Holiday Bonus: What to Give the Nanny?

Best Nanny Newsletter was quoted in the Wall Street Journal:

Recently, we discussed guidelines around gifts for classroom teachers and other folks who help us with our juggles. But if you’re still pondering what to get your child’s babysitter, nanny or tutor as a holiday gift, in this tough economy, I have one word for you:


When I asked our family’s tutor what he’d like this holiday season, he asked straight-out for a cash bonus. Even though cash isn’t exactly the most personal gift, as we’ve discussed before, currency is the No. 1 choice of nannies and sitters too, based on a poll by the sitter-finding site The No. 2 pick was multi-purpose gift cards from such vendors as or American Express, followed by bath and body products, gourmet food items or clothes, writes Genevieve Thiers, SitterCity’s CEO.

“Nannies expect at least a week’s salary as a bonus,” says Stephanie Felzenberg, executive editor of “Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide.” During these tough economic times, if you can’t afford this Ms. Felzenberg says, you should “speak to the nanny so that she isn’t insulted” or left wondering whether her performance has fallen short. Nannies also like “any gift that could be considered a benefit of the job,” such as help with the car or health insurance.

Among other ideas, says Judi Merlin, director of A Friend of the Family Home Services, Athens, Ga., a placement agency, are spa services, a gym membership or tickets to a concert or show. Other possibilities: frequent flier miles, a tuition payment, a time-share week, a gas card or help buying a computer. If your budget won’t stretch any farther, consider a gift of time; wangle a few hours off work and fill in for your nanny for a while.

Of course, nannies and sitters also appreciate gifts that bespeak their bond with the children — a photo book, scrapbook or locket with the child’s photo, says Pat Cascio, owner of Morningside Nannies, a Houston agency.

Any other good – or not-so-good – ideas as nanny, sitter or tutor gifts or bonuses?


  1. I would love a laptop computer. Parents should think about laptops as a great gift for live-in nannies so they can use email to communicate with friends and family that live far away. Other great gifts include: a personal cell phone with one year cell phone usage, annual car insurance, and rent for an apartment shows the nanny is important to parents.

  2. I want plane tickets for a trip home as a holiday present. I am a live-in nanny and moved to the west coast from the mid-west for a year.The parents know I am home-sick. Best present would be plane tickets home. They don’t even drive me to the airport I have to pay for a taxi myself when I go home this Christmas.I am glad to read these tips though because I wasn’t aware that I would be getting a bonus. Now I know in the future to expect one and even include it in my contract if I nanny again.Homesick Nanny

  3. Tell parents to pay the cash bonus in cash! Please, why do we need to pay taxes on bonuses? I wish presents could be tax-free. Do you really think the governmnet is going to “catch” just that thousand dollars in bonus?

  4. I’m a dad, probably first dad to comment. I appreciate the ideas expressed. Some of my holiday ideas get stale from year to year.For the nanny above: I think the reason parents pay the bonus as part of the year’s salary is because that’s what all legal paying citizens do. Do you think the parents aren’t getting their bonuses taxed? It’s just a fact of life working in America.And to other parents: I once read in the newsletter and I think it’s important to consider that no one wants to work for a cheap boss. So don’t be too stingy.Dad boss of terrific nanny

  5. My favorite gift was a small table-sized Christmas tree with $100 dollar bills rolled up and tied with ribbons as ornaments. The kids and I started counting the money so excited. Thank you thank you thank you and that money was not taxes since it was a literal money tree!!!!

  6. To put the amount in perpsective: assuming you are paying your nanny for a full year, one week’s pay is 1.92% of a year. Many of us are/have been in bonusable positions and I know a 2% bonus would be scoffed at most years. Even 2 weeks of pay is only 3.85% on top of annual base pay. One way to ease the end-of-year burden of perhaps 2 weeks pay is to set aside 4% of her weekly pay in a separate account every week. Just like the old ‘Christmas Clubs’ banks used to have. That’s fair, from single dad and nanny employer

  7. We always pay our nanny 2 weeks pay and round that up for an end of year bonus. It may be too generous for some. I understand some parents cannot afford that. But if it’s too expensive then they shouldn’t hire a nanny and find other childcare alternatives. We have had more than five years with an amazing nanny. We have three children, so it’s a big job. Nannies are on the bottom of the pay scale (not the top) and the money means so much more to nannies then the same amount means to me. I could not work if it weren’t for all her help. I come home late from work she doesn’t complain, I forget to clean up my dishes, she doesn’t complain, when the kids stay home from school she doesn’t complain. The least I could do is say “Thank you” and offer the one thing she really appreciates — money. I am delighted to see her happy and hear what she was choosing to do with the money each year. I couldn’t bear knowing my employee was complaining about how cheap I am to others. It is a really tough and invaluable job. My annual landscaping bill was more than the bonus, she deserves at least as much as my lawn. Even if I have over-tipped, it’s a small price to pay for household happiness and stability. My kids would certainly suggest giving her even more!

