Consumer Nation

Holiday Tipping: Who And How Much

Joseph Pisani, |CNBC News Associate

With Americans cutting back on spending because of the recession, holiday tipping will take another hit this year.

Fewer people tipped service providers, like hairdressers and newspaper carriers, last year than the year before, according to a poll conducted by "Consumer Reports." This holiday season, the tip-cutting will continue: 26 percent of Americans who usually tip or give a gift said they would spend less. Only six percent said they would allocate more money this year.

Cutting back is okay, experts say, but be consistent.

“We can be more modest in what we tip,” says Mary Mitchell, professional coach and author of the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette,” “but one has to be really authentic and consistent. If I’m your house cleaner I don’t want to hear that I’m not getting a tip but then you go out and buy four pairs of Prada boots.”

If a small amount of money is all you have to work with, set up a budget and figure out how much you can give to each person, even if the tip will be less then what you gave last year, says etiquette expert Peter Post of the Emily Post Etiquette Institute. 

“Never give any gift you can’t afford it,” advises Post. “You certainly shouldn’t go into debt to give a tip.”

For smaller tips than usual, a simple note that says, "Times are tough for everyone, I hope this helps," will work, says behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert, a science advisor at , a free financial management Web site.

If you have no cash to give, a thank you note saying that you lost your job and can’t afford tipping this year should be given out, especially if you tipped last year.

If you’re skilled at something else, you can try helping out the person for free as a tip. For example, “a Millennial may give a Twitter class to a Baby Boomer," says Mitchell.

Another way to save money is to do a group gift, says Mitchell. If you and several friends use the same hairdresser or personal trainer, joining forces and giving one substantial tip is better than several smaller ones. 

And for those who are able to tip, experts say to give anyone who has been of service over the year, like, babysitters, doormen, building superintendents, hair dressers, and personal trainers.

Generally, Post says, the rule is to tip them “the value of one of their services.” So if one personal training session costs $50, that’s how much the tip should be.

For a full list of who to tip — and how much — click on to our slideshow.

More from Consumer Nation: