Before you give out any tips, make a list of who you think should be included. "You want to tip those folks who provide ongoing service to you throughout the year," says AuWerter.
Even though times are tight, it's important to acknowledge their service. Create a budget and then prioritize who you should spend the most money on. Scale back on your tips or give them a small gift instead. Or, try handmade gifts or a heartfelt note. If you must tip in cash, but you can't give as much as last year for financial reasons, include a small card saying something like, "Thank you so much for your help this past year. I hope the next year brings happiness, health and better finances for both of us." The note will help show the smaller tip isn't a reflection of poor service. "Stay with the true spirit of the holidays. People will understand that times are tight," says AuWerter.
One key group of people to tip are childcare workers. There are some rules of thumb to follow, though. "If you have a full-time nanny, you want that tip to be equivalent to one week's worth of pay, plus a handmade gift done by the kids," says AuWerter. For a regular babysitter, their tip should be equal to one night's worth of service. For day care workers, tip each individual who cares for your child between $25 and $70 depending on the cost of the day care itself.
Teachers, however, are a different story. You shouldn't tip a child's teacher in cash; instead, get a small, inexpensive gift or arrange a group gift with other parents.
Your mail carrier shouldn't be tipped in cash either; doing so is actually illegal. Instead, offer a small gift that costs less than $20 or some homemade cookies. Gift cards are also a good option. The thought will be greatly appreciated. For newspaper delivery people, tip roughly $20-$30.
Finally, don't forget the people who make you look great all year long. Even though you tip your hair stylist and manicurist throughout the year, you shouldn't neglect them during the holidays. "How much you should be giving depends on what sort of relationship you have with this person - how many years you've been going to them and whether you sit in the chair for hours and gab," says AuWerter. The tip - whether a gift or in cash - should be the equivalent to one session's worth of service.
For more information on tipping, as well as other personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun