IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Holiday tipping guide: Who to tip and how much

Americans reveal who they're tipping this holiday season — and how much they're dishing out.
Many people simply don’t know who to tip or how much to give.
Many people simply don’t know who to tip or how much to give. TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

As we’re making our holiday gift lists and checking them twice, we can't forget the folks in our lives who play key roles yet fall outside the categories of colleagues, friends and family. We’re talking about the dog walker, the babysitter, the housekeeper, the landscaper, and so on. These professionals need to be shown that they’re appreciated, and the best way to do that is to tip them.  

Fortunately, people seem more than happy to give the essential workers in their lives a yuletide bonus. A new poll by found that Americans plan to tip service providers between $20 and $50 on average. 

Here’s a breakdown of who exactly we’re tipping for the holidays according to the poll, and how much we’re dishing out: 

  • Childcare provider: 41% plan to give a $50 tip.
  • Housekeeper: 47% plan to give a $50 tip.
  • Landscaper: 36% plan to give a $30 tip.
  • Mail carrier: 27% plan to give a $20 tip.
  • Teacher: 41% plan to give a $25 tip.
  • Trash/recycling collector: 19% plan to give a $20. 

The poll also found that many are inclined to tip more than usual because it’s the holidays. Gen Zers are leading the way in generosity, with 51% saying they’re going to tip more, followed by millennials (48%), and then Gen Xers (43%). Baby boomers are looking the grinchiest with 42% saying they’ll tip more.

Here’s a breakdown of who we’re tipping extra for the holidays and how many of us are doing so:

  • Bartender: 10% say they’ll tip them more.
  • Coffee shop barista: 9% say they’ll tip them more.
  • Food delivery person: 16% say they’ll tip them more.  
  • Hairstylist/barber: 19% say they’ll tip them more. 
  • Restaurant waitstaff: 27% say they’ll tip them more.

It should be simple, but tipping is confusing

One of the reasons conducted this survey is because it recognizes that tipping can be a weird gray area for consumers.

“We know that tipping is a topic that a lot of people are confused about,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at “We thought it would be interesting to get hard numbers in place and to potentially raise awareness of the issue.”

NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle seconds that holiday tipping can be a confusing issue for folks, noting that many people simply don’t know who to tip or how much to give. Another problem is that people often forget to incorporate tipping into their budget because they forget about it until the last minute. 

“People often get blindsided by holiday tipping because when you make your holiday list you’re thinking of your closest friends and family — but forgetting the people you want to tip,” Ruhle said. “Then it’s the last day of school and suddenly you’re seeing a whole lot of other moms and dads handing over envelopes and gift bags to teachers. Then you’re running to an ATM and taking out cash you didn’t plan ahead for.”

Keep a record 

In order to not be caught by surprise every year, Ruhle recommends keeping a log of who and how much you tip for the holidays.

“I keep an Excel spreadsheet of who I tipped and, more importantly, how much I tipped,” Ruhle said. “This is especially important when tipping people working in the service industry because if you tipped them well last year, they probably remember. You have to be consistent.” 

Don’t be afraid to ask how much

Part of the reason tipping is confusing is because people don’t talk about it enough. The best way to solve this? Talking about it. 

“Don’t be ashamed to ask around,” Ruhle said. “Are other people in your kids’ class giving tips? If people are tipping a teacher, delivery person, or service person and you’re not aware, ask people in your class, building and community.”

As for how much to tip, those polled by seem to be on the right track. 

“I tend to think that for the one-time tips $20 to $50 is about right,” Rossman said. “Though I’d like to see more people tipping. Only 19% of people plan to tip their trash collectors. That number should be higher.”  

As for the people you tip on a more regular basis, Rossman recommends tipping the equivalent of one service model. For example, if your hairdresser charges $100 for a styling session, it’s advisable to give him a $100 tip for the holidays. 

It doesn’t have to be monetary 

If money is tight right now, bear in mind that even a sweet gesture can go a long way. 

“Give the gift of service or time,” Ruhle said. “It doesn’t have to be monetary. Write a heartfelt note or spend the weekend making baked goods and putting them in holiday tins. That can make a difference.”  

Crowdfunding could be your best bet 

Another option to consider if you’re running low on funds is to crowdfund a gift card.

 “If you feel funny about only giving $5 of $10 in cash, go in with ten other people in your class or building,” Ruhle said. “A $100 gift card will go a lot further.”