In past years, holiday tipping guides varied from source to source.

It’s helpful to have a detailed plan regarding the appropriate amounts to tip specific service providers.

But this year, it’s crucial to put a method behind the tipping madness. The norm averages anywhere from 5% to 20%, depending on the area of the country you live in.

The first step is to remember why you are tipping.

It shouldn’t feel like an obligation, nor should you be doing it just to keep up with the Joneses. Think of it like a movie where the characters take each other for granted until a singular event happens that tears them apart.  Inevitably, one of them says, “I never got the chance to say, ‘I love you!’ ”

This is a chance to tell the people who helped you throughout the year that you appreciate them and they’re important to you!

Remember that there are serious workplace and tax considerations when giving cash gifts to in-home workers.

For home health aides, check with their agency to see if gift-giving is permitted. Some caregivers could get fired for accepting a monetary gift that was offered to them.

Monetary gifts for employees are subject to regular payroll taxes, regardless of whether it’s a day’s salary or a week’s salary. Uncle Sam must be paid.

The IRS has taken a renewed interest in the tax compliance of households with in-home

workers.

On the other hand, if giving an actual, physical gift, no taxes need to be paid.

Here are some helpful tips for your holiday tipping.

  •  For people who provide a service in fixed sessions — like a dog groomer, hair stylist or personal trainer — the appropriate holiday gift is the amount of one session.
  • For people who help on a continual basis, one to two weeks’ pay based on performance is the norm.
  • For people who work with your children (outside of the home), it is always appreciated to give a small gift from the kids on top of a modest monetary tip.
  • For staff that is seen regularly, such as doormen, keep in mind that workers in New York City expect more than doormen in Podunk, Iowa. The range averages between $20 and $100.
  • For personal assistants, one to two weeks’ pay based on performance is appreciated.
  • Civil service workers like trash collectors and postal workers generally cannot accept cash or any gift over $20 in value.

Giving money is not impersonal.

Giving money is like giving away your blood, sweat and tears.

In addition to showing gratitude, take comfort in the fact that many of the people you will tip will be paying it forward in the form of gifts to the people who make their lives great.

With that in mind, consider gifting as early as possible in the season.

Don’t forget the people in your community who are facing tough times, or who are alone this

holiday season.

Sometimes the best “tip” is a warm invitation to a hot meal, or perhaps a little help digging out a car buried in snow or bringing in the groceries. Not all gifts cost money, but they can still be priceless.

Tip generously, but don’t break the bank.

Keep in mind this year that many people are struggling financially. The few extra dollars might not affect you, but it could make a big difference in someone else’s life!

Judy Heft is the CEO/founder of Judith Heft & Associates, a financial and lifestyle concierge celebrating 25 years in business helping people stay financially organized. She is the author of “How to Be Smart, Successful and Organized with Your Money.” For more information visit www.judithheft.com.