AdviceDIY

A Broke-Ass Guide to Holiday Tipping

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'œWhy tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.'
– Advice from Dwight Schrute, The Office

I’m gonna assume that, like me, you don’t have a doorman.  So all this stuff about tipping around the holidays doesn’t really apply to us, right?  But wait'  What about the people who collect my trash and drop off my mail?  And what about the pharmacist at CVS who has to put up with my hurried annoyance every month?  And the MTA worker in my neighborhood subway station?  Or the deli owner who is always ready with a nice smile on my evening Ben & Jerry’s run?  Does being broke excuse me from taking part in the age-old holiday tradition of saying 'œthanks' to the (sometimes) invisible people who make my life just a little easier?

Dwight Schrute would probably say I’m asking a useless question, but let’s face it, when’s the last time you wanted to take advice from Dwight?

Having worked in the service industry (waitress, bartender, caterer, etc) for years, I know the immediate positive impact of a good tip.  Working in a thankless job in a shitty economy can certainly bring out the Bitter Nelly in me.  Still, all it takes is one nice, unexpected gesture, and humanity can look bright and worthwhile again.

And then there’s this thing called karma.  We’ve all heard the sayings, 'œWhat goes around, comes around.'  'œKarma is a bitch.'  'œKarma is a boomerang.'  In Buddhism, however, karma mainly refers to one’s intention or motivation while doing an action.  In other words, whatever you do intentionally to others, a similar thing will happen to you.  It might not be in this lifetime, but at some point down the road, you’ll get back in equal measure what you’ve put out.

Whatever you believe, however, there is no denying that we all like to feel appreciated for good jobs we do that sometimes go unnoticed!  So, with this in mind, I present to you the Broke-Ass Holiday Tipping Guide!

1.  Think of your Tip as a subversive and non-conventional form of instant joy! So you’re not rich.  We get it.  But why don’t you choose one or two people who have impacted your life in a regular, positive way, and reach out to them as a way of saying 'œThanks!'

2. Homemade Tips are nice. While we all like to get and give nice things, but sometimes what’s more important is to show the person that you’ve put time and thought into the gift.  Here’s a coupon for a $1 off of Pillsbury Refrigerated Cookie Dough! (Last time I checked, they tasted pretty damn good and cost only $5 or so.)

3.  A $5 Gift Card to Dunkin or Starbucks would never go unused. While I’m generally more of a fan of mom-n-pop type coffee places, the many locations of Starbucks would mean that your mail person or trash collector could indulge in an overpriced coffee drink at their convenience.  Certainly would warm up a chilly morning!

4. Everyone likes those scratch-off Lotto Tickets. Sure, they only cost $1 or so, but there’s so much more involved when giving someone a Lotto Tip.  You are also giving them a whole heap of hope and that fluttering excited feeling in the pit of their stomach as the though 'œWhat If..' crosses their minds.

5. Pool your resources.  Maybe you don’t talk to your neighbors on a regular basis, but $5 from every household in the building could make a nice size Tip.  Think of going in on your Tip with people who are also benefiting from your Tippee’s service.

6. A Thank You Note really does do the trick. This year especially, no one is going to be put off if your Tip is just a nice ol handwritten, thoughtful note.  Think about what your mail person has done for you and make a point to let them know that you appreciate it when they leave your packages inside the building instead of leaving one of those horrible pink pick-up slips.

7. Don’t do what’s popular, do what’s nice! Now, lest you think that your Tip will not be appreciated in the midst of all the other, more expensive tips this year, check out this chart from Consumer Reports.  A majority of people do not tip their supers, mail people, or garbage collectors.

Who gets tipped at the holidays:

% who gave anything

Average gift*

Cleaning person 65% $50
Child’s teacher 59% $20
Hairdresser 56% $20
Child care provider 52% $38
Manicurist 51% $20
Newspaper carrier 45% $20
Barber 40% $15
Building superintendent 33% $25
Pet care provider 30% $25
Mail carrier 29% $20
Lawn care worker 28% $25
School bus driver 26% $15
Fitness instructor 22% $25
Sanitation worker 14% $20

*Cash tip or value of noncash gift
Source: Consumer Reports

Giving gifts is so much fun.  And let’s face it, I wouldn’t want any of you to deny yourself the joy of making someone’s holidays really awesome this year.  I can see you’re smiling just thinking about it!

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Danielle Levanas - Bargain Soul Huntress

Danielle Levanas - Bargain Soul Huntress

Danielle was raised by a pack of coyotes in the Los Angeles hills. Since arriving in NY in 2001, she has had any number of strange jobs, including back-up singing for JELVIS (the Jewish Elvis), starting the non-profit LYDIA, and writing political cabarets. A huge advocate for travel as a way of life, you can find her at the Brooklyn Public Library when her bank account is empty, fantasizing about where to head off to next.