Consumer Wise: Holiday tipping: Who and what to give

By Angie Moreschi, Consumer Wise Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 05, 2017, 4:46 AM EST

Your hairdresser is one of those people most folks like to remember over the holidays.

“I think giving makes you feel better than when you actually get a gift, because you’re doing something for someone. It’s like the giving spirit,” said Angela Martin, a client at Mikel’s Paul Mitchell Experience Salon.

Martin likes to give homemade gifts because they are more personal.

“You know how you have little mason jars,” she said, “and you put all the cocoa and stuff in there, or something like bath scrubs.”

Another client, Kerry Morgan, said she prefers to give gift cards.

“Usually I do a gift card, like the American Express gift card, that way they can get what they want,” Morgan explained.

Who & how much

The list of those to give a holiday tip can get awfully long — from hairdressers to teachers to mail carriers, newspaper carriers, garbage collectors and on and on.  To help cut down on the stress of figuring out what’s appropriate for each, here are some suggestions.

For people who provide you a regular service — like hairdressers, babysitters, and house cleaners, the etiquette experts at The Emily Post Institute suggest up to the cost of one session.

For folks like newspaper carriers, garbage collectors, or handymen, $10 to $30 is customary.

A cash tip is not appropriate for all. U.S. Mail carriers, for example, are not allowed to accept money. Instead, you can give a small gift, under $20; for teachers, a gift or gift certificate of $25 and under is appropriate; and for nursing home employees, a gift that can be shared by all the staff, like food, is more customary.

Thanking on a Budget

If you can’t afford so many cash tips, try to prioritize. Consider your relationship with a service provider and the frequency and quality of that service. And don’t forget homemade gifts are always nice; cookies, or a tree ornament if you’re crafty, can show you appreciate someone without breaking the bank.

No matter what — all gifts should always include a short handwritten note.

“If you just sign your name, it’s like 'okay,' but if you actually take the time to write something personal or even make a card for somebody, it means a little bit more and they’re probably more likely to keep it and remember it,” Martin said.

The thought that counts

The stylists at Mikel’s Salon say they get a wide range of gifts and enjoy them all.

“Cash is always a good thing, bottles of wine, baked goods are always a huge thing,” said salon owner Mikel Sandoval.

“Food!” stylist Joseph Panapa said, laughing. “I have one guest who brings a pecan pie that’s pretty good, and cookies!”

As for the common belief that you shouldn’t tip the owner of a salon, that’s "old school" and doesn’t hold true anymore.

“If the salon owner does your hair, absolutely (tip them)!” Sandoval said, “I’m not sure who made that myth up, but absolutely, it just makes us feel like we’re doing a great job.”

Give within your means

Showing gratitude for those who provide you services all year long is always nice, especially during the holidays, but depending on your financial situation, don’t feel obligated to go beyond what you can afford.

In the end, it really is the thought that counts.

“They don’t have to do it. This is something they want to do, so you really feel the gratitude,” said stylist Panapa.