Tipping the service people in your life is a tradition at the holidays. But even in hard economic times, it's important to remember that holiday tipping is truly about saying thank you, according to the Emily Post Institute.
With some creativity, you can accommodate everyone on your list this year without blowing a budget, says the group, which was founded by the noted etiquette expert to promote civility.
A few things to keep in mind, according to the institute:
■ You shouldn't feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget. If your budget does not allow for tips, consider homemade gifts or simply telling the person thank you. Any gift or tip should be accompanied by a handwritten note of appreciation. (Two or three sentences will be enough, the institute says.)
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■ If you tip regularly at the time of service, you can skip an end-of-the-year bonus, or give a more modest holiday thank you. You also could give a small gift instead.
■ The quality and frequency of the service you receive.
■ The tip should reflect relationship with the provider and how long you've been using the service.
Here are the Emily Post Institute's recommendations for tipping various service providers, options for what form the gift should take and how much.
Au pair or live-in nanny: Cash or a gift. One week's pay and a gift from your children.
Regular baby sitter: Cash. One evening's pay and a small gift from your children.
Day-care provider: Cash or a gift for each staffer who works with your children. A gift from you or $25 to $70 for each staff member and a small gift from your children.
Live-in help (nanny, cook, butler, housekeeper): Cash and a personal gift. One week to one month of pay as a cash tip, plus a gift from you.
Private nurse: A thoughtful gift from you.
Home health employees: Check with agency first about gifts or tipping policies. If there is a no-gifts/no-tipping policy, consider a donation to the agency. If gift-giving is not against company policy, a thoughtful gift from you.
Housekeeper or cleaner: Cash and/or a gift. As much as one week's pay and/or a small gift.
Nursing home employees: A gift (not cash). Check company policy first. A gift that could be shared by the staff (flowers or food items).
Barber: Cash or gift. Cost of one haircut or a gift.
Beauty salon staff: Cash or gift depending on whether you tip well after each service. The cost of one salon visit divided for each staff member who works with you. Give individual cards or a small gift each for those who work on you.
Personal trainer: Cash or gift. As much as the cost of one session or a gift.
Massage therapist: Cash or gift. As much as the cost of one session or a gift.
Pet groomer: Cash or gift if the same person grooms your pet all year. As much as the cost of one session or a gift.
Dog walker: Cash or gift. As much as one week's pay or a gift.
Personal caregiver: Cash or gift. Between one week and one month's salary or a gift.
Pool cleaner: Cash or gift. The cost of one cleaning to be split among the crew.
Garage attendants: Cash or small gift. $10 to $30 or a small gift.
Newspaper carrier: Cash or small gift. $10 to $30 or a small gift.
Mail carrier: Small gift only. Go to USPS.com for details on what carriers are allowed to accept.
Package deliverer: Small gift only in the $20 range — no cash — but only if you receive regular deliveries. Most delivery companies discourage or prohibit cash gifts.
Handyman: Cash or gift. $15 to $40.
Trash or recycling collectors: Cash or gift for private providers; check city regulations if it is a municipal service. $10 to $30 each.
Yard or garden worker: Cash or gift. $20 to $50 each.
Teachers: Gift but not cash. A small gift or note from you and a small gift from your child.