It's common courtesy to give a little something extra for the holidays, but how much is enough?



NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- As the holidays approach, Americans face the annual question of whether to give a little extra something to the service providers who help us all year long.

According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, more than half (54%) of Americans said they didn't tip at least one person whose services they used last year, and 38% didn't tip any of the providers Consumer Reports asked about. Of the people who did not give tips, 48% said it was because their budgets were too tight. It's common courtesy to give a little something extra for the holidays for everyone from your doorman to your child's baby sitter, but how much is enough?

If you do have the means to tip, though, you always should, says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and director of The Etiquette School of New York.

"It's a great way to show our gratitude for all the hard work service providers have done in making our lives nicer," she says. But tipping isn't purely altruistic -- it can also butter up service providers so they'll continue to give us the same quality of help next year, she adds.

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So how much is enough?
Napier-Fitzpatrick has provided some suggested amounts for everyone from your doorman to your child's baby sitter.

Of course, these amounts can be adjusted according to your income level. And if you're really cash-strapped this holiday season, there are other ways to show your gratitude without spending an arm and a leg.

"If you can't give money, you can make baked goods like brownies or cupcakes, for instance," she says.

No matter what type of gift you decide to give, be sure to include a handwritten card or note. "Just write something short and simple, such as 'thank you for your help this year,' or 'Thank you for always being so warm and kind,'" Napier-Fitzpatrick says. "Saying thanks shows that you're a gracious, thoughtful person."

Napier-Fitzpatrick also suggests giving the same amount or more as compared with last year, and says a check is just as acceptable as cash. If you do decide to use cash, "make sure that you give crisp bills, because it looks nicer," she adds.

Here are the suggested amounts....

Tips for kid services
Baby sitter: One week's pay for a steady babysitter, or one evening's pay for a baby sitter you use occasionally, plus a small gift from you child.

Teacher/day care provider: A small, nonmonetary gift of up to $50 in value. "Gift certificates are a great idea," Napier-Fitzpatrick says. "It's also OK for parents in the class to pool money together and buy one gift." And don't think spending more than $50 will give your child special treatment. "It's really just as tasteless to give too much as too little," our expert says.

Coach, tutor, music teacher: A small gift from your child.

Tips for personal services

Barber or hair stylist: The cost of one visit.

Manicurist/pedicurist: Cost of one session (or $10 to $50), plus a small gift.

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Tips for home services
Doorman: $40 to $100. If you have multiple doormen who help you, be sure to give a tip to each.

Parking garage attendants: $10 to $30 each.

Housekeeper: Try to aim for one to two weeks' pay, depending on how long the housekeeper has been with you. If the housekeeper only comes once a week or once every other week, then just the cost of one visit is appropriate, Napier-Fitzpatrick says.

Tips for Government Services
Mail carrier: A small gift worth $20. (By law, mail carriers are not allowed to receive cash, and gifts they receive may not exceed $20 in value.)

Garbage collector: $10 to $30 each.

Tips for pet services
Pet groomer: The cost of one visit.

Daily dog walker: The cost of one session to up to one week's pay.

Did we miss someone you think should get a holiday tip? Let us know in the comments section and we'll get an answer for you!

The Best Secret Santa Gifts
Now that we've got gifts for service providers down, it's time to decide what to buy for that Secret Santa exchange. You'll find some great suggestions for gifts $15 and less in this roundup.

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