We're seeing some economic improvement, but plenty of people are still strapped for cash, so this has to be said: holiday tips are meant to acknowledge the people who helped you throughout the year. You shouldn't go into debt tipping everyone, but you should give something unless your situation is truly dire. Figure out how much money you have left in your budget, and which expenses you still have to take care of. That will give you an idea of how generous you can be.
If you're on a tight budget, focus your tipping on people who care for you and your family on a regular basis. Babysitters should get the equivalent to one night's pay, dog walkers and live-in nannies roughly a week's pay. Caretakers for older adults should get up to one month's pay.
Tipping your building's doorman and superintendant is vital for good service. Ask neighbors what they're giving - anywhere from $10 to $100 is usually fine. Housekeepers should get up to a week's pay.
Reward the people who make you look good. A barber or hairstylist you see regularly should get a tip that amounts to the cost of one regular visit. The same goes for personal trainers and even dog groomers.
You should create a gift list. Some people, including teachers and post office workers cannot accept cash - but a small gift is appropriate. Etiquette experts say it's also ok to give gifts instead of cash to other people who deserve a thank you, but whom you don't see as regularly, like a hairstylist or athletic coach.