Baby Care

2023 holiday bonus guide for your caregivers: How much and who

When it comes to the wonderful people who care for your kids, aging parents or relatives, pets or home all year long, the holiday season is the perfect time to show your gratitude. End-of-year holiday bonuses for caregivers not only show your appreciation for these essential helpers, but they’re also seriously beneficial to them financially. Many professional nannies and caregivers depend on holiday tips as part of their annual salary, and, in some cases, to maintain a living wage.

“If you’re in a position to give a service provider, such as a nanny or sitter, a tip in cash, start there,” says Heather Wiese Alexander, an etiquette expert and founder of Bell’INVITO. “Non-monetary gifts are great options, too, but for those who are able to accept cash, it’s always appreciated.”

But how much is a good dog walker or nanny holiday bonus? While everyone’s budget is different, there is a loose formula to follow when it comes to figuring out how much to give for end-of-year bonuses. We spoke to etiquette, child care, senior care, home and pet care experts to get the scoop on how much to shell out at the end of the year for the people who make your life easier. Even a little goes a long way.

How much to give caregivers for a holiday bonus

Here’s a quick holiday bonus overview and then keep reading for more detail. 

Caregiver type Suggested holiday bonus amount
Babysitter Average day/evening pay for regular sitters and an optional small gift from kids
Dog walker $50-$200 in cash or gift card, depending on frequency
House cleaner $20-Up to the cost of one visit
Housekeeper An extra 20-80%, depending on duration of relationship
Nanny 1-2 week’s pay (possibly more if the nanny has been with you a long time). For new nannies, one day’s pay for each month of employment 
Nurse (in-home nurse, private nurse) Small gift and a handwritten note
Pet sitter $50-$200 in cash or gift card, depending on frequency
Senior care aide Up to 1 week’s pay or small gift

Holiday bonus for nannies

A nanny holiday bonus isn’t just a financial boon, it’s an opportunity for you to show your appreciation, explains Michelle LaRowe, lead educator at Global Nanny Training. “It really sends the message that you value and appreciate your nanny,” she says.

According to LaRowe, a full-time nanny can usually expect a holiday bonus of one to two week’s salary — more if they’ve been with the family a long time. “For nannies who are new to a family,” LaRowe says “calculating one day’s pay for each month of employment is a standard approach.” Other factors that can influence a nanny’s holiday bonus, she adds, are “geographical location and what a family can truly afford.” 

Aside from a cash holiday bonus — or instead of one if it’s not in your budget — a thoughtful gift or gesture can go a long way. According to LaRowe, things like a handmade gift from the kids, a framed photo, stocking the pantry with their favorite snacks or even a thoughtful card all show appreciation, too. 

What about holiday time off for nannies?

Most nannies don’t work Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. However, LaRowe notes, “it’s not uncommon for families to offer additional time during the holidays.” This additional time off is generally between Christmas and New Year’s to coincide with vacations or when children are off from school.

“Additional time off around the holidays, while not required, is also a great way to show appreciation to your nanny,” says LaRowe.

To avoid last minute confusion, the written work agreement should outline all of your nanny’s paid time off (including holidays); but if you wind up not needing them on a day they’re scheduled to work, they should still be paid. 

Holiday bonus for part-time babysitters

So do you tip a babysitter during the holiday season? According to LaRowe, for regular sitters, a holiday tip is traditionally equal to an average day or night’s pay. That being said, if your sitter has been with you for a while, you may want to consider paying out more.

In addition to (or in place of) giving your babysitter cash or a Visa gift card. Aileen Avery, author of “Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving,” recommends adding a book or candle you think they might like, or simply a heartfelt card or drawing from the kids

Holiday bonus for senior caregivers

As Christie Ziegler, director of communications and marketing at Kavod Senior Life in Denver, notes, senior care workers often go above and beyond their job duties to ensure the health and safety of clients — think, fielding calls after hours and tending to needs not expressed in care plan — so showing appreciation during the holidays is key. 

For a senior caregiver who is employed by you directly, anything up to one week’s salary is considered a nice holiday bonus. For caregivers who are employed by an agency or a facility, check first, as different places employ different holiday tipping policies (some discourage it altogether). 

