The Ultimate Guide to End-of-Year Tipping
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Laura Shin
LearnVest
December 16, 2011

They help you when you’re struggling to get a package in the door. They fix your leaky faucet before it becomes a flood. They brave rain and snow to get you your mail every day.

All around us, there are real-life angels—our manicurist, doorman, superintendent and more—who make our lives easier just by doing their jobs with care and pride.

So, at the end of the year, we want to thank them for their great service. And the best way to do that is to give them an end-of-year gift, which can be an actual present or a cash tip.

But if you were to indiscriminately tip all the service people in your life, you could easily end up in the red. It might sound easy enough to keep an informal running tally of how much you’ll tip each person, but that type of mental accounting can be bad for your budget

Before You Start Stuffing Envelopes …
Here a few helpful guidelines you can use in deciding who to tip and how much.

First, weigh the quality of service. This means that you should prioritize those who have provided you exceptional service this year, like the super who dug you out after the surprise blizzard.

At the same time, consider how frequently you use each person’s services. According to U.S. News, it’s not necessary to give an end-of-year tip to service people you see less than once a month (a 20 percent tip per visit is standard in those cases). Depending on your personal situation, some service people that might fall in this category include your hairstylist, another type of aesthetician, or a handyman.

Also take into account whether or not you already tip this person regularly. If so, you can opt for a more modest tip or even refrain from an end-of-year tip altogether. For instance, if you tip your housekeeper every time she comes, you may give her a smaller tip than the guideline below suggests.
Then, look at your own situation. If you’re unemployed, or your budget just doesn’t allow you to dole out cash tips this year, you may be able to give a thoughtful gift like homemade cookies instead. It’s best to use this strategy for those people you don’t employ quite as often, and if the idea makes you uncomfortable, include a note thanking them for their service and explaining that you’re not tipping because of your circumstances, and not because of a lack of good service on their part.

Last, but not least: Stick to your budget, so you can continue to enjoy their services next year!

Who to Tip and How Much
The chart below contains recommendations, not requirements. If you live in a large city, err on the higher side of the ranges provided below. And, keeping in mind the advice above, let your individual circumstances and the relationship you have with each person be your ultimate guide. If you’re still unsure and the service worker is employed by a larger establishment, call the employer and ask what the company deems acceptable and what other customers typically do.

Lastly, no matter what you do, always accompany each tip or gift with a handwritten note (two or three sentences is fine) expressing your appreciation for that person’s help throughout the year.

More from LearnVest:
Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays: Your Year-End Giving
Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays: Gifts for Everyone on Your List
Your December Financial To-Dos