Millennials plan to be the most generous holiday tippers this year—maybe too much, say etiquette experts

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Even as inflation has strained millions of Americans' budgets, people still plan to get into the spirit of giving this year — some generations more than others.

Some 62% of millennials (ages 26 to 41) plan to give a higher-than-usual tip to service industry employees, such as restaurant waitstaff, bartenders, baristas and hairstylists, this holiday season, according to a recent survey from Bankrate.

That compares with 54% of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25), 53% of Gen Xers (ages 42 to 57) and 48% of baby boomers (ages 58 to 76).

If you have the means, spreading a little extra cheer wherever you can is a good idea, says Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert and founder of the Swann School of Protocol. "For folks who are able to give their normal tip or even go above and beyond, I recommend you do so," she says.

For those on a tighter budget, however, it's important that you don't give more than you're able to comfortably afford, especially if you're tipping outside the bounds of normal etiquette. While waitstaff and baristas would no doubt be thrilled with an extra something, it's by no means required, says Swann.

In that regard, millennials might be tipping too generously.

Here's how Swann says you can stay within your budget without breaching the rules of good manners.

Prioritize your tip list: 'Who went to bat for you?'

In Swann's view, millennials' zeal for tipping service workers is kind, but perhaps misguided. That's because a year-end tip is generally recommended for people who help you throughout the year.

"It's not necessary with people you don't have a relationship with," Swann says. "You're not expected to tip more at a restaurant or a coffee counter over the holiday season."

Those people who perform regular services for you throughout the year might add up to quite a long list, possibly one that could become financially strenuous if you're on a tight budget and want to give a generous tip to everyone. To narrow things down, Swann recommends creating a prioritized "tip list" for the people you most want to thank.

"Who went to bat for you this year? Who picked up your student early or fit you in last-minute for a haircut or stayed late to watch your dog when you were running behind?" she says. "These are the types of people you should prioritize rewarding: the people who went above and beyond."

If you have to give less: 'It really is the thought that counts'

If you think you may have to cut back on your regular year-end tipping plans this year, you're not alone.

Due to tightening budgets, Americans are expecting to give smaller bonuses to some of the most popular year-end tip candidates, with housekeepers, child-care providers, landscapers and teachers all getting the short end of the stick, according to Bankrate.

If you can't give your usual amount, don't let that get in the way of expressing your gratitude, says Daniel Post Senning, co-author of "Emily Post Etiquette, The Centennial Edition."

"Don't let the fact that you can't afford those previous levels be an impediment," he says. "You might say, 'I'm sorry this isn't the usual amount, but I'm still so appreciative of everything you do for us here.'"

Ultimately, expressing your gratitude is more important than the actual dollar amount you're able to give, says Swann. That may mean in lieu of a monetary tip, you provide a homemade gift or even a well-written thank-you card.

"The goal is to provide a tangible statement of gratitude, and we do so by saying thank you during the holiday season," she says. "We often talk about the thought counting, and it's true. It really is the thought that counts."

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