Once again, it’s the season for gift-giving. But exactly what – and how much – is appropriate to give people such as your employees, your domestic help and your children’s tutors or coaches?

Online caregiver community recently released its 2016 survey, finding that 81 percent of its members said they give holiday tips. The practice is on the rise, according to the survey, and so is the amount that people plan to give this holiday season.

Maria Botham, founder and president of Hair Fairies, a company that operates lice removal salons in 13 states and manufactures a full line of natural treatment products, is already busy writing holiday notes and buying gifts for her 90 employees, plus her fulltime nanny/housekeeper, babysitter, gardener and pool technician.

“I want them to know that I’m thinking about them because they lead the pack. It’s time consuming, but giving thoughtful gifts and writing notes makes the difference,” she said.

Botham gives key employees a one week’s salary bonus plus an individual gift. Lower level managers get a $25 gift allowance for each of the technicians they supervise. Plus, Botham budgets $40 per head to throw company holiday parties, which she considers indispensable bonding experiences.

On the personal side, Botham always gives her fulltime nanny, whom she calls her “hired husband,” a generous cash gift – more than two weeks’ salary – and a very nice pair of pajamas. The babysitter, gardener and pool technician each receive an extra week’s salary.

How do you know what to give the people who help you get through your life? offers these guidelines:

  • Live-in housekeeper, senior care aide, nanny, chef - 1-2 weeks’ pay 
  • Massage therapist - cost of 1 session 
  • Teacher – small gift from your kids (or contribute to the parent association if they are pooling money to recognize all the teachers).
  • Kids' athletics coach - small gift from your kids
  • Tutor - cost of 1 session and a small gift from your child
  • Do not tip professionals such as your doctor, dentist or veterinarian

Daniel Post Senning, the great-great grandson of etiquette expert Emily Post and a main contributor at, recommends starting early and budgeting for your holiday gifts. Order extra family holiday cards and use them to personalize your holiday tips, whether you’re giving cash, checks or gift cards.

“Write out a list so you can afford to cover everyone fairly and appropriately. You don’t want to spend too much on the first gift then find you have nothing left for someone really deserving,” Senning said.

Here is some additional advice:

  1. Always give equitably so you avoid the impression of favoritism. Katie Trevino, the Director of The Help Company, an L.A.-based household staff placement agency, reminds her clients that staff members talk. “Giving varied amounts can create havoc in your household,” she said.
  2. Don’t be offended if you don’t receive a gift from an employee.
  3. Don’t skimp on holiday gifts as a punishment for unsatisfactory work. “Save that for a performance review,” Trevino said.
  4. Keep gifts professional. Perfume or intimate clothing may cross the line; consider a book, gift card to a store or tickets to a movie theater they frequent.
  5. Trevino likes gifts that give back. “Cooking school or a computer lesson at the Apple store – those are gifts that give back.” 
  6. Botham carefully selects specific gifts: a Zoomba membership for an employee who loves to work out; a case of a wine she and another employee enjoyed together. Personalized gifts lets her employees know she is listening to them.

If you are prepared, you stand to make a lot of the people in your life happy this holiday. And that’s important when you truly value them. “You want your help to stay and to be happy,” Trevino said. “An amazing nanny is gold.”

The foregoing information is provided as a courtesy to our clients and friends of City National Bank (CNB) for their consideration. The information is provided without warranty and no recommendation or endorsement by CNB is intended or should be inferred unless specifically stated. The information and names provided in this article not otherwise attributed are also for general information from public sources and without recommendation by City National Bank.