NEW YORK (MainStreet) — During the season of giving, suggestions on what to tip everyone from your child's school teacher to your hair stylist are abundant. Yet the rules are continually shifting and aren't always clear-cut.
As a result, holiday tipping misconceptions still linger and confuse the generous. Learn about some of these myths to avoid a social faux pas.
1. Myth: You Are Obligated to Tip
"The pressure is on when someone feels obligated to tip, when they have lost a job or don't have the resources," says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio.
"A holiday tip is a gift, not an obligation, and it's important to give what you can, rather than what is on a guideline," Gottsman adds.
2. Myth: Teacher is the Only Person You Should Gift at Your Child's School
Etiquette experts say a contribution to a class gift or an individual gift for your child's teacher is appropriate. Yet, there are a few others who care for your child that might be worth adding to your list, especially if you feel their service largely impacts your family.
For starters, you might want to consider giving a small gift to the teacher's aide. Then there's the school secretary, for which a small gift or gift certificate might be nice, and the school bus driver.
If your child has serious food allergies, you may also want to consider presenting a gift to a lunch attendant or school nurse. Schools may have their own gift policies, so check that first. Gottsman recommends a gift card or small cash gift of $20 per person.
3. Myth: Don't Tip the Mail Carrier
Government regulations do not allow U.S. Postal Service workers to accept cash gifts, but that doesn't mean you should skip the mail carrier completely. A small, non-monetary gift valued at less than $20 is accepted, and surely appreciated.
Also consider the UPS deliveryman, especially if you find yourself greeting the same individual for multiple shipments. The UPS prefers drivers be given a token gift rather than cash, but they leave that up to the customer's discretion, says Gottsman. FedEx does not restrict gifts or tips, but recommends the amount should not exceed $75.
4. Myth: Cash Is Always Better Than Gifts
While many believe cash is preferred when it comes to holiday tipping, a thoughtful gift can often go a longer way for some individuals. This holds true for anyone who cares for your child – whether a teacher, tutor or babysitter – and anyone for whom it might not be appropriate to give cash, such as your boss.
Also write out individual cards so these folks know you appreciate their hard work or guidance. This can often leave more of a lasting impression than the actual gift.
5. Myth: Only Tip Professionals Who Help You Out During the Holidays
It's easy to forget about your pool cleaner and lawn maintenance professionals in the middle of the winter, but it might be nice to consider giving them a cash gift equivalent to one week's service, suggests Gottsman.
Also don't overlook your building handyman, especially if he is regularly helping you out. In this case, a cash gift of $20 to $50 is recommended.
--Written by Renee Morad for MainStreet