Tips on Holiday Tipping

For the uninitiated, navigating the unwritten rules of holiday season tipping can be tricky business. Drawing on the combined knowledge of AWNY, Brooke Grindlinger and Heidi Gerschwitz offer some guidelines on who to tip and how much to give.

As the holiday seasons gets under way, we are reminded that it’s also the time of year to show our appreciation, in the form of a holiday tip, for the efforts of people that provide services for us throughout the year. The custom of holiday tipping does raise some practical and ethical issues. Is it an obligation? Who do you tip? How much do you give? How should you deliver it (by hand, in the mail, in a box in the building lobby)? So many questions!

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – holiday tipping is customary in New York. It generally serves two purposes – it is foremost a way of saying thank you for the assistance you have received during the past year, and it secondarily often represents a kind of ‘pre-payment’ in advance for the assistance you expect to receive during the coming year.

Who to Tip?

The custom of holiday tipping raises some practical and ethical issues, but many of the people you will tip during the holidays are unlikely to receive regular tips throughout the year. It is customary to tip those individuals that ensure the smooth running and security of your home, including doormen, superintendents, elevator operators, porters, handymen, housekeepers, baby sitters, and nannies. This core cadre has expanded such that many people also tip newspaper carriers, fitness trainers, dog walkers, hairstylists, garage attendants, and day-care providers – we’ve included a list below to make it easy for you!

How to Give?

As the holiday season gets into full swing, many apartment buildings will distribute a card to all tenants, wishing them a happy holiday season and listing the names and job titles of all staff. It’s a subtle indication that it’s time to start thinking about holiday tipping and a method by which to inform you of the identities of all the individuals that keep your home running smoothly. In many apartment buildings, tenants place their cash tip in individually addressed envelopes and hand-deliver (preferred, if possible) them to the building staff or give them to the supervisor to distribute to the staff. Alternatively, a box may be made available in the lobby for you to place your envelopes. This will obviate any need to track down employees who work odd hours, such as a porter or night doorman. Some large apartment buildings serviced by many staff may pool monies received (often allowing you to provide just one envelope; of perhaps 15% of your monthly rent or maintenance fee), which are then split amongst the staff based on an agreed-upon formula that reflects job titles/responsibilities and/or seniority. However, if there is one special doorman that goes out of their way to help you regularly, you should certainly consider giving them a separate tip. It’s customary to include a generic holiday card and message with your tip – signed of course by the tenant(s) and your apartment number. You don’t want them to forget you!

How Much to Give?

Well, that’s the $64 million question! People are generally uneasy talking about how much they tip, so you can never be sure if your tipping is on par with that of your neighbor. The table provided below may be used as an outline of how much and whom to tip this holiday season. Of course, this is just a general guide and you should feel free to give what you feel is appropriate and in keeping with your budget. At the end of the day, just remember to acknowledge good service when you get it.

We’ve asked some of our long time AWNY members, plus scoured the internet for the most up-to-date info for you:

Who?How Much?
Elevator operator$20–$40
Building concierge$50-$150
Housekeeper$25–$75 or equivalent of 1 week’s pay. A small gift, too, or a not-so-small gift, depending on their level of service.
Au pair or nannyEquivalent of 1 week’s to 1 month’s pay, plus a nice gift picked out by the child(ren), along with a card, is a must.
Daycare provider$25–$70
BabysitterOne evening’s pay
TeachersConsider a small gift worth $25 or pool money (as little as $5-10 per child) with other parents for something bigger.
Fitness trainerEquivalent of 1 session
Hair stylistCost of one salon visit
Newspaper carrier$20 (for weekday delivery) or $10 (if you only receive weekend delivery)
USPS Mail carrierThe United States Postal Service mail carriers are prohibited from accepting cash gifts. Mail carriers may, however, accept small non-cash gifts as long as the value is under $20 and it cannot be converted to cash. Consider a small gift of chocolates or a gift card.
Garage attendant$40–$75
Lawn/Garden crew$20 each (for the group servicing your house)
Dog walkerEquivalent of 1 week’s pay

Some other tips:

  • Choose to give cash (fresh, crisp bills) over a check.
  • Always give a handwritten note with your tips.
  • The time frame for tipping lasts from the beginning of December until the beginning of February.
  • If you tip throughout the year for service, then it’s OK to tip a bit less come holiday time.
  • If you can’t afford to give a little extra – or at all – a handwritten note to show your gratitude is something you should consider.


Her Money – Holiday Tipping Guide For All the People in Your Life You Need to Thank
CBS – A New York Guide to Holiday Tipping

Image Credit: Shutterstock

What do you think of holiday tipping in New York city? Do you have any additions or changes to the above list?

Share them with us in the comments below.

Author: Tarley Jordan

Tarley has been an AWNY volunteer since 2012. She is award-winning marketer from Sydney (with stops in Brisbane and Rockhampton), who moved to New York for love. Find her on Instagram: @tarleyj

One thought

  1. This is a very useful quide to tipping which I wish I had in our first year in NY some 20 years ago! The only comment I would add relates to teachers. Speaking from my own experience, many private schools have strict guidelines and often suggests that the class parents pool money (i.e. a specific amount for a class gift) to avoid individual gifts which can vary greatly.

    Thanks again and happy holidays,


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