By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — During the holidays, many of us thank the people who have helped us throughout the year. According to a Consumer Reports survey from the 2011 holiday season, a little less than half of Americans tip during the holidays — sometimes, it’s with cash, gift cards, home-baked cookies and gifts.

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So who should we tip during the holidays and how much should we give?

“It’s overwhelming to a lot of people, because where do you draw the line?” said Liz Taylor, the president of Etiquette Principles.

She says a good rule of thumb is to tip for one unit of service. For example, if one visit to hairdresser costs $50, that would be an appropriate tip. A week’s pay for a housecleaner or nanny is also considered a good standard.

“It’s really a case-by-case situation, depending on your relationship with that person: what exactly they did for you, and, most importantly, your budget,” Taylor said.

The Emily Post Institute does offer recommendations, with the reminder that these are not rules.

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When it comes to newspaper carriers and trash collectors: $10-$30. Handyman: $15-$40 Mail Carrier: A small gift in the $20 range. The USPS doesn’t allow cash tips or gifts above $20.

“We do a lot of gift cards, Starbucks cards,” Joe Peter said.

When it comes to a child’s teacher, Taylor says research shows they like gifts cards. She suggests goodie bags of candles and chocolates if you want to give to all of the teachers in a daycare or preschool.

“We plan for it,” said Nicole Schluender of Minneapolis. “It’s part of what we do. We plan our giving.”

Consumer Reports found housecleaners are tipped the most and most often during the holidays – about $50. They are followed by teachers, hairdresser and newspaper carrier – about $20/each. The least likely to get tipped it the garbage collector.

In total, it can add up to hundreds of dollars at the end of year. So, what if your budget can’t handle the extra pressure during the holidays?

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“I always go back to the sincere note of thanks, let them know that you genuinely appreciate everything they did for you throughout the year,” Taylor said.

Heather Brown