Holiday Tipping Guidelines, Holiday Tips

Holiday Tipping Guidelines: 5 Ways to Say Thanks Without Going Broke

Americans are giving bigger holiday tips to more service providers, according to Consumer Reports. While it sounds like bad news for your wallet, you don’t need to go into debt, experts say-just stick to a few simple holiday tipping guidelines.

By Kristina Cowan

Holiday bustling is in full swing, and Americans are hustling to keep up traditions of giving-for everyone from friends and family, to service providers such as hair stylists, personal trainers and teachers. A recent Consumer Reports survey says the list of professions receiving holiday tips is growing, and holiday tip amounts are going up. CR’s National Research Center asked more than 1,800 people in the United States what they gave last holiday season, and found that compared with a similar survey conducted last year, holiday tips increased about $5 apiece in many cases.

Greg Daugherty, CR’s executive editor, says the list is expanding because Americans are increasingly reliant on service providers. "You may have a fitness trainer or a dog walker, or any number of other people who do something for you that you might not have had a generation ago," he explains.

Is it possible to cheerfully give holiday tips without draining your bank account? Yes, say Daugherty and etiquette experts Lizzie Post and Colleen Rickenbacher. Just keep a few tipping guidelines in mind:

1. Create a budget, and stick to it. Holiday tips should show appreciation, not send you into debt. "It’s all about what you can afford," Post says.

2. Focus on relationships. Tip people who have made the biggest difference in your life over the last year, says Post, an author for The Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt. "Your groundskeeper might have been very valuable to the look of your house, and you gave many parties. Maybe you had a baby and you hired an au pair, or your cleaning lady helped out a lot more," she explains.

3. Keep peer pressure at bay. Tip what’s right for you, and don’t compete with what your friends and neighbors are doing.

4. Pool your funds with others who share your service provider(s). Combining money with friends or acquaintances lets you give a more expensive holiday tip or gift than you would on your own. It also makes a statement to a teacher or hair stylist, for example, about the time and effort contributed by everyone.

5. Remember: It’s the thought that counts. Home-made baked goods or crafts are creative, inexpensive ways to show gratitude in some cases. "It’s the smaller details that do wind up mattering to people," Post says.

More Tipping Guideline Articles:

Tipping Etiquette for Service Providers: Who Should You Tip?

Wage Rate: Tipping Bartenders to Casino Dealers

Holiday Tip and Gift Guide: Tis the Season to be Tipping

Kristina Cowan is the senior writer for She has over 10 years of journalism experience, specializing in education and workforce issues. Email Kristina Cowan.