‘Tis the Season: Here's Your Guide to Holiday Tipping During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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This holiday season is like no other.

Millions of families are struggling financially as the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of abating.

Yet many traditions still endure, and that includes tipping those who have provided services for you throughout the year.

"It can be easy to think about giving to everyone but that can also feel overwhelming," said Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, great-great-granddaughter of the firm's founder, and co-author of "Higher Etiquette."

To start, think about your budget and what service providers in your life you are really grateful for.

"Go as far as your budget will let you," she said. (See guidelines below for typical tips by provider.)

If you can't afford to give what you have in the past, don't sweat it. Simply include a note with your tip that wishes them well for the holidays and explains why the amount is different.

"You want to reassure them that it is not a reflection of the service but it is that your circumstances changed to a degree this year that made it difficult to do the same amount," Post said.

If you can't tip at all, you can also write a heartfelt note.

Meanwhile, there may be your regular service providers you didn't see much this year due to the pandemic. Perhaps your house cleaner stopped working when the pandemic hit or you didn't take many trips to the hair salon.

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If you have the means, still tip them as you would any other year — or even more, said etiquette expert Elaine Swann.

"Service-based folks have really gotten hit hard this year," she said.

"A lot of times we think we tip on top of what we've done all year long, but don't be afraid to go that extra mile, even if you haven't used them much or at all this year."

Consider using a payment app if you are worried about handling cash.

You may also give more weight this season to those you haven't in the past, such as delivery drivers, curbside pickup workers and your postal worker. Just make sure you know the company's policy on cash versus gifts (below).

Here are some guidelines for whom to tip and how much, thanks to the experts at The Emily Post Institute. A gift is always an option instead of cash.

Hairstylists and barbers

Some pros say tip up to the cost of one visit. But that makes a lot more sense for those who have regular, fairly inexpensive cuts with a barber than those who shell out several hundred dollars per visit at a salon for a cut, color and highlight. In the latter case, a tip could be somewhere in the ballpark of $10 to $60, or a gift.

  • Beauty salon staff: Up to the amount of one visit, divided among the those who work with you.
  • Barber: Up to the cost of one haircut.

Childcare providers

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Whether you have live-in help, a regular babysitter or use daycare, you should say thanks to those who care for your kids. In addition to any monetary bonus, a gift from your child is always appreciated.

  • Au pair or live-in nanny: Up to one week's pay.
  • Regular babysitter: Up to one evening's pay.
  • Daycare provider: $25 to $70 for each staff member who works with your child.

Delivery drivers

A United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) driver delivers boxes in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.
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A United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) driver delivers boxes in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.

These day, package deliverers are working overtime. Yet, while you may want to show your appreciation with cash, The Emily Post Institute suggests a small gift for regular drivers. Also, some drivers aren't allowed to accept money.

  • FedEx's policy prohibits employees from accepting cash or cash equivalents, like gift cards.
  • Amazon doesn't have a corporate policy since the drivers that deliver for them are with independent companies or are independent contractors.
  • United Postal Service (UPS) teaches their drivers to respectfully decline monetary gratuities, unless a customer is insistent so not to be seen as rude.
  • U.S. Postal workers can't accept money or gift cards, only presents worth no more than $20.

Another option, which has grown in popularity during the pandemic, is leaving out a basket with items like water, snacks and hand sanitizer for drivers to grab.

Building staff

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They take care of your building, fix problems, open doors and receive your packages. So it would be a good idea to acknowledge their hard work throughout the year.

  • Doorman: $15 to $80 each.
  • Superintendent: $20 to $80.
  • Elevator operator: $15 to $40 each.
  • Handyman: $15 to $40.


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If someone cleans your house only once or twice a month, consider tipping them about half the amount of one service. So, if you pay your cleaner $100 to come once a month, think about $50 to $100 as a holiday thank you.

  • Regular cleaner: Up to one week's pay and/or a small gift.
  • Live-in help: Up to one week to one month of pay, plus a gift.

Pet caretakers

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Don't forget about the people who take care of your dog and other pets while you're at work or away from home. If you regularly see a groomer, think about tipping that pro, too.

  • Dog walker: Up to one week's pay.
  • Groomer: Up to the cost of one session.

Garbage collectors

A New York City Department of Sanitation worker wearing a mask and gloves collects the trash amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 30, 2020.
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A New York City Department of Sanitation worker wearing a mask and gloves collects the trash amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 30, 2020.

If your garbage is collected by your municipality, check your town or city regulations to see if cash is allowed. If not, give a gift.

  • Garbage collection crew: $10 to $30 each.

Personal trainers & massage therapists

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They help you get fit, healthy and relaxed — so consider a bonus or gift to your personal trainer or regular massage therapist.

  • Up to the cost of one session.

Newspaper delivery person

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Digital readership may be climbing, but many people still like to have a newspaper to hold in their hands. If you have yours delivered to your home, consider a small gratuity to the person who helps you enjoy that Sunday morning paper with your coffee.

  • $10 to $30.

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