Holiday tips are one of the first expenses to fall by the wayside when times are tough, and they're sometimes the last to bounce back. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, tells how to make sure there's room for them into your budget.
Include a thank you note with any holiday tip. That's the whole point of the gift. A grateful note is especially important if you're giving less than usual -- or can't afford to give at all. That lets recipients know that they're not being snubbed.
The rule of thumb is to tip the cost of one session for a provider you see regularly, like a personal trainer, babysitter or lawn-care provider. Scale back if your visits are infrequent, like a hairstylist you see just three times a year. Daily helpers like nannies, elder-care workers and dog walkers should get more: Give a week's pay, at least.
Ask neighbors what they tip for service people you don't pay directly, such as a building superintendent or garage attendant. Those amounts tend to vary widely. Go higher or lower on the scale based on how often you interact with that person, and how helpful they've been.
Cash is preferable for most recipients, but in a few cases, gifts are the better choice. Many school districts frown upon cash gifts to teachers, and postal workers can't accept cash, or any gift valued at more than $25. It's also important to give the right gift. A generic gift card is better than one to a specific store if you don't know the recipient's preferences.
If you can't give as much as you'd like, ask others if they'd like to contribute toward a shared gift. That can be a smart idea for teachers and building staff.