Help with a Holiday Article I'm Writing

Updated on October 26, 2012
M.P. asks from Tampa, FL
16 answers

Hello. I'm a writer and I've been assigned an article about small, holiday gifts for community folks like the teacher, mail person, hair stylist, or lawn service company.

How do you feel about giving gifts to these folks around the holidays? Do you do it? Are times tough and is it harder to give your child's teacher a gift? Are you overwhelmed by it all? Would you shop locally to find a $5-20 gift for them? Or is Walmart your go-to?

Thanks. Any comments appreciated.

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So What Happened?

I turned in the article a few days ago. Thanks to all who commented. Your thoughts helped me understand how you feel about tipping the service personnel around holiday time.

Featured Answers



answers from Seattle on

For teachers gifts the class collects money for a gift card. Every child's name is on the card.. Whether they donated or not. Donating is optional and any amount is good.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't buy gifts for these people. They are doing their jobs and they get paid for it. They don't buy me a gift for helping to keep them employed (by using their services). I ONLY buy for the kids. I have eight grandchildren - that stretches my budget enough!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

I just saw a kids show called "Noodle & Doodle" - it's crafts and cooking. They made an oatmeal cookie jar gift - all the dry ingredients layered very prettily in a glass jar, with the recipe attached -

It was gorgeous and probably didn't cost much to make.

I would probably do a gift card, but this idea was so cool I may do it instead.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Hi Mary

I do give gifts to my son's teacher, therapists, hair stylist, our gardener and cleaning lady.

For his teacher, I know she appreciates gift certificates to either Lakeshore or Barnes and Noble so I give her a $30.00 gift certificate. My son's therapists (my son is autistic) he has 3 of them its usually about $30.00 each and depends on what they are into at the time. So it can vary from sewing notions or crafting stuff to restaurant gift certificates. My hairstylist I give her a double tip (usually around $20.00). Our gardener who has been with us for over 10 years we give him $50.00 and our cleaning lady who has been with us for close to 15 years we also give her $50.00. Oh and my son's Friday night babysitter (she's a college student) we give her $50.00 cash. They all get handwritten cards. If I am on the ball during the holidays they also get a homebaked cookies and muffins. Not every year it depends on how busy I am. These days I know some of the people we are in contact with appreciate cash rather than gift certificates. Good luck on your article.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I love this question.

I give gifts to all the persons you just named and then some. I also tip our cleaning lady, the bus driver and the teacher's aide. To me, Christmas is a time to show love and appreciation for those you care about. It is also a time to give to those less fortunate than you, or to those you simply want to show gratitude for.

I appreciate the hard work those folks do. And yes, I know some will argue that others work just as hard and don't get tips during the year, but these people you are naming truly are in the "service" industry and I appreciate their hard work and what they deal with to do what they do.

I LOVE shopping locally for unique gifts. I hate wal mart for gifts.

I usually give cash to some of those mentioned. I also give baked goods and little gift baskets I put together with some hand made items and some store bought, such as dips/crackers from Harry and David, etc. If I had more options for local unique gifts I would give those.

Good luck with your article!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

We do gifts for teachers, postal carrier and trash/recycle/yard waste crews. When I receiving a lot of packages, we also did a gift for the UPS guy.

Teachers get something created by my son, like a card or picture, plus some candy bars or baking items (a fancy pancake mix with a special jar of topping or something). Usually $15 or under b/c the class also pitches in some cash for a gift. We are in Pre-K; I don't know about doing it for older kids.

Our letter carrier is also kind of a friend - he's been on our route the entire 11 years we've lived here and is also an actual friend of a friend so we see him at some social events during the year. (And he is hot mailman. Did i mention that? tee hee.) He is very nice. He likes beer so we usually find him a bottle from a specialty micro-brew or something and make sure to leave it on a day we know he is working (there are replacements on his days off and they suck at getting the mail right!). I just ask him on facebook what days he is delivering that week! Usually under $10 for the bottle of beer. Once we did a movie gift card, once a gift card to a coffee shop in the neighborhood and once a stocking filled with goodies.

The trash guys get basically the same thing. Almost always a cookie or candy tin. The trash and recycle trucks have just one guy on them; the yard waste truck has two so their tin is bigger. I get them from Aldi or Costco, so neither is more than $8 each. I set up a little sign on the trash bin, recycle bin and yard waste section taped to the gift that says happy holidays and I decorate it with ribbons and such so they SEE it and don't throw it in truck! I think the crews really like it. They are always very friendly when they see me walking my dog or when my son is waving to them from the front stoop so it doesn't bother me to "tip" like that.

For friends and neighbors, we just bake a special cookie (called pizzelles) that everyone seems to love and put 12 or so in a bag with a ribbon.

