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Who Americans Are Tipping This Holiday Season — and How Much They Plan to Give

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It's the holiday season and that means it's time to start thinking about who to tip for their services this year — and how much you should give.

It's a way to recognize all they have done for you in 2021.

"Especially after a second very hard year, it is really worth thinking about how much you can give," said Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, great-great-granddaughter of the firm's founder, and co-author of "Higher Etiquette."

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Housekeepers top the list of those Americans plan to tip this year, according to a survey by CreditCards.com. The poll, which had a sample size of 2,372 U.S. adults between Nov. 3-5, found that 47% of U.S. adults plan to give their cleaners extra cash. The median tip is $50.

Meanwhile, trash collectors are the least likely to receive a gratuity. The median amount is $20.

In addition, 45% of Americans said they will give higher-than-usual tips to those who normally receive tips over the course of the year, such as restaurant waitstaff and hairstylists.

So how do you know who to tip and how much should you give? While there are guidelines from etiquette experts (see below), it really comes down to what you can afford and prioritizing from there.

"It can sometimes feel really daunting," Post said.

"One good thing to do is think about who are the service providers who made a difference to you; the people you couldn't live without."

If you are strapped for cash, also consider using any credit card rewards you may have to get cash back or buy a gift certificate.

"It's the thought that counts," said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com.

"If all else fails, it is nice to give a handwritten note and a hearty thank you."

You can also acknowledge in the note of thanks that your financial situation this year made it impossible to give a tip, and that it is not a reflection on their service, Post added.

With that in mind, here are tipping guidelines from the experts at The Emily Post Institute. As always, you can do a gift in exchange for a cash tip.

Child-care providers

  • Au pair or live-in nanny: Up to one week's pay and a small gift from your child.
  • Regular babysitter: Up to one evening's pay and a small gift from your child.
  • Daycare provider: $25 to $70 for each staff member who works with your child and a small gift.

Teachers

  • A cash tip is not appropriate for teachers as it could be seen as trying to curry a favor. Instead, give a gift, like books or gift certificates.

Housekeeper/cleaner

dusanpetkovic | iStock | Getty Images
  • Regular cleaner: Up to one week's pay and/or a small gift.
  • Live-in help: Up to one week to one month of pay, plus a gift.

Hairstylists and barbers

  • Beauty salon staff: Up to the amount of one visit, divided among those who work with you.
  • Barber: Up to the cost of one haircut.

Personal trainers & massage therapists

  • Up to the cost of one session.

Trash collectors

Mike Clarke | E+ | Getty Images
  • If it is a municipal service, check city regulations regarding tips. If allowed, $10-$30 each.

Pet caretakers

  • Dog walker: Up to one week's pay.
  • Groomer: Up to the cost of one session.

Building staff

  • Doorman: $15 to $80; $15 or more for each in a building with multiple doormen.
  • Handyman: $15 to $40.
  • Superintendent: $20 to $80.
  • Elevator operator: $15 to $40 each.

Delivery drivers

Brendan McDermid | Reuters
  • Ethics rules prohibit U.S. postal workers from accepting cash or gifts, but the agency said individual employees may accept free supplies, materials or services related to Covid-19. That includes meals and restaurant or store gift certificates, as long as the value is $20 or less.
  • FedEx's policy prohibits employees from accepting cash or cash equivalents, like gift cards.
  • United Postal Service (UPS) teaches their drivers to respectfully decline monetary gratuities, although they may accept one if a customer is insistent.

One way to acknowledge their hard work is to leave a basket of water and goodies outside your front door.

For instance, UPS drivers have received tokens of appreciation that range from hand-made cards, cookies, energy bars, bottles of water and nominal gift cards, said spokesperson Dan McMackin. During the holiday season, they've also received warm socks and mittens and homemade cards and artwork from kids.

"Knowing that they are appreciated for what they do is worth more than money," McMackin said.

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