Small Business Owner’s Guide to Holiday Tipping

How much should you tip your business’s delivery driver? What about the postal carrier? The nanny? The building handyman? How about the guys that keep the lawn looking nice or the lady who comes in and cleans the office after hours? Here’s a holiday tipping guide for business owners that will help you decide how much to give to whom. 

The holidays are a great time of year to show your thanks and appreciation to those individuals who serve you on a regular basis and help make your life a little better or easier. Business owners too need to thank those individuals who provide valuable services to them year-round — this customarily in the form of a tip.

Information abounds about personal holiday tipping — who to tip and how much. But guidelines for business owners are few and far between. No need for alarm though. Business Know-How presents below a comprehensive guide to holiday tipping for the business owner.

Basic guidelines

Tricia Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, says business owners should follow the same basic guidelines for holiday tipping as they would for their own personal holiday tipping. That is, whether and how much to tip varies depending on:

  • the quality and frequency of the service
  • your relationship with the service provider
  • where you live (amounts are usually high in large cities)
  • the frequency of the service or how long you have worked together
  • your budget
  • regional customs
  • the type of establishment: deluxe vs. moderate

Tipping experts all agree that the most popular holiday tip is cash — without a doubt. In fact, it’s not unusual for cash to be given to service providers who technically shouldn’t accept cash. If you’re unsure if cash or any gift is appropriate for any particular service provider, check with other businesses in your area to see what they tyically give.

If you can’t afford cash, second best is chocolate. If you have a particularly affable and long-term relationship with a service provider, consider giving both cash and a thoughtful gift. It adds a warm touch to “cold” cash, and conveys your heartfelt gratitude.

RELATED: Business Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

Another must-do with holiday tipping is the holiday note. Etiquette mavens agree that a card with a handwritten note of appreciation should accompany every tip given. And do try to personally hand each recipient their tip.

In terms of the amount appropriate for holiday tipping, Post says an overall general range for business tipping is $20 to $50 dollars per tip, but that small business owners should take care not to tip more than they can afford: “Don’t make yourself go into debt.”

Who to Tip and How Much

As a business owner, you may run your business from home, rent or lease a business office, or own the business property and building yourself. This may have an affect on who and how much you’ll be tipping this holiday season.

Take a look at the list below. Check to see if during your course of everyday business, you are served by any of the following. If you are, and you are the one responsible for paying for that bill during the year, you may want to consider giving that provider a holiday tip.

For business owners who work from home or an apartment house, some of your service providers may be doing “double duty,” and should be rewarded accordingly; i.e., if you’re working from home, your mail carrier may be bringing you a heavier load of mail every day, and possibly having to ring your doorbell more often with special package deliveries. If this is the case, you may want to increase the dollar value of your gift.

Be aware that certain companies or governmental agencies discourage or prohibit their employees from accepting cash tips. Most delivery companies, for example, prohibit or discourage cash gifts. If in doubt, check with that organization’s corporate office to find out their policy on holiday tipping.

If a number of different people from the same company provide a service throughout the year, Post recommends sending a card and gift that can be shared among them. Send it to the local branch that serves your geographic area.

The suggested holiday tip amounts in each category below are simply guidelines. Keep in mind, too, that the appropriate amount to tip may be higher in some areas than others.  A $10 tip will barely cover the cost of buying a hamburger for lunch in New York City or Los Angeles.

Only you can truly assess your own relationship with the individuals and companies who serve you throughout the year. And only you can truly assess your financial status and how much you can allocate for holiday giving. 

The following list is by no means all-inclusive. There may be individuals you tip in your line of work who do not appear below. For example, Barry Block, owner of a landscape design and contracting company, says he always gives a holiday tip to the gas station attendants who pump the many gallons of gasoline in his company trucks. With a fleet of landscaping trucks, Block has formed a one-on-one relationship with the gas station attendants, and appreciates their efforts in doing things such as ensuring gas quantities are correct. A generous cash gift and box of candy is Block’s way of saying “Thank you and Happy Holidays.”

