Holiday tipping tips

According to Consumer Reports, Americansâ?? biggest tips last holiday season, a median of $50, went to housecleaners. They were the most often tipped of the service providers, as well. 64% of Americans who used housecleaners gave them money or a gift. But what about everyone else who provides you some type of service throughout the year? How much is too little?

Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for, offers tips on holiday tipping.

1. Include a thank you note with any holiday tip. A grateful note is especially important if you're giving less than usual.

2. The rule of thumb is to tip the cost of one session for a provider you see regularly, like a personal trainer, babysitter or lawn-care provider. Scale back if your visits are infrequent, like a hairstylist you see just three times a year. Daily helpers like nannies, elder-care workers and dog walkers should get more: give a week's pay, at least.

3. Ask neighbors what they tip for service people you don't pay directly, such as a building superintendent. Go higher or lower on the scale based on how often you interact with that person, and how helpful they've been.

4. Cash is preferable for most recipients, but in a few cases, gifts are the better choice. Many school districts frown upon cash gifts to teachers, and postal workers can't accept cash, or any gift valued at more than $25.

5. If you can't give as much as you'd like, ask others if they'd like to contribute toward a shared gift. That can be a smart idea for teachers and building staff.

And, while this advice is great, many people say they simply donâ??t tip at all. And the top reason I think is pretty obvious - a tight budget in very hard economic times. If thatâ??s the case, I say a simple thank you note is a good idea and can mean a lot â?? perhaps, and hopefully, even more than a tip.