Holiday tipping done right

Like you need another thing to do … but the holiday season is an appropriate, if not ideal, time to say thank you to all the people who have provided quality services to you and your family all year long. 

An envelope filled with cash is nice, but a gift that can be unwrapped is pretty sweet, too.

Here are a few one-size-fits-all gift ideas to get you motivated during this incredibly busy time of year. 

Cash: This one is easy, but how much should you give? It’s customary for a holiday tip to be the cost of a regular service. For example, if your normal haircut is $40, then the holiday tip should be $40 on top of the regular service fee.

For the occasional service, like a holiday cleaning service or vacation pet sitter, a small $10 to $15 tip is appreciated. 

Gifts for the building superintendent, your son’s coach or math tutor should be based on how much help they have provided — $25 to $50 is usually appropriate.

Many companies put a limit on what employees can accept as gifts, so it’s best to check ahead of time. Workers with the U.S. Postal Service, for example, can’t accept gifts valued at more than $20 (and alcohol is prohibited).

It’s a wrap: The coolest gift I received from a customer was a box of wrapping paper. It’s something we all need during the holiday season. This is an inexpensive gift if purchased at the end of the season or at the dollar store. Create a basket with matching paper or gift bags, tissue, tags, ribbons and bows. You can even throw in gift-wrap tape and scissors.

Movies: If you don’t know which movie theater is closest to your giftee’s house, consider a Fandango gift card. Looking for something a little more budget friendly? Purchase a gift card online from Redbox and wrap up it with a box of microwave popcorn and a box of M&Ms.  

Auto: So many people neglect their cars, especially in winter. Consider a gift card that can cover gas, car washes, oil changes and/or car detailing. Package it with an air freshener, an ice scraper and emergency road kit.

Health: Winter is cold-and-flu season and we all want to do our best to avoid getting sick. Create a basket with hand sanitizer, tissue packs, lip balm, hand cream and cough drops. Throw in a Walgreens, CVS or Target gift card for good measure.

Meals: Choosing a restaurant gift card for someone can be iffy. A gift card allows the recipient to purchase their own gift cards from local restaurants at a discounted rate. Or give the gift of delivery with a gift card to

Magazines: Millennials are reportedly subscribing to magazines in record numbers (more than any other age group), so a year of a dreamy magazine could just the thing. Let the receiver choose from more than 3,000 titles at Or make sure they never miss an issue of Minnesota Parent: See

Open ended: Sometimes the best gift is one you pick out yourself. Give the gift of an Amazon, eBay or credit-card gift card.

Photography: Many local photographers offer mini photo sessions that include five or six digital images. These are perfect for headshots, senior pictures, an updated family picture or just the opportunity to be silly and captured on film — by a professional. Browse a sponsored list of photographers from Twin Cities Mom Blog or see Minnesota Parent’s studio photographer can be found at  

Pam Molnar is a freelance writer, the mother of two busy teens and an active tween.