RELATED: Small Business Owner’s Guide to the Holiday Bonus

Building Handyman or Janitor:

  • Suggested holiday tip: $20 to $25

Building Superintendent:

An appropriate holiday tip for a building superintendent can vary greatly depending on geography and how exclusive the building/apartment house is. If this is your first year in a building, you may want to find out what an appropriate amount would be from others in the building.

  • Suggested holiday tip: $20 to $100, and sometimes more.

Computer Support Person: 

Many small business owners have their “go-to-guy” for computer support; the person who’s there at the ready if and when computer problems arise or when computer systems need to be updated. If your computer guy or gal has been paying regular visits this year, a holiday tip is recommended.

  • Suggested holiday tip: $30 to $50.


If your business is in, say, your apartment house, chances are you’re having more visitors and receiving a larger number of packages. At holiday time, you’ll want to give your Doorman a little extra in his tip envelope. Again, if unsure, check with your fellow apartment dwellers.

  • Suggested holiday tip: $30 to $100.

Elevator Operator:

  • Suggested holiday tip: $15 to $40


Steve Barber, a representative of Federal Express, says non-cash gifts valued at $75 or less may be accepted not more than one time per year per source. Gifts of cash in any amount may never be accepted. If you have a regular FedEx delivery person, a card and non-cash gift would be appropriate

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: non-cash gift valued at $10 to $30, depending on the frequency of deliveries.

Food Delivery Person:

You have Chinese food brought in to your weekly staff meeting every Friday. Be sure to give a holiday tip to the regular delivery person.

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: $10 to $30 extra, depending on the frequency of service throughout the year.

Garage or Parking attendant:

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: $10 to $30 each


For those individuals who come on a regular basis for lawn-cutting.

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: the price of one regular service visit

Nannies and Baby Sitters:

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: One week’s salary for the nanny or a regular baby sitter. A small personal gift in addition to one week’s salary would be a nice touch, too. If you have a baby sitter who baby sits frequently but not every day (for example, someone who comes in several times a month), consider giving the equivalent amount of a single baby sitting session. 

Office Cleaners:

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: One week’s salary


United Parcel Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Rasberry says UPS has no definitive guidelines with regard to holiday tipping of their delivery employees, but strongly urges UPS drivers to politely decline any cash tips. Rasberry suggests satisfied customers may give nominal value non-cash gifts as a token of their appreciation.

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: non-cash gift valued at $10 to $30, depending of frequency of service.

USPS Mail Carrier:

According to a representative from the USPS Law Department’s Ethics Helpline, Postal service workers may only accept non-cash gifts; these up to $20 in value per occasion per source, but not more than a total of $50 in value per source in any one calendar year.

If a gift valued at less than $20 for your mail carrier at holiday time strikes you as insufficient, consider giving another gift of similar value another time during the calendar year. Just be sure that the total dollar value of gifts to your mail carrier during the year does not exceed $50.

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: non-cash gift valued at $10 to $20

Waiter and/or matre’d:

If you frequently dine at a particular restaurant for business meals, you’ll want to increase your tip to the waiter and/or matre’d for the holidays.

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: an extra $20 to $40

Trash Collectors:

  • Suggested Holiday tip: $10 to $20 each

Water Delivery Person:

Do you have water delivered to your office throughout the year? If so, a holiday tip to your regular delivery person would be a nice gesture.

  • Suggested Holiday Tip: $10 to $20

Remember, at holiday time, the idea is to spread good cheer and appreciation, not to go into debt. Before you make out those cards and slip those crisp, fresh bills inside, calculate just how much you can reasonably budget for tips. Then carefully consider just who and how much you can give. If accompanied with a heartfelt note of sincere appreciation, whatever you give will be appreciated.

Do try to be as generous as you can. That good feeling you’ll get when you give from a charitable heart will make your own holidays that much brighter.

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