Who Should Get A Christmas Tip? And, Should You Stiff Your Mailman?

by Hank Coleman

Holiday tipping guideEvery year I write an article about how I am not going to tip my mail carrier for the holidays. I’m not a fan of tipping my mailman, garbage man, teachers, or a long list of other folks. I typically take a lot of heat in the comment section for my anti-Christmas holiday tipping philosophy.

There are several reasons that I refrain from tipping certain people in my life like my mailman.

But, there are those that I go out of my way to tip such as my housekeeper, my barber, and my guitar instructor. I’m not going to tip my mail carrier this Christmas. Who are you tipping this year?

[tweet_box design=”default”]I’m not going to tip my mail carrier this Christmas. Who are you tipping this year?[/tweet_box]

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A List Of Popular Holiday Tipping

Every year the major publications publish their lists of holiday tips and holiday tipping guide on how you should consider giving to these people in your life during Christmas and the holidays. The following are part of the holiday tipping tips and guide that appears originally in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

  • Baby Sitter – One to two nights’ pay is about right for a baby sitter
  • Cleaning Person – The cost of one visit is considered fitting
  • Dog Walker – Tip your regular dog walker up to a week’s pay.
  • Hairstylist – The normal cost of a visit would be a nice tip for a stylist you see regularly.
  • Letter Carrier – The U.S. Postal Service forbids mail carriers from accepting cash, and says gifts must be under $20 in value.
  • Newspaper Delivery Person – Consider giving $10 to $30, unless you tip regularly throughout the year.
  • Nursing Home Worker – A personal gift such as homemade cookies or fudge
  • Personal Trainer – $50 or up to the cost of a session
  • Your Child’s Teacher – Small gift, accompanied by a note or drawing by your child
  • Trash Collectors – Tip each of your trash $10 to $30.

People I Personally Hired Get A Christmas Tip

One rule of thumb that I use in my own holiday tipping guide is whether or not I hired the person. I typically do not give a holiday tip to my garbage man, mail carrier, teacher, and the like.

I do enjoy giving a holiday gift or tip to people that I have hired to help me such as my housekeeper, gardener, guitar instructor who gives me lessons, and others. I’ve realized that you have to spend wisely because the budget always seems tight.

I really wanted the services that these people provide, and that is why I sought them out to hire them. These are the types of people that I give a holiday tip to during Christmas time.

Those Whose Salaries Depend On Tips

I am a big proponent of tipping people whose salary predominantly depend on receiving tips. Those of course are people whose jobs are food servers, hair dressers, and the like. These are the people who need tips or extra tips during the holidays. These are the people with jobs that we should support with other additional tips.

Your mailman does not need a holiday tip. He or she make enough as it is. Even the independent contractors who deliver rural mail earn 100% of their salary from their salary, and no tips are expected. If your mail carrier goes above and beyond the call of duty such as checking on the elderly and the like, then there may be a reason for a tip during the holidays.

Maybe my mail carrier is an innocent bystander who is caught up in my dislike for the USPS and the actual post office’s service. There is a reason why they require a bailout from the federal government every year thanks to their leadership’s poor mismanagement. But, I digress…

What about you? Are you giving your mail carrier a holiday tip this year? How much are you giving? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. Go ahead…I’ve got thick skin.

What is your holiday tipping routine?

About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 590 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather

Agree. I have never even seen my mail carrier or garbagemen, and as I live in the city, it could be a different person every couple of days or weeks. Therefore, I’m not planning on tipping them.

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Financial Samurai

Man, the US postal service has it TOUGH nowadays! I think they lost like $18 billion or something this fiscal year.

How do I actually tip my mailman if I never see them though?

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Hank Coleman

Sam, would you tip him or her if you saw him every day? Would that make a difference in your holiday tipping?

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L Bee and the Money Tree

This cleared up a lot of things for me, especially since this is the first year I have anyone to tip. Thanks!

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Hank Coleman

L Bee,

Who are you planning on tipping this year?

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John S @ Frugal Rules

Could not agree more. We’ll not be tipping the mail man. He’s doing his job, and not very well at that might I add. 😉 They get paid good money and to drive around stuffing mail in mailboxes. Now, if it’s someone I’ve hired or who depend on tips then I’ll definitely consider it.

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Hank Coleman

I think that mail carriers who drive their routes around town get a bad rap because of those USPS employees who work inside the post office at the customer service desk.

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thethriftyspendthrift

I actually agree with you. I think tipping has gotten out of control. And I think your “did I hire them or not?” is a good rule of thumb with some exceptions. I do live in a building and will tip people accordingly—the super, the doorman (though my future residence doesn’t have one), the porter, etc.

