Holiday tipping guide

Find out who you should tip, how much is enough and when cash is inappropriate

The mailman has left his Christmas card. The newspaper carrier has tucked a 2007 calendar in the sports section. And, on the mid-December beautification circuit from the manicure station to the waxing table, you’re greeted with expectant smiles and bulging tip jars. It’s the time of year to say thank you to everyone from your hairstylists to your dog walkers. But how much is enough?


Occasional babysitter One evening’s pay, plus a small gift from your child; at minimum, think a $15 Starbucks gift card or gift certificate. A memorable tip should help sway your favourite babysitter if she ever gets double-booked. Think she’ll bump you for that stingy family down the street? No way.
Nanny One week’s salary plus a nice gift. “By far the best gift that I’ve ever received during the holidays was an airline ticket home for me and my daughter,” says Sue Gibbs, who hails from London, England, and has been a Toronto-based nanny for 18 years. “I’ve often worked on New Year’s Eve and get a premium since it’s a big night, but that’s just pay. The tickets meant a lot more because I got to go home to see family.”

Hairstylist Equivalent of one session or double your normal tip ($20 to $100). “Our clients have started buying jeans for us,” says Jie Matar of Toronto’s Salon Jie. “I’m actually wearing my tips right now: these amazing socks from a client. Antique denim from another. And I have an unbelievable diamond ring – also a tip.”
Aesthetician Cost of one session ($10 to $100) or a yearly subscription to his/her favourite magazine. Roxana Barlow, vice-president of education and operations at The Aveda Institute in Victoria, remembers “one of our estheticians received a beautiful sculpture of a hand. Her client came in regularly for facials and massages, and called it ‘the healing hand.'”
Masseuse $50 to $100 or cost of one session for your masseuse. In a medical office or chiropractic clinic, cash is not customary, though small tokens are commonplace. Think something edible or floral. “I’ve received everything from home-baked goods, crafts and family pictures, to gift certificates for restaurants, shops and spa services,” says Regan Smith, massage therapist at Back and Body Health in Calgary.
Personal trainer $25, or up to one week’s pay or cost of one session. “I got a trip to Las Vegas from a client,” says Mark Kehr, owner of The Yorkville Club in Toronto. “Four nights at the Bellagio – air and hotel included. I lost some money, but I had an incredible time.”
Travel agent Depends on how much you travel and how much you enjoyed your trips. Anything from a card to a bottle of champagne. “I arranged a trip to Disney World for an excited seven-year-old,” says Laura Furst, agent at Goliger’s TravelPlus in Waterloo, Ont. “She’d come to my home to look at the brochures wearing Mickey Mouse ears. When her family returned from the trip, she insisted I have a tooth that fell out while she was away.”

Cleaning person One to two week’s pay, depending on length of service. Accompany with a personal note, and – the ultimate homespun touch – a tin of holiday cookies.
Gardener $20 to $50 each. If the gardener’s last job before spring is a fall cleanup, it’s best to tip at that time.
Garbage collector $10 to $20 each or 34 pieces of assorted chocolates from Laura Secord ($22). “When I was little, my mother used to leave a case of beer in the garbage box with a big red ribbon on top,” recalls Kristen Sharpe, a Toronto management consultant. “It was always a riot to watch one of the garbage collectors come dashing to the front with a big grin and hollering to show the others.”
Newspaper carrier $15 to $25 for daily delivery; $10 to $15 for weekend delivery. A nice tip could mean the difference between regular deliveries at 5:30 a.m. or soggy, mud-stained papers strewn on the neighbour’s lawn.
Postal worker $5 to $15 and a card. Postal workers don’t usually accept cash gifts during the year – the holiday season is an exception.
Dog walker/sitter Cost of one session or up to one week’s pay. Val Hudson of Dogtrotters in Calgary received gourmet dog biscuits one year – “the expensive ones. It was very thoughful. People forget that a dog-walker might own dogs, too.”