Modern Etiquette for Holiday Gifts and Tips

At risk of making the holidays all about the Benjamins, there are a few more palms to grease in order to smooth the coming year. There are so many players keeping you together – some you tip every time you see them, some you don’t. If you divide your holiday tipping over the year, though, it’s just pennies a day to the people on which you rely. For cash gifts, basic guidelines includeâÂ?¦

Manicurist, Hairstylist, or Esthetician: 15% tip for each service, no less than $5; for your “go to” guy or gal, the one who knows your dirty gossip, the amount equal to the price of a basic service

House Cleaner or Lawn Service: amount equal to a single service

Sitter: $20-50 based on frequency

Newspaper Delivery: daily $15-25, weekends only $5-15

Got a doorman? Lucky you! Give cash: $50 – 100.

Don’t forget the maintenance guy! The best course of action is to give little thoughtful gifts throughout the year: movie tickets, fancy snacks, coffee shop gift cards, etc. When your A/C quits in July, you’ll be happy for his quick response; if your new aquarium creates a deluge, you’ll be grateful for a little mercy. If you’ve been neglectful this year, gift $30-50, and resolve to make him your ally in the new season. Those little gifts suck up well to the landlord, too.

Have you met your neighbors? Now is the time to make friends who can give your car a jump, plant or pet sit, keep a spare key for emergencies, or just let it slide when you’ve got Andre3000 turned up to 11. Mom was right about the muffin baskets, but if you have culinary challenges, you can introduce yourself with a foam box of Paccugio gelato, a poinsettia or paper whites, or just a pretty bottle of cider.

Now, review your daily routine and consider the supporting players who take care of you. The smiling barista who remembers your name and the super-complicated coffee drink? The bartender who keeps your glass full at happy hour prices? The salesgirl who picked, wrapped, and shipped your presents, and called 30 stores to find that last remaining snakeskin clutch? For restaurants and retail, a small gift would go a long way towards continuing great service. Atkins, South Beach, or raw foods diet duly noted treats are still in. William-Sonoma’s peppermint bark or Marie-Belle hot chocolate are always appreciated. Avoid giving something too intimate. (Don’t try to ferret out your bartender’s favorite lotion.) Don’t present that cute Starbucks girl a Swiss Colony beef log. In short, don’t be, or appear to be, creepy stalker guy.

If you’re unsure what to give, a personal letter of appreciation to a person’s supervisor can have a big impact. When was the last time you received an unsolicited (written, not e-mailed) compliment from a client, customer, or co-worker?

If cash is tight, find small gifts like toys for adults (not adult toys), flowers and small plants, bar accessories, or candles. If cash is very tight, cut your gift list, but not your holiday card list. A quick personal note of thanks is the least you can do.

Start resolutions early this year. It’s never too late to reciprocate the good work of your entourage.

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