Tips for tipping during the holidays

Editor's note: We pulled this out of the Life & Style archives now that tipping season is here again.

The day after Halloween, I saw a person setting up his Christmas decorations. As I tried not to drive off the road, it dawned on me that the holidays will be here sooner than we think. Buying presents for family, friends and loved ones are a given. But what should we give the baby sitters, mail carriers, nannies and teachers who watch over our children or homes in our absence?

"Giving a tip or bonus is not required, but it's that little something extra that tells people in your life that you appreciate them," said Erin Krex, founder of the Illinois placement agency First Class Care. "These people are taking care of your personal space — your home and your children which are your most important prized possession. You don't have to break the bank, but it's also not the place to skimp."

Krex said "cash is definitely king," with gift cards coming in a close second. And if times are tough, Krex said even a hand-written note of appreciation can do the trick.

"Domestic workers such as a nanny, housekeeper or baby sitter — because they're working in the home, they know if times are tough," she said. "We always say, if you can't give what you gave last year then always give them a card saying how much they are appreciated so they don't think the lack of bonus is related to their work. Perhaps you can give them days off if you have work flexibility? Let them know you care and they matter. They want to know they are making their employers happy."

Here are Krex's guidelines for tipping during the holidays.

Domestic help — nanny or housekeeper: "What is typical is to give one week's pay as a holiday bonus if they've been there for a year or more," she said. "If they've been there five or ten years, typical is two weeks pay. If they've been there for less than a year — it's one day's pay for every month they've been there."

Baby sitter: "If you have a Saturday night baby sitter that you use on a regular basis, their bonus is usually equal to one or two nights' pay," she said.

Teachers or bus drivers: "My son's school bus driver is amazing and tells us if there is anything happening on the bus, so she gets $30-$50 gift cards," she said. (There is usually a rule with schools that you shouldn't be giving cash, so Krex said to check with your school district.)

"For a teacher, send an email to the parents of the class and give a gift as a group so each family pitches in $5-$10. And definitely add a personalized note."

Doorman or garbageman: "This depends on how much they do for you, but if your doorman is calling for your car or bringing up your laundry, that bonus can be between $50-$150," she said.

"A nice tip for a garbageman is $20," she said.

UPS, FedEx or mail carrier: "If you're a big online shopper and you see your UPS person or your mail carrier once a week, a holiday card with money or a gift card is truly appreciated," she said. "A typical amount is anywhere from $20-$50. If you see your UPS person daily, you don't want them to throw your packages!"

Twitter: @jenweigel

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