VANCOUVER — During the holiday season there’s lots of pressure not to be a Scrooge when it comes to giving gifts, but determining how generous to be with tips can get tricky.
Canadians visit a slew of service people each year they can likely afford to give a little extra to during the holidays, experts say, and there are some simple etiquette rules to help customers suss out who to gift and how much.
But before giving any tips, people should know their holiday budget, said Margaret Page, an etiquette expert based in Delta, B.C.
She recommends putting aside a set amount of money and saying, “‘This is what I’m prepared to spend on tipping and this is what I’m prepared to spend on gift giving.”’
Knowing budgetary constraints can help prevent over-spending, something more than half of Canadians anticipate doing this winter, according to a CIBC online poll.
Canadians plan to spend an average $643 on holiday shopping this year and $291 on additional expenses, like decor and entertaining, according to the bank’s online survey of 1,512 Canadian adults conducted on Nov. 27 and 28.
Once a budget is in place, a person’s lifestyle then dictates how many people will have to be tipped out of it, according to Toronto etiquette expert Louise Fox.
“It’s (for) those people in your life that help you out on a regular basis throughout the year,” she said.
For some, that could include a hair dresser or barber, house cleaner, babysitter or nanny, and dogwalker. For others, that list extends to a chauffeur, personal chef, fitness trainer or massage therapist.
However, it’s important to be aware some professionals, like doctors or teachers, may not be permitted to accept gifts, said Page. It’s best to check with their organization for any rules, she said, or to instead drop off a box of chocolates or other delicacy at the person’s office for everyone to share.
For people who provide a regular service throughout the year and receive a tip each time, Page added, it’s nice to double the amount during a holiday visit.
But for those who don’t receive a tip regularly, like a newspaper delivery person, she suggests gifting them the cost of one service.
The gift should come in a card and “I wouldn’t even mention the word tip,” she said.
If that is beyond one’s budget, Fox added, people may want to ask themselves if they are living above their means.
“If you have the means to hire a personal chef … and you can’t afford to give them a gift, maybe you shouldn’t have them in the first place,” she said.
Instead of money, sometimes it can be nice to offer a gift instead.
Page suggests consumables like food items or a bottle of local wine. Flowers or a card, as well as an experience like tickets to a community play, are other appropriate options.
The longer a person has known the worker, the more they’ve been able to develop a relationship and better personalize a gift, Fox added, suggesting a Tim Horton’s card for a coffee lover as an example.
More important than the tip amount or gift itself is simply being a gracious customer and saying thank you, both women say.
“At Christmas time it really is about gratitude and expressing the gratitude for the people that have done things for us,” Page said.
The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.