The holidays are in full swing! You can feel the hustle and bustle everywhere. The smell of pine and peppermint fills the air.  The jam packed schedules are often joyful and relentless. The laundry list of gifts brings both cheer and tugs at our purse strings.  We may not necessarily look forward to being with our crazy families, but we always relish in a brief respite from work and daily schedules making this a truly wonderful time of the year. 
Along with humongous gift lists and homemade holiday dishes, comes the annual conundrum of holiday tipping. The questions of how to show one’s appreciation to those whom have made a significant contribution to our lives all year long can be debilitating for some. The pressure to tip and keep up with the Jones’ when you are having trouble paying your mortgage is dangerous territory.  Exactly what to tip or how much to tip is often a slippery slope, especially when the recipients are counting on your generosity even during these unsettling economic times. 
Whether we are flush with cash or have tightened our belts this season, we still have to take a moment to think of others to show them how much we care.  After all, it is the relationship–building with that person that truly makes the difference.  Here is our take on thoughtful tipping at holiday time that will hopefully bring heartfelt thanks to all of the recipients on your list.
It’s Your Message that Matters.  We know the tip speaks for itself, but how about taking a moment to jot a few thoughts down on paper expressing how much you appreciate that special person for helping to make your life a little easier, prettier, smoother, etc., you get the drift.  There is nothing like receiving a holiday card with a genuine note of thanks along with your tip.  If finances are tighter this year, a warm and honest card will help to smooth things over.  There is no need to make mention of your personal situation.  Keep it upbeat and positive.
Honor the Recipient.  Typically a cash tip is expected for the holidays, especially in the case of a special nanny or babysitter who has taken amazing care of your little ones, a doorman in your building who is exceptionally pleasant and helpful or a private care giver who has tended to a sick relative day in and day out without complaint.  You rely on these individuals for your everyday existence and to offer them a batch of homemade cookies (although tasty) may be sending a message that you do not value their services as much as they thought you did.  Err on the side of generous (if you can) and honor your recipient in the way you think they will feel most appreciated.  [For a reference on how much to give, please refer to the holiday tipping chart below.]
Research the Alternatives.  For some recipients, a large cash tip is not an option, but you still want to convey your appreciation, this is where your creativity will hopefully kick in.  There are countless gift cards that make the perfect gifts when cash feels a bit cold or inappropriate.  With hundreds of gift cards to choose from, put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and imagine what they would enjoy most.  A Starbucks gift card might be just the perfect display of gratitude for a dog walker who can’t live without his morning double shot of espresso with a side of foam and an American Express gift card is ideal for a teacher who may wish to purchase some extra supplies for the classroom and treat herself to a manicure. 
When Your Tip is a Gift.  Sometimes a gift is the ideal tip at holiday time.  A nice bottle of Pinot from a local wine shop or a beautiful silver bowl filled with nuts and dried fruits are wonderful gestures of thanks.  If purse strings are more stringent than usual, then a jar of homemade jam or a tin of pumpkin bars expertly wrapped with ribbon offers a perfect opportunity for closet chefs and bakers to flaunt their finest talents. If you have children, a small gift specifically from them, such as a winter scarf or a cozy bathrobe, is an added touch that goes a long way for a special nanny or babysitter.
Cash is Still King. If at all possible, it is customary to tip those who have delivered goods or provided a regular service to us all year long.  When it comes to tipping, the more significant tip should be given to the person you interact with most frequently, regardless of seniority. Here are our guidelines below.
Service Provider
Suggested Cash Tip
Building Staff
$20-$100 (depends on how often you call upon their services)
Dog Walker, Pet Sitter
One Week’s Service
$25 to $200 (varies in metropolitan areas)
Full-Time Babysitter or Nanny
One to Two Week’s Pay (plus small gift from children)
Cost of One Visit
Hair Stylist/Barber
Equivalent of One Service
One Week’s Pay
Cost of One Session
Massage Therapist
Cost of One Session
Newspaper Carrier
Daily Deliveries $25 / Weekends Only $10 to $15
Personal Trainer
Cost of One Session or One Week’s Visit
A small gift or gift card of less than $20
Private Home Nurse or Caregiver
One week’s Pay (check with agency to make sure it is accepted)
Gift Card ($25 to $50 is an acceptable range)
Trash Collectors
$10 to $20 each (check with your local city)

Do not fret if you cannot distribute your tips in time for the holidays. Sometimes the funds just aren’t there. If that’s the case, send handwritten holiday cards to those on your list and let them know they’ll be receiving something special for the New Year!