'Tis the season for tipping.
Tipping is tough enough on a regular day. But the holidays make it especially confusing. "American tipping has become its own strange monster," says Lizzie Post, co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast. Her advice: "Start with your budget and think about the people who made the biggest difference in your life." Read on for who to tip -- and who to skip -- this holiday season.
Doormen of residential buildings
Show your doorman how much you appreciate the service he provides by tipping at least $20 (and up to $100 if he really has your back), says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas. If your building employs multiple doormen, make sure to tip each the same amount, Gottsman says.
If you regularly use the services of a house cleaner, tip the equivalent of one visit. So, if a cleaning session typically costs $100, aim to include an extra $100 around the holidays.
Check local restrictions before handing over a holiday tip. If there are none, aim for $10 to $25 per person, Gottsman says. You can gift it in person or drop it off at their headquarters.
Babysitter or nanny
For your babysitter, tack on an extra check for the equivalent of one night's visit. Tip the nanny between one week's and one month's pay, Gottsman says. Don't forget to include a gift from your child.
Show your appreciation by tipping your regular hair guru the cost of a single visit. Make it extra special by attaching it to a card or quick note, Post says.
Home health aide
Before tipping the staffer who takes such good care of your loved one, check the employer's corporate gift-giving policy and any state or local regulations, Gottsman says. If there are no restrictions, consider giving a gift or gift certificate. For a private nurse, a gift valued anywhere from $50 to a week's pay is typical, Gottsman says.
Workers for UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service typically have limitations on how much they can accept. Stay within that dollar amount or opt for something relatively cheap and heartfelt, such as a homemade gift.
If you deal regularly with a garage attendant -- and he or she makes your life much easier -- consider tipping $10 to $50, Gottsman says. A little note might help mark it as a holiday tip and show your thanks.
Your child's teacher
Avoid cash when giving your child's teacher a year-end gift. Opt instead for a class gift -- your teacher may have a classroom wishlist that she shared at the beginning of the year -- or pool your funds with other parents for a larger gift certificate. Don't forget to include something for the teacher's aide, Gottsman says.
The no-tip list
No matter how much you appreciate what they do, you're not expected to tip your doctor, lawyer, dry cleaner, dentist, boss or co-workers. At best, it's not necessary. And depending on the recipient, it can look like a bribe. If you really want to show your appreciation, consider bringing in baked goods that can be shared throughout the office.
Susannah Snider is the Personal Finance editor at U.S. News. Since 2010, she has reported on a wide range of personal finance topics, from consumer travel to college financial aid, student loans and employment. Snider previously worked as a staff writer at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. She has appeared as a personal finance expert on television, radio and in print, including on "Fox & Friends," "The Tavis Smiley Show" and Fox Business News. You can follow her on Twitter or email her at email@example.com.