To tip or not to tip - and if so, how much? Here, a general guideline.

Tipping is a personal decision, and a controversial one. Many people feel that tipping isn't necessary -- after all, isn't it up to employers to determine how much a person's labour is worth and if a holiday bonus is appropriate?

And we can't ignore the budget constraints. When many people are cutting back on gifts for family and friends, does it make sense to give to service providers you barely know? And with charities and churches to consider, there's already a lot of financial pressure to give.

On the other hand, many people do want to tip the service providers in their lives, especially ones with whom they have a personal connection like a care provider or teacher. It's a chance to say thank you or express appreciation -- or to reward good service and maintain a good professional relationship.

RELATED POST: Ask the Butler: Tipping the Concierge

If you do decide to tip, how much is appropriate? Here's a general guideline from the Emily Post Institute.

- Live-in help and personal caregivers: One week to one month's pay in cash, plus a gift from you (or your children, in the case of nannies).

- Babysitters: one evening's pay plus a gift from the children.

- Private nurse, home health care employees and nursing home staff: a personal gift.

- Housekeeper or cleaner: up to one week's pay and/or a small gift.

- Barber, hairdresser or beauty salon staff: cash or gift equal to the cost of one session or haircut.

- Personal trainers, pet groomers, massage therapists, etc: up to the cost of one session, or a gift.

- Superintendent: $20-$80, or a gift.

- Recycling/trash collectors: $10-$30 each (check with your municipality first).

- Newspaper delivery person: cash or gift of around $10-$30.

- Doorman and elevator operators: $15-$80.

- Mail carriers: a gift, if allowed. (Check with your municipality.)

In addition, tips and gifts should ideally be accompanied by a brief, hand-written note. (Read the full guide from the Emily Post Institute.

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Elizabeth Rogers