Behind-the-scenes people who do a lot of the work will never see a tip. And I really don’t feel comfortable tipping a garbage man or mail carrier, who in my area both make more money than I do. (Then again, in my areas many servers and hairstylists make a lot more than I do as well.)

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Hank Coleman

You bring up a great point that things are a lot different around the country where something that is the norm in NYC is not the same in Charleston, SC or Fargo, ND.

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Gary Sharkey

Do your research a little more thoroughly there, Hank.. The USPS has NEVER taken a federal bailout, much less every year as you claim.

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Hank Coleman

Oh come on, Gary. They are subsidized every year by the government and every year they run at a loss and need government help to stay a going concern. In 2013, the US Postal Service losses reached $3.9B!! It’s not a bailout in the 2008 financial collapse sense of the phrase. It’s a bailout of another name. But, a bailout is still a bailout. In 2012, the USPS lost almost $16 billion, hit its own legal borrowing limit, and defaulted twice on required payments to the government. The Postal Service loses over $25 million every day and has turned to the government for help regularly.

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Gary Sharkey

Sorry Hank, but you’re not getting off that easy. In 2006, Congress required USPS to prefund future retiree health benefits seventy years into the future, something no other Gov’t or private company was required to do. This was because USPS was profitable at that time, and was used as a cash cow. With out this prefunding, USPS would be a break even operation. And not a dime of tax payer money has been used toward the Postal Service in over forty years. Suggest you look it up.

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tom

Having been a letter carrier for 36 years,I feel if a carrier goes above and beyond to serve the customer,than they deserve a tip.I never said no to anyone if they wanted me to buy stamps for them.If a customer needed one stamp,I gave them one out of my wallet.no charge.If it were raining,I put their parcels in a plastic bag to protect them from getting wet.The list is endless.I am now retired and can look back on my career with satisfaction knowing I always gave my customers good service with a smile.

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Anna

My mail carrier probably makes 3x as much as me so I definatly do not leave atip and I don’t believe I should their livelyhood does not depend on tips. I do however like my mail carrier and he has always been pleasent so my daughter draws him a picture and I put it in a Christmas card.

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Jen

I am a mail carriers wife. Let me tell you they work very hard!! They don’t get paid as well as people think they don’t get government benefits they are the ones who work in all weather, their trucks have no real heat or air. When there are empty routes they get split up instead of management filling in like they are ” contracted to”. While most people work 8-12 hour shifts and get paid for each one. Mail carriers DO NOT. Their routes are determined on how many boxes they have and how long management thinks it should take. My husband works 6 days a week and this time of year he has a lot of days he gets home well after 7pm he starts at 6:30am. Know who suffers the family. He knows all his customers by name and goesout of his way to pprovide great service. Your mail and packages don’t just magically get from one place to another. So remember just like your other service providers they are also one. Yes there are great ones and bad ones but they appreciate your gifts and kindness I know that a simple card makes mine feel like his service matters

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domv555

I do not tip the garbage or recycling people but do in fact tip my mail carrier! I appreciate all the hard work she does for me. I run a home business & depend on her to take care of many packages. She always goes out of her way to say hi & be friendly. Shes always smiling even though im sure secretly shes saying “not more packages!”. Its not about how much you tip someone, its often just saying “I appreciate you & the job you do for me”. I was a teacher for many years & always loved being recognized for my hard work all year caring & teaching others children. I feel you should use your discretion as far as tipping! Nowadays service people are not expecting anything, so whatever you give is aprreciated, even homemade gifts!!!

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tony

he never tips me at my job……

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Lmac

I do give at the holidays to the mail carrier. That said I live in a more rural than urban suburb. We have 2 consistent carriers… One on weekdays and one on Saturdays. They took the time to stop and introduce themselves when we moved in, the mail is on time and well delivered and they even do things like collect community food pantry donations so I don’t have to haul cans all around town. I’m happy to leave a little something at the holidays… Whether it be cookies or a $20. I don’t really see it as a tip, I see it as a thank you and a kind gesture.

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Jim

Doing your job doesn’t deserve a tip. We all struggle at work one way or another and we all make sacrifices when it comes to are family regarding work. If you feel like giving a gift that’s a different story. It’s up to each individual person it’s not a standard.

