Figuring out who to tip and how much can be tricky. Even in these tough times, it's important to remember the people who help us on a regular basis. "This is mean to acknowledge people who have helped you year-round," says Grant. "It really comes across as very stingy to not tip, unless of course... you have some sort of dire financial circumstances where you really can't tip at all."
Even those on a strict budget this holiday season can tip their favorite helpers. Grant suggests figuring out how much money you have left to spend and then divide it up accordingly. "It's okay... to give small gifts as well," says Grant.
If you plan to give gifts to some folks and cash to others, consider who needs cash the most before filling out your cards. Someone who's doing very well for themselves will be okay with a gift, whereas someone who's had a bad year will really appreciate a tip in cash.
Keep in mind, though, that some people aren't allowed to accept cash or larger gifts by law. Mail carriers and teachers are best off with a small gift of around $25.00 or less. Consider gifts for people who you can't afford to tip in full this year, too. For example, the standard tip for a hair stylist is roughly the equivalent of one session. If that doesn't fit into your holiday budget, bake some cookies or give them a nice bottle of wine instead. They'll appreciate the thought.
If you simply can't tip everyone this year, focus on important people like caregivers. Babysitters, nannies and people who care for aging relatives devote their time on a regular basis to keep your family running smoothly, so it's important to acknowledge them at this time of year. "Tip well for the people who take care of your family," says Grant. Dog walkers or cat sitters fall into this category, too.
Finally, don't forget the card. It truly is the thought that counts, and a few heartfelt words in a card can mean the world to someone who does so much for you all throughout the year.
For more information on tipping, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Shea