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Americans are tipping generously this holiday season despite inflation and tight budgets

From expectations to etiquette: tools to determine who and how much to tip
Determining who tip tip for the holidays
Holiday tipping plans by role
Holiday tipping etiquette and expectations
Posted at 2:33 PM, Dec 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-15 16:33:06-05

Now is the time of year when everyone considers who to tip and how much. The expectations and the etiquette surrounding holiday tips can be really confusing, especially with more businesses asking for gratuity.

Ted Rossman is the senior industry analyst at Bankrate. He told us many Americans are understandably confused and frustrated by how often they are asked to pay extra.

"There's been a lot of tip creep."
Ted Rossman

Despite that growing tip fatigue, things are a little different this time of year. "Holiday tipping, I feel like, goes under a different category," said Rossman.

According to new Bankrate survey data, people are feeling more generous this holiday season compared to last year. "Maybe some of it, not to be corny, is the holiday spirit," Rossman said. Among the top-tipped roles are housekeepers, child care providers, landscapers, and teachers.

Deciding who to tip

Thomas Farley, an etiquette expert known as Mister Manners, said you want to begin by thinking about the people you interact with regularly.

"Start with anyone who is spending any amount of time in your home."
Thomas Farley

While this can feel overwhelming, Farley said many people in the service industry rely on your generosity this time of year to make ends meet. "If we don't do so, we are sending the message that we weren't that happy with the service after all," said Farley.

Deciding how much to tip

Farley said there are two main ways to tip around the holidays. First, you can double your typical payment for a particular service. "A nice metric for this is to pay the cost of a visit," Farley said.

You can also tip a flat amount, like $20-$50. Rossman and Farley agree that no matter how much you give, it's a gesture that means a lot. "We want to show appreciation," Rossman explained "We see these people, we know they're working hard."

Keep in mind, many positions aren't allowed to accept cash. For a teacher or a delivery driver, gift cards are a good option. For a shared service or activity, you can also share the costs. "Consider a group gift, I think there can be strength in numbers there," said Rossman.

Remember, if money is tight, Farley says you don't need to overdo your holiday tipping. "It's doing no one any good if you're tipping at levels that you truly can't afford," Farley said. He suggests a card or a token gesture like a bottle of wine or homemade baked goods to show your appreciation.

Finally, if you need to ask for help, don't hesitate. Bankrate found 32% of Americans will seek advice this year about how to tip around the holidays.