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Julia Hines

I’m always perplexed by the notion of giving teachers small homemade gifts and notes, while some people, like hair stylists, could be given up to a $120 tip from those who go all out on their hair. No offense to many professions you listed, but teachers are in charge of educating the youth. They care for one’s child. During the week, they see the child more than the parent sees the child. They spend their own money buying materials for the classroom. I don’t think teachers get enough credit for what they do besides present lessons and grade. And for the education they have to pursue to do what they do, they really are underpaid (especially new teachers and private school teachers). For me, my kids’ teachers get the best tips from me and one day if I ever need a nursing home worker for my parents or anyone else who helps me support my family, they too will be shown just how thankful I am to have someone care for those I care for. This is just my personal thoughts on tipping.

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Chloe

This is so ridiculous to me…Personal trainer $50?! Trash collectors?….And then your child’s teacher who sees your kid everyday and spends 75% of the year with them gets a small gift?

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Kristi

Pretty crazy how cheap some people are on here. First of all usps is not government nor do they get any federal assistance. Do your research before you make false accusations. Second… mail carries do not make anywhere near what you think they make especially starting out. They often work up to 70 hours per week and half of the routes are walking.(on the city side of things) .. so they’re required to walk in -40 degrees through 4 feet of snow for 15.50 an hour to start. They definitely work for their money and DEFINITELY deserve gratuities for christmas.

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carolyn

I am tipping my mail carrier this year, but I’m kind of strapped this year so he’s getting homemade fudge. He is really polite and when I get a package, he rings my doorbell before he leaves to let me know so it doesn’t end up stolen. I think I may do the same for the trash collectors because once in a while if I’ve forgotten to pull my bins to the curb, they come inside the gate and take it. I know they don’t have to do that, but I’ve taken a minute here and there to give a hello, smile, or say thank you to them so they are returning the kindness maybe. Either way, those are probably the only ones that I am tipping this year.

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Tom

I always tipped my garbage men, they take ANYTHING I put out. They can be a real pain about taking wood, can weight, large bundles, furniture etc. A good tip goes a long way! The mailman stuffs bills into my box when it’s convenient. No tip for him.

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Daniel Callaghan

Why tip a mailman. They make more then most of you tipping them. I have watched my father inlaw who is a mailman come home with $10,000.00 yes 10K in tips at christmas. I was disgusted he accepted this as he owns a 500,000.00 home and several rental properties. It ridiculous to tip a mailman or garbage manor anyone else. They should be paid what they charge you for your service. How many of you get tipped for doing a good job. I sure dont I make evey dollar by my sweat and no one considers tipping me for my work.

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James

I tip my mail carrier a box of Andes Candies b/c I have an electric fence for my dog and the mailman goes out of his way to bring packages to my garage door.
I don’t believe in giving a hair stylist a tip of a full haircut, that’s crazy!

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chris

Well, now that I know cheap scrooges like you people exist I will definitely be giving a tip to the mailman. What a bunch of cretins on here.

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Tyne Longi

My postman goes above and beyond and is a very pleasant personable guy to boot. My garbage men are excellent.

Although they get paid above minimum wage, they don’t get paid that well either. I like to show my appreciation for doing jobs that I just dont’ want to.

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R & R

We have two homes, our primary mail carrier is awesome, so I do leave her a gift card to a local restaurant, and she’s never hinted to leave anything, and is very thankful every Christmas.

However, out 2nd home which were still working on the mail carrier actually left a postcard envelop in our mail box today.. .so basically she’s asking for a tip. I was a little put off by such, most all of our mail goes to our primary house, and all we get at the 2nd home is junk mail and sale flyers.

I’m thinking about simply leaving a Christmas Card in the mail box, but no tip.

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Rosemary

I always give my mail carrier a gift card to dunkin donuts for $10. He does an awesome job. Trudges thru the snow when I haven’t shoveled. He delivers packages to my door. I live in a small town so maybe it’s different than city life.

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Carol

I don’t tip my trash collectors because they change frequently, but my mailman will receive a tip. He is friendly, and went out of his way to be helpful when I was ill and housebound. I think that tipping should be reserved for those who go out of their way. However, those who rely on tips for wages are in a tough spot. Although I Do tip them, I resent the idea that they have to rely on the charity of strangers to make a living. Restaurant owners claim that they would have to raise prices to pay a living wage. What, I wonder, do they think tipping does? Tip money makes the same dent in my pocket as charging the real cost of my meal on the menu.

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Olivia

I’m thinking about tipping my mailman. I get a lot of packages and he goes out of his way to deliver them. But I had a $200 Walmart gift card stolen at the post office. A substitute mailman left a slip for me to pick up the package. I called to have it redelivered and the manager had it on his desk but the next day they called and said it disappeared. Although it was sent certified, it wasn’t sent in a way that they would replace it. Please remember to ask what service you are buying just in case something should happen.

