The most important person to tip for the holidays

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Someone asked me the other day if I knew the history of tipping, particularly around the holidays. I confessed, I didn't know how it evolved, but I believe it does make a lot of sense to tip those who've graciously helped make our lives easier and better during the "season of giving." And as wages fail to keep up with the escalating cost of living, many service-industry workers rely heavily on tips.

But, alas, there are more people we'd like to thank with cash than we can feasibly afford. To help simplify things, I've narrowed down the list to six key people we should prioritize when it comes to tipping. These are people who have likely offered us great, personal service throughout the year, make a relatively low hourly wage and/or depend largely on tips to make ends meet. In essence, these are the people you ought to provide a holiday bonus, as you employ them throughout the year.  Wage and tip data is provided by researchers at Payscale.com.

Building staff. If you live in a part- or full-time serviced building with doormen, porters and supers, it's common practice to tip generously around the holidays, if you haven't already been tipping them throughout the year. Keep in mind that doormen earn an average $15.80 per hour and tips make up about 15% of their total hourly income. Parking attendants earn 30% of their income from tips. How much you tip per person depends on how many years they've worked in the building, as well as their shift (day-time workers are generally busier collecting packages and addressing residents needs than the overnight staff). Here are some monetary tipping guidelines for building staff members, according to New York real-estate guide BrickUnderground.com:

-- Super, resident manager: $75 -$175 on average (broad range: $50 - $500)

-- Doorman, concierge: $25-$150 on average (broad range: $10 - $1,000)

-- Porter, handyman: $20 - $30 on average (broad range: $10 - $75)

-- Parking/garage attendant: $25 - $75 avg (broad range $15-$100)

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Nannies/babysitters. If there's any tip you shouldn't skip, it's the one for your nanny or babysitter. This person has perhaps the most important job in your life: ensuring the health, safety and happiness of your child when you're not there. You may already pay your child's caregiver a solid wage throughout the year, but a tip is still necessary to show your appreciation and avoid hurt feelings. According to BrickUnderground, full-time nannies generally earn a tip equal to one or two weeks' pay. Alternatively, they receive one week's pay plus one week's vacation. For your regular babysitter, consider tipping $25-$50 in cash or gift card, the equivalent to one night of babysitting.

Letter carrier. While the law prohibits U.S. postal workers from accepting cash gifts, it's nice to tip your regular mail delivery person -- who brought you your mail rain or shine -- a little something, such as a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or freshly baked goods.

Hair stylists. The average hourly pay for a hairstylist is $14.10 an hour, with 21% of that wage tied to tips. When you go to get your hair done for the holidays, offer an additional tip equal to the cost of one hair cut. 

House cleaners. If you employ a regular cleaning person daily, weekly or monthly, you should present a tip around the holidays. The more responsibility this person has and the more frequently they visit, the more you should tip. A part-time housekeeper earns about $9 an hour with 10 percent of income derived from tips. (Although in metro areas like New York and San Francisco, it's common to pay $20 to $25 an hour for weekly or monthly housecleaner). According to BrickUnderground, a regular housekeeper or cleaning person may earn about one to two week's pay in the form of a holiday tip. So, if your housekeeper comes once a month and you pay an average $100, then $100 would be an average bonus.

Pet groomers/walkers, Much like your babysitter, you don't want to skimp on the person taking care of your pooch, especially if this is a relationship you hope to maintain. Paying your regular dog walker or cat sitter a tip equal to one week's pay is considered generous. You can offer this in cash or a gift card. Dog walkers earn about $15 an hour, and 5 percent of their salary comes from tips. Groomers, meanwhile, earn about $13.50 an hour, with about 10 percent of their salary from tips.

Hospitality-service employees. As you go on vacation and dine out during the holidays, keep in mind that all those people helping to ensure you have the best stay, are working instead of being with their families. It's important to always tip the service staff at hotels and restaurants, but especially around the holidays. A hotel room service attendant, for example, earns about $11.20 an hour, with 33 oercent of that income stemming from tips. Otherwise, they'd earn about $7.50 an hour. A bartender earns $17.40 an hour, although 55 percent of that income comes from tips.

  

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    Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter at @farnoosh.

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