Holiday tipping: Something doesn’t add up

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post confessing to being an undertipper. Unfortunately, I have since learned that the problem is worse than I thought. The proof lies in the proliferation of holiday tipping guides that are available online; MarthaStewart.com even has a printable TipOMeter to help know how much to give. Reading through these guides quickly overwhelmed me and my budget.

Not finding any Web sites that offered a total to tip, I decided to try and get to the bottom line. When the giving guides suggested a range, I took the average. For suggested tips based on the cost of service, I did some online research (check out CostHelper.com) to find average costs of those services. To make this exercise more applicable to average consumers, I left out tips for luxury services such as pool cleaner ($30), facialist ($80), dog walker ($20), massage therapist ($75), and full-time nanny ($600). Following is a list of people and dollar amounts we are advised to tip during the holidays.

Recommended Holiday Tips
Day care provider: $60
Babysitter- one night’s pay: $50
Assistant at work: $50
Housekeeper-one weeks pay: $75
Hairdresser or Barber- cost of one haircut: $45
Handyman: $25
Manicurist- cost of one manicure: $25
Teacher (x2): $120
Mail carrier: $20
Newspaper deliverer: $35
Overnight deliverers (x2): $40
Personal trainer*- cost of one session: $65
The lawn-care crew- cost of one service: $30
Pet groomer- ½ cost of one grooming: $25
Parking/garage attendant: $15
Trash collector: $20
Regular delivery people for food, etc. (x2): $40
Total: $740

Seven hundred and forty American dollars?!? I value good service, but I simply don’t get the math. According to NRF's 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, consumers only plan to spend around $630 on gifts this holiday season. Broken down into more detail, consumers plan to spend $466.13 on gifts for family, $94.52 on friends, $26.70 on co-workers, and $43.50 on other gifts.

Are these suggested tips amounts unrealistic for the average consumer? Or perhaps you aren’t including holiday tips as “gifts.” Are there really such savvy budgeters out there that they remember to include holiday tips for day care providers, babysitters, and teachers in their monthly childcare budget? Unfortunately, I am not one of them. Please, share your tips for holiday tipping.

*Dislaimer: I don't acutally have a personal trainer -- that is wishful thinking!

Watch the video version of  tipping during the holidays

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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