Angie's List: What to know about holiday etiquette

Paul F. P. Pogue
Angie’s List

In the hubbub of the holidays, small points of etiquette and responsibility can easily be overlooked. Tipping, thank-you notes and recycling top the list of things you might not think about that can still add a bit of cheer to your holiday season.

A holiday tree doesn’t reach the end of its life after Dec. 25. Consider recycling or reusing your tree. (Dreamstime)


If there’s a regular plumber, housecleaner or landscaper you rely on, you might wonder whether you should tip them during the holidays. Generally, tipping isn’t expected in the home service trades like it is in the restaurant and personal grooming industries.

Contractors tell us they don’t expect or count on tips because they already charge what they feel is a fair price for the work. That said, they do appreciate them. Tips are a great way to show your appreciation for work well done throughout the year.

If you’re tipping an employee rather than a business owner, make sure the company policy doesn’t forbid them from accepting tips. If you want to offer a different gift to your professional, consider writing a letter to the company owner praising the employee’s work. Or, write a positive online review.


In an age of email and smartphones, thank-you notes may seem like a thing of the past. But this means that a thoughtful, handwritten note carries more meaning now than ever. If you have kids, it’s good to get them started on a good habit early as well!

If you send notes, do so promptly, preferably within a week. Write short and to the point, but try not to be generic.

Be sure to mention the specific gift or action. A quick line about how you plan to use the gift would be appropriate: “The serving tray was very thoughtful, and I’m sure it will get plenty of use at our dinner parties!”

Proofread carefully. You don’t want to ruin an otherwise perfect note with a spelling or grammatical error!


The holidays tend to generate a lot of waste, and if you’re not careful, they can blossom into a full-on celebration of conspicuous consumption! Consider these tips to lower your environmental footprint and be a more considerate steward this season.

Use recycled wrapping paper, and prepare for next year by saving bows and ribbons for reuse. If you buy new paper, choose wrapping paper and holiday cards made from plain paper. You can’t recycle metallic paper or glitter.

When you recycle boxes, break them down flat, and remove large amounts of heavy-duty tape.

If you get a new computer, phone or tablet, consider recycling the old one at a registered e-waste collection site. Or, gift it to someone else who can use it — and take care to securely delete all personal information first.

If you buy a live tree for the holidays, recycle it at season’s end. Most municipalities collect trees in the two weeks following Christmas, so contact your local recycling center. If they don’t, there are many nonprofit organizations that will pick up your tree in exchange for a small donation. Before recycling it, make sure to remove all non-organic décor, such as lights and ornaments.

You can also reuse your tree. It can be chipped for use as ground cover or mulch. Or place the trunk strategically in your garden as a small habitat for birds and squirrels. If you have a pond, you can even submerge a tree to create a habitat for small fish.


Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit