Does your hairdresser deserve a holiday tip? (Getty Images )
Look, I know the very thought of holiday-season tipping makes your stomach twist into a half hitch. It's right at the intersection of seasonal stress, social anxiety and money issues, and it probably gives you flashbacks to your stuffy Aunt Agatha's lectures on etiquette.
Relax, my little turkeys. There are only two rules to holiday tipping.
1. Don't be a jerk.
There's a reason that holiday tipping is a thing. There are people in your life -- doormen, hair stylists, pet groomers, personal trainers -- who exist in that weird limbo between personal friends and total strangers. It would be weird to give them big, personal gifts, but it would be weirder to ignore them entirely. HENCE: December tipping.
You know the old saying that if you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to go out to eat, right? The same applies to most service professions with which you interact regularly. If you can't afford to tip your masseuse at the end of the year, you can't afford a masseuse at all.
And if you must, consider this: These are the people who make your life go smoothly. They color your hair or protect your apartment or express your dog's anal glands, for heaven's sake. You need to be in their good graces. Better safe than sorry.
2. Don't go broke.
The rule of thumb for this sort of thing is that you should tip equal to the amount of the service usually rendered -- that is, tip your personal trainer equivalent to the cost of one training session, your stylist the cost of a haircut, and so on. If you tip generously on a regular basis, you can totally get away with giving less in December. For someone like a doorman, etiquette queen Peggy Post says $15-$80 is a good range. You have some wiggle room there, obviously.
If that will break the bank, don't simply tip a smaller amount -- that could be insulting. Consider a small gift instead. Everyone loves homemade cookies or a handmade card or hand-warmers you knit yourself. (Some service workers, like postal employees, can't legally accept cash anyway.)
And if even that is out of your price range, at the very least write a nice, sincere note to the service workers of your choice. No, not on a Post-It. Buy a 10-pack of blank cards at CVS or something, come on.
Megan Crepeau is a RedEye copy editor trying so, so hard to get her money stuff together. You do not have to tip her for this advice.