For agencies and facilities without rules about tipping, Esther Cromwell, founder and CEO of Avendelle Assisted Living in Raleigh, says many families and clients often gift caregivers with “personalized gifts, gift cards and baked goods.”

If you’re not able to offer a holiday bonus to your senior caregiver, Ziegler suggests a heartfelt note to both the caregiver — and the agency. While the former shows your gratitude, the latter “helps with the caregiver’s reputation and retention and may influence a future raise or bonus.”

Holiday bonus for dog walkers and pet sitters

The average holiday bonus for dog walkers and pet sitters falls between $50 to $200 in cash or gift cards, according to Karen Finkenauer, a vet tech and pet sitter in Ocoee, Florida. However, she adds, “your location, type of services provided and length of time the pet caretaker has been supplying their services all factor into the amount or type of gratuity.”

If you’d prefer going the gift route or want to add something extra, Avery suggests trying something thematic. “If your dog walker has their own dog, get them a gift card to Petco, if that’s where they get their dog food, along with a bag of dog treats and a handwritten note,” she suggests. “Or treat them to one month of a dog subscription service, like BarkBox.”

Holiday bonus for housekeepers and house cleaners

Ronnie Kendrick, owner of CompanyClean in Denver, notes that his staff members generally see holiday bonuses between 20-80% of a session from clients. That said, some choose to take a more personal route. 

“Last year, a client found out one of our cleaners had just had a baby and put together a little baby package for them,” he explains. “It was a really sweet gesture and showed they’re truly appreciated.”

The amount of end-of-year tips for housekeepers varies, notes Ryan Knoll, owner of Tidy Casa in Phoenix. “While the cost of one visit is a common guideline for a generous bonus, a $20 tip is generally considered good, and $40 is seen as quite generous in most cases. This can, of course, be adjusted based on the frequency of service and the duties involved.”

What’s the difference between a tip and a bonus for caregivers?

When it comes to a holiday bonus versus a holiday tip, really, it’s just a matter of linguistics, notes LaRowe; but technically, a client gives a tip (think, leaving the change when you get a cup of coffee) and an employer administers a bonus.

That being said, a bonus for a caregiver who is also a household employee is considered part of your caregiver’s compensation and is subject to taxes.

How can I budget for caregiver holiday bonuses?

In order to be prepared for tipping season, Suzy Lins, certified etiquette trainer and founder of The Manners Maven, suggests making a list of all the people that provide you with a service throughout the year, deciding who you’re going to tip and how much. For budgetary purposes, this works best when done earlier on in the year, but can come in handy at any point. 

When deciding which caregivers you’re going to tip and how much, Lins says to focus on who’s had the biggest impact in your daily life. For instance, if you have a nanny that comes daily and a house cleaner that comes monthly, allot more in your bonus budget for the nanny. 

And remember, end-of-care bonuses are meant to show gratitude, and if you don’t have the means for an extra week’s pay, that’s OK. The key is the gesture. “If tipping isn’t in your budget, another option could be to give home-baked goods,” says Lins. “Most everyone appreciates a plate of cookies or treats around the holidays.”

Why are personalized gifts important in addition to bonuses?

Across the board, experts agree that a holiday bonus in the form of cash or a Visa or Mastercard gift card, which can be spent like cash, is preferred above all else. However, these relationships are often very personal, so adding a little something extra can make it feel less like a business transaction and more like, well, a holiday gift. 

“Cash is always the best option for an end-of-year bonus,” notes Lisa Mirza Grotts, a San Francisco-based etiquette expert. “But it’s nice to complement the gift with a small gift and always a personal note of thanks.” 

“When you know someone outside of your working relationship, a gift shows you’ve put some thought into things and that they mean more to you than simply a business relationship,” Avery adds.

What are alternative ideas to giving a bonus when money is tight?

Few people have the means to tip anyone and everyone the max amount during the holidays, which are an already-expensive time of year. That said, you can still show your appreciation. Here are a few expert-approved alternatives to cash:

“Gifts and bonuses don’t need to be over the top,” says Avery. “A card, a bottle of wine, a succulent plant — all of these things are great. The important thing is that you do a little something that shows caregivers that they’re appreciated.”

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