I betcha after nine months of Polite As Fudge articles, you can probably guess what I’m gonna start this one out with: you have to tip what you’re comfortable with and not what some guide tells you to do.
That being said, my mother-in-law, life guru and honorary ‘Mayor of Los Angeles’ (not really, but I joke because someone knows her wherever we go, from Beverly Hills to Copenhagen), has answered all of the tough questions on who in your life to tip and how much.
With three little kids, I am not as thoughtful as I used to be with gifts outside of our immediate family. I simply don’t have the bandwidth right now, and I’m learning to let go of unrealistic and unnecessary expectations of myself. But I do like to add a little extra when I get my hair done, or visit my esthetician, participate in the class gift for my kids’ teachers (hallelujah, that makes it SO MUCH easier) and tip our gardener.
Without further adieu, I introduce you to the person I go to with all of my financial etiquette questions.
Holiday Tipping Q+A with Pamela Smith
My mother-in-law! I call her Mama P, or Mom. She’s the most well-rounded person I know, so much so, you’d pass out if you read her bio, but she’s so bada$$ she doesn’t even have a bio
Polite As Fudge: How do you decide who and how much to tip for the holidays?
Mama P: You should give holiday gifts (tips or bonuses) to people who work for you on a weekly or monthly basis. Also, if you are a regular client of a service provider such as a hairdresser, barber, masseuse, etc.
What you give and how much you give totally depends on your own comfort level and what you can afford. For longtime employees, one week’s salary is considered the usual holiday bonus. For example, if your gardener charges you $200 per month, a $50 tip would be appropriate.
Polite As Fudge: Who do you personally tip?
I tip my housekeeper, gardener, pool man, hairdresser, manicurist, and paper delivery. Usually, the paper delivery man leaves a holiday card with a return envelope. I slip a $10 or $20 bill into the envelop and mail it back to him. My housekeeper and gardener receive bonus checks and I always give my hairdresser and manicurist a lovely card with cash in person.
Over the years, I have learned nothing is as happily accepted and appreciated as good old cash in any amount big or small. I asked my hairdresser what were the funniest or worst gifts she had received. She felt bottles of olive oil or balsamic vinegar were definitely regifted. The strangest gift was a sheer blouse with tattoo prints on the sleeves. Thank heaven, it didn’t fit.
Polite As Fudge: What’s your recommendation for tipping for my home cleaning service?
Pamela Smith: If you have a weekly housecleaning company, you may want to give each member of the team cash directly. Simply divide your weekly bill by the number of workers to decide how much to give each person. You can also call the company and find out how they divide the tips if you are paying by check to the office.
Polite As Fudge: As a former teacher, what do you think teachers want for the holidays?
As a former teacher, you really appreciate anything your class parents and students give you during the holiday season. If you know your child’s teacher very well, you may know exactly what they would like to receive or may need. However, most teachers would prefer gift cards. This not only lets them shop for themselves but also others if they wish. Most classes are now paying into a fund and presenting a check from the class. If this is the case, no other gifts are appropriate.
Polite As Fudge: Anything else you’d like to add?
Now that we have brought up gift cards, let’s think about gift cards versus cash. When it comes to many on our gift list, “cash is still king.” My older grandchildren greatly prefer cash to gift cards. They like to put cash in their savings account for larger purchases. Also, they say gift cards are not user-friendly online. Some online purchases require the address or zip code of the gift card company. Sometimes it is difficult and cumbersome to use up all the $1.25 left on twenty cards. One granddaughter asked her mother if she should throw away a gift card with a $3.50 balance. Her mother responded, “Would you throw away $3.50 cash?”
The daughter responded, “No, but this is not CASH!”
Thank you for being you, MP! Love, Mandy