Planning for the holidays can be hectic and time consuming. While the holiday season expresses a spirit of giving, holiday tipping may be difficult to manage in terms of who should be tipped and how much should be given.
Over the past few years, consumers have set a tight budget on holiday tipping due to the nation's frail economy. However, with a five-year high on consumer sentiment, recent labor reports, and a rise in contributions to 401(k)s, as well as rebounding home prices, the data show that the economy is steadily improving.
As Americans grow more confident in the economy, consumers will likely be moved to spend more this year on holiday tipping.
"People are more generous this year because when the economy gets better, people do better and tend to be happier around the holiday time," said Jacqueline Whitmore, leading international etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. "We're probably going to see more people getting tips this year. It may not be the same amount in years past, but there will be more of it."
Here are a few guidelines on easy, efficient, and affordable ways to holiday tip. (Check out the full list of whom to tip and how much to tip on our slideshow.)
According to Whitmore, Americans are pretty generous with their tips. In other countries, such as Australia, tipping is not customary. Although it does not mean you can't tip, most people in Australia do not expect tips because wages are so high compared to the U.S.
That said, it's generally not affordable to tip everyone who deserves it. Therefore, be sure to tip those with whom you share a strong relationship. Those you see regularly should be first on your tip list. For example, the hairdresser you see frequently, or the housekeeper that often visits your home should be at the top of your list. Base your tipping on percentages and how long you have known the person.
The Bartering Effect
Tough financial times call for tight financial measures, which ultimately takes a toll on overall holiday gift giving and tipping. Over the past few years, many people have turned to bartering rather than giving cash.
Even now, people still rely on the bartering technique as a means of giving cost-efficient yet meaningful tips.
"Some people value time more than a monetary gift because you can't put a price on time," Whitmore said. "Giving someone a couple of days off, with pay, is certainly considered an appealing gift."
No Money? Get Creative
For those who are still constricted on holiday expenses, there are a variety of ways to show your gratitude and appreciation.
Discretionary spending is all individual. Whitmore advises making a list of the most important people you think might appreciate a gratuity — and it does not necessarily have to be a monetary tip. Those who are creative can make personal gifts, such as ornaments, scrapbooks, or baskets full of sweets.
"One thing you can give instead of money is a donation in someone's name to their favorite charity," she said.
Another thing you can do is lend a helping hand. Having a window repaired or planting a new tree in a damaged yard fosters a personal impact that monetary gifts may not provide.
The motto is: If you treat them well, they will treat your pets well.
If you use a pet walker or kennel regularly, find your favorite pet sitter and give them a gift card. Those who perform extraordinary services should receive a $10 to $20 tip.
However, check first before giving a monetary tip. Some businesses have restrictions on tipping. Other businesses require tips be split with everyone on staff rather than receiving tips individually. (Read More: For the Dog That Has Everything: Concierge Services)
Personal Tutors, Musical Teachers, Dance Instructors
Teachers are often included in the list of holiday tipping, but don't forget the extracurricular instructors, including academic and personal tutors, musical teachers, sport coaches, and dance instructors. These are special types of teachers, so it is important to put some thought into their gifts.
For example, for a dance instructor, Whitmore recommends searching for their favorite music or coffee table book about dance. For a piano teacher, unique gifts like bookmarks made from ivory piano keys speak a more sentimental thanks than a cash tip.
Don't Sweat It!
Plan early, prioritize, and keep yourself organized in order to prevent any type of stress before the holidays. In terms of how much in advance you should plan, the earlier, the better. Whitmore advises to have a definite plan in place after or during Thanksgiving because that is when people get really busy.
Although the holiday season marks its territory as one of the most hectic times of the year, the best thing to do is not stress about it.
"It's important to remember that you can't do everything for everyone," said Whitmore, author of "Poised for Success." "If you can't tip this time of the year, then you might want to consider giving a gift in another time of the year."