might tip an occasional babysitter the equivalent of one evening's pay, for example, while a live-in nanny could get a bonus equal to one week's pay, or more. A small gift in addition to a tip is a nice touch when the relationship is more personal.

A tip roughly equal to the cost of a single visit might be appropriate for:

  • Babysitters
  • Housekeepers
  • Dog walkers and groomers
  • Personal trainers
  • Pool cleaners
  • Snow shovelers
  • Hairstylists or barbers
  • Massage therapists, facialists and manicurist

Tipping workers for the holidays can sometimes feel like a lot of pressure for such an important job but a new survey revealed just how much others are giving this season. 

The survey found that housekeepers and childcare providers are tipped the most at an average of $50. Forty-seven percent of adults plan to tip their housekeepers and 41% plan to tip their childcare providers, according to a recent report from FOXBusiness.

Landscapers are tipped an average of $30, while teachers are tipped $25. Trash collectors and mail carriers are tipped an average of $20 but only 19% of adults plan to tip their waste management workers.

  • Yard and garden workers ($20 to $50 each)
  • Trash and recycling collectors ($10 to $30)
  • Handyman ($15 to $40)
  • Package deliverer ($20, if allowed; check with the company)
  • U.S. Postal Service mail carriers (small gift only; no cash, per USPS rules)
  • Day care workers ($25 to $75 each for those who work with your child; check with facility)
  • Newspaper deliverer ($10 to $30)
  • Building superintendents ($20 to $80)
  • Doormen ($15 to $80)
  • Parking attendants ($10 to $30)

Not every helper should be tipped

If you tip someone regularly throughout the year, a holiday tip may not be necessary. Cash tips also aren't appropriate for certain people, such as professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants) and anyone who works for an entity that prohibits them. For government workers, for example, a tip can look like a bribe. Check with nursing homes, home health care providers, package delivery companies and day care centers, especially, before tipping individual workers. Post suggests that instead of tipping your children's teachers, offer to buy classroom supplies or go in with other parents on a gift or gift card.

Make it pretty

Fresh, crisp bills tucked into a card with a handwritten note? Classy. Wadded bills thrust at the service provider on your way out the door? Not so much. Ditto leaving an extra-large tip on a credit card receipt. Something's certainly better than nothing, but putting some care into your presentation can demonstrate that you really do appreciate what they do for you.

Tip early

The holidays are stressful. Especially this year while a global pandemic is still raging. Sending holiday tips as early as possible might ideal for people depending on those tips to cross off their holiday shopping lists as soon as possible. Tipping early in the holiday season means people have extra cash to spend which may even include giving away their own holiday tips. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles. Kelly Hayes, The Associated Press and FOX Business contributed.