December is the month of giving, and when it comes to the holidays, it’s important to give back to the ones who give the most to you, all year long. When it comes to caregivers, there is often question of how much to tip, especially if families use multiple sitters. However, it’s important to remember that sitters make your life function, and come into your home to do the most important job you could ever assign. They know how crucial they are and it’s important, especially during the holidays, to show them how much you appreciate their hard work.
To make your holiday season a little easier this year, Katie Bugbee, parenting expert and Senior Managing editor of Care.com, weighs in on tipping guidelines for your caregivers to help your family give the most genuine—and appropriate gifts.
Once-in-a-Blue Moon Sitters (once or twice a month, or less): This can range from a “Happy Holidays” card from the kids to a small and unexpected gift card. However, if this person has helped you out in a jam a few times, do the gift card. A little something that shows how much her commitment and help meant to you will help her remain so loyal and helpful next year.
Weekend Sitters: If this is someone you count on each weekend to give you a life outside of your daily routine, then an extra night’s pay would be a very appropriate holiday gift. She has probably made some social sacrifices to keep up with your plans, and your gratitude would be rewarding.
Afterschool or Daily Sitters: This is someone who makes your life work, no matter how often you need her each day. She’s really a part-time nanny since you rely on her every day for a certain amount of time. The protocol would be to tip her with 1-2 weeks’ salary. Assuming your kids have an emotional connection with her as well, they might want to pick something up from a store—or make a homemade treat they know she loves!
Nannies or Live-in Sitters: As someone who you depend on each and every day, show your appreciation with a holiday bonus. The standard is 1-2 weeks pay. Some families also may choose to give another thoughtful gift on top of the bonus from the kids, or just an incredibly kind gesture to thank her for the love and attention she’s given you over the year.
Things to Keep in Mind
Cash, Checks or Gift Cards? When using a nanny payroll service, you should still submit the bonus through this system, so proper taxes can be withdrawn. However, if tipping someone who you don’t pay more than $1800 in a calendar year, cash or gift cards are probably best.
Store-bought vs Homemade: If you are barely having a holiday celebration yourself—and homemade is what you’re doing for everyone in your family—then a nanny might understand that this gift is incredibly sincere. However, nannies see all the behind-the-scenes holiday planning. They receive the boxes you get delivered. They hear what the plans are from the kids. So if it’s a tough year financially, they will know.
“I don’t ever think you should buy someone a sweater or a vase—instead of giving a gift card or bonus,” explains Bugbee. “The most sincere gift is giving someone the choice on what they want to do with the money, rather than the guilt and obligation that they have to wear this raincoat the next time it rains.”
Thank you Cards: Thank you cards should be in addition to the holiday bonus. If you’re not adding your nanny to your holiday shopping list or budget, you’re not including her as part of your family. And that could be devastating for a nanny. This person knows and loves your kids as if they were her own. Yes, a bonus can be painful to hand over, but in the end, you should really want to reward your nanny for her hard work and dedication throughout the year. Be thoughtful. Ask the kids to list their favorite things about her. Explain the little things you notice that she does to make your life easier. Tell her how she has become part of the family and if your kids talk about how much they love her…quote them!
Is it okay to tip less than previous years? Raises should either stay the same or increase slightly over the years. Unless of course, you use the sitter less, then it can be based on frequency or, if you’re planning on letting her go. “I would still give her something…remember, this is a person with bills and possibly a family of her own,” says Bugbee. “For nannies, a holiday bonus is something they know about and depend on.”