Every 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, and 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 give a tip to 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?I'm not going to tip my mail carrier this Christmas. And here's why. Who are you tipping this year?Click To Tweet
A List of Popular Holiday Tipping
Every year the major publications publish their lists of holiday tips and holiday tipping guides 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.
- Mail Carrier – The U.S. Postal Service forbids mail carriers from accepting cash and says gifts must be under $20 in value.
- Baby Sitter – One to two nights’ pay is about right for a babysitter
- Cleaning Person – The cost of one visit is considered appropriate
- 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.
- 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 (consider enough for multiple people on shifts)
- Superintendent, resident manager – $75-$175 on average
- Parking garage attendant – $25-$75 on average
- Doorman and/or concierge – $25-$150 on average
- Porters, handyman, and maintenance staff – $20-$30 on average
- Personal Trainer – $50 or up to the cost of a session
- Music Instructor (Lessons) – $50 or up to the cost of a lesson
- Your Child’s Teacher – Small gift, accompanied by a note or drawing by your child
- Au Pair/Nanny/Day Care Provide – Small gift, accompanied by a note or drawing by your child
- Trash Collectors – Tip each of your trash $10 to $30.
- Virtual Assistant / Remote Worker – A week’s salary or the equivalent of one small project
Factors to Consider Regarding Holiday Tipping
Trying to determine who you should tip during the holidays can be tough. And, there are no right or wrong answers. It’s a very personal decision.
Here are are few things to consider when deciding who to tip:
- Did you personally hire them?
- Do they depend on your tips instead of a salary?
- How close are you to the person?
- Do you truly like the service he or she provides during the year?
- Does the same person habitually provide you with the service?
- Do you live in a building with a doorman, supervisor, etc.?
- Do you live in a large city or a small town?
- Can you afford to give a tip?
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 salaries predominantly depend on receiving tips. Those, of course, are people whose jobs are food servers, hairdressers, 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 makes 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.
Under federal regulations, mail carriers are permitted to accept a gift worth $20 or less from a customer per occasion, such as Christmas. However, cash and cash equivalents, such as checks or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash, must never be accepted in any amount. Additionally, no employee may accept more than $50 worth of gifts from any one customer in any one calendar year period.
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.
Every year, I get beat up in the comment section below by disgruntle mail carriers and USPS employees who claim that the Post Office doesn’t receive a government bailout. But, they do. It might not be labeled as a “bailout”, but if they have to receive a cash infusion every year from the federal government like Amtrak to make ends meet, what is that?
It’s a bailout! It’s a bailout by a different name. The USPS is subsidized every year by the government and every year they run at a loss and need government help to stay a going concern.
It’s not a bailout in the 2008 financial collapse sense of the phrase. The Post Office reported a loss of $2.7 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2018, which was better than a $5.6 billion loss in the prior year. The Postal Service reported a net loss of $3 billion on total revenue of $18.5 billion for the fiscal year third quarter of 2021.
This marks the 15th straight year of the USPS operating at a loss. It’s a bailout of another name. But, a bailout is still a bailout.
And, of course, the mandatory pension funding obligation and union stranglehold doesn’t help either. And, while I’m on my soapbox, I’m so sick of all the postage rate hikes too!
The U.S. Postal Service is set to raise stamp prices this Fall, increasing the cost of regular postage by 5.5%. First-Class Mail Forever stamps, as well as the cost of mailing a single-piece, 1-ounce letter, will go from $0.55 to $0.58.
But, I digress…
People I Skip Tipping at Christmas
You probably may also want to consider skipping giving a tip to any of the professional people in your life. Here is a list of people that I do NOT tip:
- Mail Carrier
- Garbage Collector
Tipping Servers During the Holidays
My wife has changed the way that I tip servers at restaurants. In fact, during the holidays, we have a new family tradition where we go out to dinner (usually to Waffle House) on Christmas Eve. And, we often leave a big tip.
I’ll say right up front that I’ve never worked in the foodservice industry. I don’t know anything about it other than being a customer. When I met my wife, I gave a standard 15% tip for average to great service, but I was also ruthless when there was bad service. The server got 10% if they were lucky.
It is absolutely true when they say that opposites attract. That fits my wife and me to a T in most respects. She’s the yin to my yang. She is a very kind and generous woman. And, like most husbands’ wives, she brings out the best in me. My wife has always been a big believer in a 20% standard tip.
After four years of dating and now over 11 years of marriage, she has changed me for the better with my poor tipping habits with her tipping tips. About three or four years ago, I started giving a standard 20% tip for even average service.
If you’re like my wife and not the best at math, here is a tip card that you can download and print off. Keep it in your purse or wallet in case you don’t have your cell phone handy. It’ll help you figure out how much tip to leave your server.
What About Over Tippiing?
Are we reinforcing bad behavior by tipping too much? A friend of mine thinks that excessive tipping contributes to poor service at restaurants. And, we can extrapolate that sentiment to other services as well.
Let’s say, for example, that I have poor service one day at a restaurant, but I still give the waiter a 20% tip on my meal. In his or her mind, the server must have done a great job. But, the truth of the matter was that it was just okay service and maybe even borderline below average.
Now, if my friend goes back to the same restaurant the next day, and he will most likely get the same service because I’ve been positively reinforcing the server’s bad behavior with excellent tips. It’s a case like Pavlov’s dogs, and I’ve conditioned the waiter to give unacceptable service because of my tipping habits.
And, now thanks to COVID-19 and the horrible plight of service industries, 20% may be the new norm and 25% to 30% the new standard for excellent service. Like the current inflation on many goods across the United States, higher tips are a new cost that is likely here to stay.
Be sure to check out my full blog post on excessive tipping and the second and third-order effects.
What About Banking at the Post Office?
Senator Ted Cruz and 18 of his Senate colleagues recently signed a letter opposing post office banking. Yet according to the Federal Reserve, about 63 million Americans are underbanked. They do not have regular access to commercial banking and instead are likely to rely on high-fee options such as check cashing outlets, money orders, and prepaid cards.
Banking with the US Post Office sounds like a horrible idea to me. While it will give more access to banking to many Americans, I’m skeptical if the post office can pull it off with good customer service.
I see long lines and wait times for services in our future. But, maybe banking is this business segment that can get the US Post Office back in the black and profitable.
So, should you give your mail carrier a cash tip this holiday season? Should you give them cookies or other baked goods?
The Christmas season is a time for giving, but it can also be a time of stress and disappointment. Many people get aggravated by the holiday rush like standing in long lines to buy gifts, traffic jams due to shoppers hitting the roads on the weekends at the same time as everyone else, or missing and delayed holiday packages.
While giving someone a tip may sound like a good idea initially, there are second and third-order effects that you may want to consider. But, are we reinforcing behaviors with our tipping that we don’t want?
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.