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What to spend on your dog walker or nanny these holidays Add to ...

As a kid, I always enjoyed buying gifts for my mom, dad and brother but these days gift-giving is not as simple. I enjoy shopping for my hubby and kids (in fact, picking out toys is extremely enjoyable), but I certainly can't do all my shopping for under $40, the way I used to at age eight.

Not to be all bah-humbug about it, but when I look at my swelling “to-shop-for” list, I can't help but wonder if I really need to be buying for - or gifting envelopes of cash to - everyone who's on it.

I recently came across a post about “ Holiday Tipping Guidelines for 2011” on Gifts.com, where they outlined the “proper Christmas tipping etiquette” for the non-friends-and-family that we often gift at holiday time, from babysitters to doormen to hairstylists.

I compared with a few other similar posts, and here's a compilation of some of the suggested amounts for holiday tips and gifts, based on guides posted on EmilyPost.com, CNBC.com, Gifts.com and Walletpop.ca:

Nanny: one week's pay Babysitter: one or two night's pay Teacher: gift, not cash - value of $20 to $100 Housekeeper: one week's pay Hairstylist: one visit's pay Personal trainer: cost of one session Mail/newspaper carrier: $10-$30 Dog walker: one week's pay Private caregiver: one week's pay Daycare staff: $25-$70 for each staff member (or gift)

If you think this list is comprehensive, there are many, many more categories listed, like massage therapist, manicurist, dog groomer, doorman, trash collector, pool cleaner (clearly for people in warmer climes). If you follow these “rules,” Christmas will cost you hundreds of extra dollars, before you even get to the people you actually love.

But is this really the kind of extra money we all should be shelling out each December, particularly if we're feeling the financial pinch?

Probably not, says Kelley Keehn, financial expert and author of The Money Book for Everyone. “It's the pressure of the season and it kind of infuriates me,” she said.

Though she admits that it can be a very delicate thing to handle, she says there's no set rules when it comes to what you should spend on the “other” people in your lives.

“Most people want to get a little something for the teacher, the babysitter, the hairdresser, but I think too you have to realize that not everyone needs to get a gift,” she said. “A few years ago, a lot of companies were barely keeping the doors open and employees have to remember too, it's a tough time for everyone.”

Ms. Keehn suggests families decide together who is really important to them and give those people a gift.

For people who interact with your children regularly, like teachers and babysitters, Ms. Keehn says a homemade gift or card, perhaps made by your kids, is appropriate. And if you do invest in a gift, something small and personal, such as an iTunes card for a music lover or an amazing olive oil for a cooking enthusiast, can be just as thoughtful as something extravagant.

She says too many people blindly spend because they feel obligated, without considering their financial situation.

“I don't think most people have a budget,” she said. “They throw stuff on credit cards and they don't think it through and they don't realize that really, do you want to be dealing with this in January?”

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