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Laurie Byro

My dad born in 1927 and died recently ALWAYS tipped everyone and well and here is why. #1 he was a truck driver and every ONCE in a while usually Jewish clients would tip him for a delivery. Made a huge difference to his family. I notice now that often delivery folks are Mexican or folks who do not get paid well, and so we tip. Mail. I live in a rural town and our new mailman, brings the stuff to the door (like if there is a stamp missing and he says “it looked like a bill” or adds $ from his wallet if a package is short and leaves the bill. I am giving him $20. Rural carriers do not make that much $. Same with the garbage pickup. The OWNERS of these places earn much (they bill the town, for recycling) but oi doubt the workers get much. I say to the writer of this, get real. My husband drives a bus. He gets gift cards and cookies etc. He earns $20,000 a year. A YEAR. Teachers earn 4 times that. And we always always gave the teachers a small gift. It’s polite, it shows class and good manners. And while you say “you didn’t HIRE these folks” ah but you did. You vote in school elections etc, you did hire them. And while I can understand not tipping an ANONYMOUS mail carrier, try having a nasty one. We did for years. Who didn’t “allow” a note from a neighbor. What did I do? I left her a note “since this didn’t go through your normal channels, be aware I shall live your gift with the postmaster” and I did that. Always a terrible tip, and I always tipped the counter people more (who i knew on a first name basis). She was a truculent dyke and we always tip waitresses well. Except the nasty ones. Then we would leave 5%. Sometimes with a note “your tip is get some sleep tonight” and the 5%.

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Vicki

Every month or so we leave our garbage men a case of beer. They work so hard, and they always bring our empty bins up to the garage instead of leaving them on the street. We are the only house in the neighborhood they do this for! So for Christmas we leave 2 cases for them. Our cleaning lady gets tipped one full day’s worth of pay. And our mailman, whom I’ve never really met, gets a box of homemade cookies and a card. He does a nice job, but he doesn’t go out of his way like the garbage men or the cleaning lady does.

It’s Christmas…. If you are fortunate enough to be able to give, why not do it?

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Hank Coleman

I love your last comment….

“It’s Christmas…. If you are fortunate enough to be able to give, why not do it?”

My question would be, where does it end? Who gets a tip and who doesn’t? Maybe I’ll change my mind next year. You make a great point. Thanks!

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Jennifer S

I never tip the garbage man (the truck picks up our cans and dumps them- I have never seen him get out of the truck at our house). Our mail carrier we put stuff in the mailbox on certain days- mailman appreciation day, (my daughter colors a thank you card) and for Christmas I am putting a small gift bag of cheap goodies in the mailbox (2 packets of hot cocoa, a snack size bag of trail mix, 2 clementines, a candy cane, and a small pack of fruit snacks along with a christmas card)- however, we use Amazon Prime so we see our mail lady and talk with her quite often. We currently don’t use a personal trainer, house keeper, dog walker, landscaper, etc. We do usually tip well in general when it is someone who generally gets tipped (restaurants, barber/salon, etc) but try to do a few dollars more at Christmas time.

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Julie

well I have a conundrum, I left a card with a tip for the mailman in the mailbox, but it wasn’t our usual driver that day, and the alternate driver took it. Now what?

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Hank Coleman

It sounds like you just chalk that one up to bad luck and move on. You inadvertantly bring up another good point about why tipping may not be the best idea. I was wondering this myself on Christmas Eve because I noticed my mail carrier changed for the holidays. I would want to wait outside and give it to them myself. I also wondered if the garbage man would notice a gift versus regular trash that I’ve left on the side of my driveway?

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Julie

Maybe if it is wrapped with a big bow and set on top of the trashcan, with a big sign under it “Merry Christmas to my trashmen!” haha

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Dustin

The substitute will usually bring it back and leave it for the regular carrier. The regular will leave a thank you card for you if they received it. We generally split our gifts with the regular subs.

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Dustin

The USPS does not receive a “federal bail out”. The postal service operates only with the money it makes from services and products that it sells. I don’t care wether you tip your carrier not, even though we are always pushed to our limits, especially during the holidays, but I am tired people assuming that we get tax payer money operate.

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Ann

I give $52.00, or a dollar per week. I know they earn good money. It is a gift, not a payment. I do not feel a dollar per each week that the mail is left at my door is extravagant. Who else provides that kind of service without complaint?

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