How Much Should You Tip This Holiday Season?

As we continue to cope with the new normal brought on by the pandemic, we’ve become more accustomed to relying on others for help with tasks that used to be pillars of everyday life: Going grocery shopping, ordering takeout and receiving mail. Delivery service workers have put their own health at risk to work jobs that regularly put them in face-to-face contact with the public. 

You might be wondering as the holidays approach who you should tip this year, and how much. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep service workers in our thoughts as we consider giving monetary tips to show our gratitude. Here’s a guide to how you should tip during this unusual holiday season.

The Pandemic Has Changed the Way People Tip

According to Elaine Swann, etiquette expert, the Covid-19 pandemic is changing the way we tip in three major ways: Who we tip, how much we tip and how we tip.

Swann says we should now be considering giving holiday tips to service workers we might not have tipped before. That includes people who bag groceries, and food delivery drivers. She adds that there’s a trend of people generally tipping more during the pandemic to show their gratitude.

“We recognize that the pandemic has been challenging for people, so people are tipping more right now,” Swann says. “Especially in industries that are being hit hard.”

The pandemic is also replacing cash tips with electronic ones. A recent survey by Zelle finds nearly one-fifth of consumers are using or plan to use peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services to transfer money. That includes platforms such as Zelle, PayPal or Venmo. Swann says this can be a safe way to exchange money, especially tips, during the pandemic.

“It’s a big change that’s taken place,” Swann says. She adds that contactless payments can also help protect your health, since money can be exchanged without coming in close proximity and having to touch someone else.

What’s the Appropriate Amount to Tip?

It’s the question everyone is wondering about: Just exactly how much should we tip, especially around the holidays?

“The key is anywhere from 5%, 10% and up to 20% depending on what you are able to give,” Swann says. “And maybe it’s not a percentage – in some instances it might be a specific dollar amount.”

An appropriate amount to tip during the holidays can vary by industry. Swann provides these examples:

    • Hair stylist: Tip them the cost of one service, or up to 20% ($10-$60)
    • Barber: The cost of one haircut
    • Personal trainer, yoga instructor, etc.: $50 or the cost of one session
    • Babysitter: The cost of one evening’s pay, plus a small gift from your child
    • Daycare providers: Appropriate tip is between $25 – $70, plus a small gift from your child 
    • USPS Mail delivery providers: It’s against federal law to give cash to mail delivery providers. If you want to show your gratitude to your mail carrier this year, it’s acceptable to give them a gift worth up to $20 in value.

If you continue to order food via delivery services, you should tip every single time you order, and ideally it should be 15%-20%. 

Some food delivery apps prompt tips between 5%-15%, but allow users to add custom tip amounts, so you may have to do a little extra math to be more generous. If you order food delivery during bad weather, like a snowstorm, you should tip the delivery driver more than the standard 20%. 

How to Show Appreciation if You Can’t Afford to Tip

As the pandemic continues to rip through the economy, you may be in a worse financial place now than you were at the beginning of 2020. If you’re struggling with your own budget, it simply may not be possible for you to open your wallet for tips, no matter how much you’ve appreciated someone’s labor or help. 

If that’s the case, Swann says opting for a handwritten note of gratitude can be an appropriate replacement. That can include a card bought from the store with a small note inside, or opting to write a full-length letter.

Not only is it a kind gesture, but it can also be a welcome reprieve from digital platforms.

“It takes away from the loud overkill in terms of electronic noise—we’re all on video conferencing, receiving emails,” Swann says. “To take something offline and make it a little more tangible and real would be very nice.”                  

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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