Tips for Tipping
The golden rule seems to be that cash is king. That being said, a small gift demonstrating that you know people's likes and dislikes is a nice touch, usually best appreciated when given in addition to cash inside a card. Don't give liquor or chocolates unless you know it is a favorite item of the recipient. If you don't like to give cash there are now gift cards for everything under the sun including, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, gas stations, local restaurants, town parking meters and more.
There are people like your nanny, housekeeper, driver or dog walker that you may depend on everyday. In this instance a holiday tip more closely resembles a corporate bonus. Depending on their length of service, cash or a gift equal to one or two weeks of salary is the minimum and can be significantly more if they are a long term employee.
For your secretary or assistant it is up to the corporation to decide whether or not the company is handing out a cash bonus. Even if they do, you should be purchasing a thoughtful gift. If not this would be an an excellent person to give a gift certificate to a high end department store.
For those with whom you, or your children, have regular appointments such as a personal trainer, manicurist, tutors, music teachers, other after school activity instructors or hair stylist often the tip is equal to the cost of one session or appointment. If your child is involved a small hand made item from them is a nice accompaniment.
What you give the people in your life who help take care of your home varies a bit on where you live. If you live in a city or in a building with staff, plan on tipping the doormen, the superintendent and the garage attendant. Some people like to give more to those who they see the most or are especially helpful. It can be useful to ask any neighbors you are friendly with what they give to get an idea of the average tip in your building. The amount will vary greatly depending on where you live and the size of your building.
For those who live in a home in the suburbs you will probably have the garbage collector, snow removal person, lawn service or gardener on your list. Think about whether these people are the same every week or a rotating group who don't know who you are and tip accordingly.
The US mail, UPS, and FedEx delivery people all have restrictions about what gifts they are allowed to receive. For example, civil servants are not allowed to receive cash tips. The details can be found on the specific web-sites.
Think outside the box as there are many who deserve a show of appreciation at the holidays. For example, an often over looked group would be the staff at your veterinarian's office or pediatrician. If you have a child with chronic ear infections and you are always wrangling a last-minute appointment, a basket of fruit or holiday goodies that can be shared by everyone in the office with a thank you note, will be both much appreciated and remembered the next time you call and ask if you can be squeezed into the doctor's busy schedule. Others that might fall into this category would be your dry cleaner, deli employees or local gas station attendant. If you like to bake this selection of people are perfect recipients for your home made treats.