Hmmm, we do a lot of food gifts!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I would shop locally and get them a little gift. IN the past we have given cash to the mail person and a small gift to the teacher. Never have given a gift to the hair stylist (aren't they tipped every time you go to them?) or lawn service.


answers from Grand Forks on

I give my kids teachers, the newspaper carrier and the mail carrier each a $5 gift card for Tim Hortons. The teachers also get home made shortbread. I don't give the hairstylist a Xmas gift, but I do tip her if I use her services.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I always get the kids main teachers a gift card for $25 to either Barnes & Noble or LOFT. I also give $10 to the class gift. To me this is worth it and within my means. I also like to give all extra helpers in the school (gyme, librarian, secretary, principal) a $5 Starbucks card attached to a cute ornament or candy cane.

I gladly give the paper man $50 because he gets my papers there super early and has never missed.

I tip the cleaning lady the price of a cleaning.

Thats about it. I really hate tipping my hairdresser the price of a cut for some reason. I will sometimes try to time it so I can go the holiday season without seeing her( SO lame, I know) I have a 6 months to a year relationship with hairdressers before I am onto a new one though.

I wouldn't want to give a Walmart card. I do use Target for gift cards though. Also local restaurants when I am coordinating class gifts.


answers from Boston on

We always give because teachers are always using their own money for supplies in budget-strapped times. Their job is harder and harder with more and more sick/compromised children, so I think it's essential. From my experience as a teacher and in talking with many teacher friends, the least appreciated things are trinkets for the desk (you can't display the stuff from every child, and after 10 years of teaching 22 kids a year, you've pretty much received every little doodad out there. The nicest (and easiest) way to handle it is for the room parents to do a collection and buy one gift for the teacher from everyone. What we did as parents was to circulate a large envelope at pick-up time and allow other parents whose kids took the bus to send in whatever they wanted. We just checked off their names that they had seen the envelope, and whatever they could afford, they put in. We suggested $5-$10 per child which buys a gift averaging $150 for the teacher - a very nice thing. Some people put in $20, and some put in $2 -- we never assumed that people were cheap or ungrateful, just stressed, and we never kept track of who put in what.

The letter carrier is allowed to accept a small gift up to about $20 in value, as I understand it. We always tip our carrier because she is so great about having a biscuit for our dog or putting up the money for postage-due stuff and knowing we will reimburse her - that way she doesn't have to take the item back to the PO and then bring it back after we get the notice and then leave the money.

I also tip the trash collector - that's a lousy job and not a well paid one. My dad always did that and it stuck with me. I usually do a gift card for a store that everyone uses, or even the grocery store. You'd be surprised what people are trying to do to manage on a low salary job.

Both trash and postal workers have to work in terrible weather, so I think that's worth acknowledging. Same for the paper delivery person. 365 days a year. I give him a check which I leave in the paper box, but he usually leaves an envelope with his address on it anyway.

Some people leave gifts for the letter carrier, but I think about how she's going to feel if she gets 25 boxes of candy, 15 Christmas candles, and 20 loaves of holiday bread from the 300 people on her route!

I've never tipped the lawn service company but if you have year-round service in Florida, you might want to do that. It depends on your relationship. They aren't servicing you every day like a teacher or a letter carrier, and they are being paid by you directly for their services. They never have to work in bad weather, they never have to put their own money in for equipment, and so on. So I think your regular fee covers them, just like the plumber, the electrician and other service people you hire. But that's just me. If you have a great guy who always comes to your house, who deals with your dog, picks up your paper and does a little extra for you, then yes, by all means, give a gift. It doesn't have to be cash - it could be home made cookies.

I always tip the hair stylist - the guideline I've heard is the cost of one appointment, whatever you do (cut, cut/color, perm, etc.). A lot of hairdressers take a hit when people forget appointments, stretch their visits out an extra week to save money, and so on. So I think it's important.

I try to support local businesses when I can, so I like to give gift cards to an independent business rather than a Wal-Mart which doesn't need my help and doesn't take very good care of its employees. If I know the teacher well, and certainly my hairdresser, I would feel comfortable giving a gift certificate to an independently owned local restaurant or a store, but I always remember that $20 at the restaurant means she has to eat alone or pay for her spouse out of her own pocket, so it's a gift that is a mixed blessing. The teacher gift from the whole class, however, means a larger gift. That would allow a restaurant gift card for $50, a massage for $75, and something for the coffee shop or a gift boutique where she can always buy a gift for herself or for someone else, thereby saving herself money.

I don't think that it's smart to cut out everyone who helps me out all year long just because times may be tough for me. Aren't times just as tough for those people who teach my child, bring me so much mail, and collect my trash so I don't have to?


answers from Dallas on

I don't do gifts for all those folks... just teachers, caregivers (nannies), and coaches & instructors. Anyone who goes above & beyond to contribute to our lives, our kids' lives, etc.

