Q: I moved to the suburbs this summer from a Manhattan co-op. For the first time in many years, I do not have to tip a doorman or any building staff. But, surely, there must be people in my new community awaiting a holiday envelope. Do I tip the sanitation workers? The mail carrier? My gardener? Who else? And how much?
A: When you live in a New York City apartment, the holiday tip list is usually obvious — and frequently handed to you by building management. In a private home, you get to make your own list.
Before you decide whom to tip, and how much to give them, set a budget based on what you can afford this year. “There is no such thing as an exact amount” that’s expected from you, said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert. “Do not feel pressured to tip more than you can afford, because a tip is a gift.”
At the top of your list should be any people who regularly tend to you and your home — a handyman, housekeeper, dog walker, nanny, gardener and newspaper delivery person. The standard tip for such service workers would be the equivalent of what you’d normally offer for one week of service, Ms. Gottsman said. So, if you pay your housekeeper $100 a week to clean your house, tip accordingly, assuming your budget allows for it. Now is also the season to be more generous with your tips to the people who deliver groceries and takeout to your door.
Some companies set limits on tipping, so check the rules before you hand out your envelopes. U.S. Postal Service workers, for example, can accept gifts of up to $20 in value, but not cash or gift cards. FedEx drivers cannot accept cash or gift cards at all, but they do accept snacks left out for them, according to the company. UPS drivers are instructed to decline monetary gifts, but do accept other tokens of appreciation, like socks, mittens, baked cookies and cards. “I used to be a driver and still have a scarf someone knitted for me,” said Dan McMackin, a UPS spokesman. Other delivery workers who bring packages should also be acknowledged. If you are unsure of their company policies, simply ask first. Some people also leave out a basket of packaged snacks and bottled water as a gesture of thanks. If you’d like to tip government employees or contractors, like the sanitation workers on your route, ask your local municipality whether cash gifts are allowed.
Beyond your home, there are other people to consider, too. If you have children and they attend school or day care, ask the school how it handles holiday gifts. People often give an end-of-the-year gift to their hairdressers and manicurists as well.
Regardless of what you give, whether it’s a small box of chocolates or an envelope filled with cash, include a handwritten note. “Don’t just hand somebody money,” Ms. Gottsman said. “You want it to be something joyful. You want to show gratitude. You want to show thanks.”
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