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By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 12/18/2007 6:46:09 PM ET 2007-12-18T23:46:09

Have you ever gotten the sense that you really should be tipping someone at the end of the calendar year, but felt unsure about exactly how to proceed?

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If so, do not despair! The following tips can help you figure out how to thank regular-service providers for a year of hard work on your behalf.

1. Use common sense. First things first: I want to emphasize that many people couldn’t afford to tip every service provider mentioned here all at once. The key is to reflect on the people who consistently come through for you again and again and decide how to thank them. Think about the frequency and quality of their service, as well as the relationship you share. If you tipped them regularly all year, you may feel comfortable forgoing the custom now.

2. Analyze your budget. It’s easy to think that you can’t afford any tipping at this time of year — and to be sure, tipping shouldn’t make you go into debt. But by cutting a few corners, you may be able to afford to tip at least some important people. If you’re really strapped, you could give out plates of cookies with thank you notes, and/or call or write to people’s bosses and put in a good word.

3. Thank child-care providers. Generally speaking, au pairs and nannies could be given one week’s to one month’s salary, and regular babysitters could get one night’s pay. Day-care providers could get a tip of $25 to $70 each. Teachers may not be allowed to accept cash because of school policies, but they could be given gift certificates to restaurants, bookstores or movie theaters, for example. Each of these tips and gifts could be accompanied by a small gift and a handwritten note from your child.

4. Praise the people who give you personal care. Barbers, hairdressers and manicurists could be tipped the cost of one typical appointment. Personal trainers and massage therapists could be tipped up to the cost of one session.

5. Pamper your pet-care providers. If you have a regular dog walker, he or she could get one week’s pay as a tip. If you rely on a pet groomer throughout the year, that person could get up to the cost of one session.

6. Remember providers of specialized health care. Personal caregivers, private nurses and home-health employees could be given up to one week’s salary, but check with their agencies first to make sure you’re not violating a no-tipping policy. If strict rules exist, you can give the person a non-cash gift or make a donation to the agency. Nursing-home employees could receive gifts that the entire floor staff could enjoy, such as flowers, candy or other food items.

7. Don’t forget about folks who care for your home. Housekeepers and cleaners could receive one week’s pay, and pool cleaners could receive the cost of one cleaning. Handymen could get $15 to $40, yard and garden workers could get $20 to $50, and trash collectors could get $10 to $30 each. (If you have municipal trash service, make sure your gift won’t violate local regulations.)

8. Be grateful for your deliveries. Newspaper delivery people could be given $10 to $30. Your letter carrier could receive a gift worth up to $20 – but no cash. If you regularly receive package deliveries, you could give that delivery person a small gift as well. (U.S. postal regulations and many delivery companies’ rules discourage cash tips.)

9. Do you live in a condo or apartment building? Depending on the services provided in your building, you could give your superintendent $20 to $80, your doorman $15 to $80, your elevator operator $15 to $40, and your garage attendant $10 to $30.

10. Be thoughtful. Try to give your tip in person if at all possible, and include a handwritten note along with it. If you’re on the fence about whether to give cash or a different kind of gift, be aware that most people would be especially grateful for some extra money.

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