How much to tip service providers this holiday? Here's a guide

Zagat, publisher of well-regarded big-city restaurant guides, has released the results of its holiday tipping survey, revealing that the average American will tip the baby sitter $69 during the holidays, the nanny gets the best tip — $331 on average, but the smallest payout in at least three years — and the housekeeper will score $132 in tips this Christmas.

Seven in 10 Americans said they'll hand out cash tips, and more than a quarter plan to give gift cards or certificates.

The Zagat survey also deals with a host of non-holiday tipping issues at restaurants, revealing that 57 percent of diners tip on the post-tax amount on the bill, and men try more often than women to tip their way to faster seating or a better table. For the full survey, go to

When tipping any time of the year, it's important to remember that the practice is 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:

■ Never 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.)

■ 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.

■ Consider 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.

Regular baby sitter: Cash. One evening's pay and a small gift from your children.

Live-in nanny or au pair: Cash or a gift. One week's pay and a 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.

Teacher: Gift but not cash. A small gift or note from you and a small gift from your child.

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.

Housekeeper or cleaner: Cash and/or a gift. As much as one week's pay and/or a small gift.

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.

Nursing home employees: A gift (not cash). Check company policy first. A gift that could be shared by the staff (flowers or food items).

Personal caregiver: Cash or gift. Between one week and one month's salary or a gift.

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.

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. Most Herald-Leader carriers regularly communicate with their customers, ensuring that you know their name. If you don't know your carrier's name, call our customer service center, 1-800-999-8881.

Mail carrier: Small gift only. Go to 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.