I try to keep the gifts relatively inexpensive (less than $20, except for the Nanny, she gets bonuses, big gift cards, etc.), but practical and meaningful. I don't give dumb stuff like mugs. Teachers usually get a big pack of dry erase markers and something else personal (we got one teacher a really nice ornament with her initials on it one Christmas).



answers from St. Louis on

We give gifts to our child's teacher and bus driver. We do not give to the mail person or my hair stylist. Our mail carriers cannot accept gifts and I only see my hair stylist 3x a year. I spend around $20 and try to make the gift something personal or along the lines of something they like to do, use, etc. If I do not know what their likes/dislikes are (such as for the bus driver) - I will buy a gift card to a local restaurant.



answers from Atlanta on

At our school, each room parent usually takes up a collection at the beginning of the school year and pools the money to get a gift card to a local mall, salon, restaurant, or whatever that teacher would like most. (The head room parent collects information sheets at the beginning of the year that detail each teacher's favorites.) Each family is free to donate what they can afford, be it $5 or $25. Certain room parents also are assigned a "specials" teacher (P.E., music, etc.) and part of the money goes toward a gift for him or her. I do have my child make a card to give the teacher as well.

The general consensus from the teachers I know is that they much prefer a larger group gift like that over another candle, bottle of lotion, coffee mug or anything with an apple on it. And, of course, a heartfelt thank you note or letter to let them know that you appreciate all their hard work is the best gift of all.

For the school office staff, I usually bring a batch of homemade treats, along with a nice card from our family.

I have not given a gift to our mail carrier or package delivery worker in the past, but plan to this year - probably something small and homemade.

I give our year-round lawn and garden guy a small bonus.


answers from Kalamazoo on

I give small things to teachers, school staff and our crossing guard. Teachers usually get something small, maybe some goodies and/or small gift card or something special for their room if I know something they need. One year I did a nice reusuable water bottle filled with candy and a nice note from us. The crossing guard gets candy/treats and maybe a small gift card to a local store - he's older and his wife past a few years back so I got a soft spot in my heart for him. Sometimes I'll buy a large box of candy bars and tape "thank you" notes on them and then the kids hand them out at school to the office ladies, librarian, gym, art, music teachers etc. Kids are in 5th and 3rd grades. I don't know our mail man. Don't use a regular hair stylist or lawn service - so no, but if I did, I would try to give something small.
And we don't do Walmart. period.



answers from Austin on

For teachers, our school does the gift card collections, too. Or a basket of, maybe, Mrs. ?'s favorite snacks, and everyone brings something, and the room mom puts all of the treats in a basket together, with all of the kids' names on it, or one year, everyone sent a little bit of cash, and it was all pooled to buy a giftcard from a list of the teacher's "favorite things." The school offices generally have these on file, at least both preschools and the elementary school that we've been to do.

Assistant teachers also get a gift - same sort of thing.

My kids don't ride the bus (small neighborhood - no buses!), but I remember all of us kids conspiring to get together to decorate the inside of the bus for Christmas, once or twice. (The driver was a teacher, and so he was often later getting on the bus than the first kids at the campus where he taught - it was a surprise Christmas party!). Complete with cookies for the bus driver.

The lawn service folks don't get a gift, because we only use them during the summer. However, every day they come, there will be clean cups and a large pitcher of fresh ice water or tea waiting for them, and a thank you note.

(Other service people who come to the home, too. My dad was in phone installation for a long time, and I learned from him. When someone comes into the house to do a job for me - phone, appliance repair, whatever - he is offered a cold drink, and use of the bathroom. You would not believe how many people won't let a repair guy use the bathroom. Okay, off the soapbox. :) )

Mail carriers aren't technically supposed to receive gifts, I think - something about federal employees taking bribes. Now, when I was a kid, we had a mail carrier who we would make cookies for - on a whim, all year long. I remember him telling us he *shouldn't* take them, but we were little kids, and he took them, anyway. He was a really nice man, too, who always took the time to talk to the little kids on the street. I kthink we also gave him Christmas cards, too. But we don't have the same carrier every day, anymore.

I don't tip the paper carrier, either. Because my husband delivered papers as a kid, but our current carrier works for a company that subcontracts the delivery. The only day out of the year that the paper lands within reach of the driveway, is the day our carrier will have inserted a flier with her name and the address where we can mail our tips. So, I don't tip.

If I am seeing my hair stylist in December, I tip very generously. However, I rarely see her in December. I generally tip well, anyway, since I see her so infrequently.

Though as for the other sub-issue, I generally prefer to shop or eat local, whenever possible.


answers from Austin on

I did gifts to her teacher as well as the principal and the Librarian

I liked to give a bottle of sparkling wine or sparkling apple cider... I wrote on the bottles with a metallic pen and wrote !happy New Year!

Not for the mailman, only because we have different ones all of the time..yes to neighbors.. Usually we cooked something or baked something..
We made homemade snack mix. Cheese balls, homemade cheese wafers...

I do also like to give tickets to a local movie theater.. It is treat for people to attend... usually 2 tickets and a copy of their newsletter..

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