  8. I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that this lady canned her help for botox or that she was so unashamed to admit that botox is more important than her family and the family of her nanny. Very, very sad comment on our society.

  9. Sorry the above was to be placed under previous article Fri Dec 12th “When the Going Gets Tough, Some People Lay Off the Nanny”

  10. I love subscribing to the newsletter because it is nice to know other people take the nanny profession seriously too. I like having other nanny friends. I am happy to read employers respect their nannies. I didn’t include any info about annual raises or end of year bonus in my contract. How do I start the conversation now?Nanny Jenn

  11. I am a parent and I’ve been reading posts on the Wall Street Journal blog and here. Nannies, if you are paying taxes and your taxes are being withheld as requried by law by the parents, do you prefer the holiday bonus in cash and not included in your annual salary? I am worried about not including the gift of money as taxable salary. Am I the only parent that worries about these things?We give a generous bonus but I always wrestle with what’s appropriate from a tax standpoint. I know our nanny has less shopping money because we include the holiday bonus as compensation, but it is the legal thing to do. My bonus is taxed. IRS would see it as compensation, not as a gift. Any advice nannies?Dad asking About Taxing Bonuses

  12. Dad asking about taxes. My advise forget the fact that she is a nanny and this time of the year treat her as a member of the family or a good family friend– who says you can not put cash in a nice card and leave it at that. You are sweet to worry but somethings don’t have to be overthought. Would you worry about giving a non-employed friend cash for Christmas? Just a thought and good luck with your decision

  13. I don’t think the nanny has a right to complain about any money being taxed, even though I do understand why s/he might prefer it not be taxable income. Legally it’s income, so s/he cannot complain. I understand the issue though, especially when so many domestic workers choosing to work “under the table.” My advice to parents paying bonuses “on the table” is to let the nanny know how much you are paying gross, if there’s a way to do that appropriately. S/he needs to see how much you are paying out of pocket rather than just the percentage s/he gets after taxes are withheld. But, is there a proper way to do this? I’m not sure? Sort of unusual to say “Here’s your gift. By the way, a few hundred are being withheld because your gift is being taxed.” ??? I don’t think any other worker has their bosses saying that to them.Nannies should remember that taxed income is going into their unemployment and disability and social security.As a nanny I personally won’t complain getting any extra money, taxed or untaxed, especially in this turbulent economy.Nanny Norma from NJ

  14. Do aupairs get a large bonus too?

  15. Anonymous above: Why not give au pair big bonus for great work and good attitude! They are caring for your most precious children too. Keep au pair happy too!Re: taxing bonuses: I prefer extra gift not taxed but what can I do … it’s the law?!

  16. Frankly, I don’t want my bonus paid on the books either, but you cannot say not to when it’s the law.I don’t actually know anyone who has been laid off or had their pay cut this year. But had I lost my bonus at work I would just tell my nanny it’s a rough time and I didn’t get my bonus at work. We appreciate her hard work and if she could wait we could give her a bonus in three months or this summer.

  17. This article link here says one week to one month salary for holiday tipping for nannies one week salary bonus for au pairs.

  18. Paying taxes is a part of life. And for me, a part of being a nanny. People in other professions / occupations don’t get to pick and choose when they are going to have taxes withheld so I find it impossible to justify why I should. Especially when I look at friends who work in other childcare fields who don’t even get a bonus. So rather than focus what I’m losing by paying taxes, I focus on being thankful I have a good job and in this year’s economy, a extra something during the holidays.Lora Brawley

  19. Parents and nannies don’t get stingy or worry about taxing gifts. End of year bonus is compensation. Paying taxes is a good thing in case you lose your job (unemployment) or have an accident or illness and need to go on disability. In the future I will consider the comments made above though and be sure to give my nanny some cash bills in a card instead. I just never thought of it. I like the christmas / money tree idea too! Thanks, Single Mom That Loves Her Nanny

  20. Most people do not have one week to one month’s salary worth of cash to put in a card. I did once got a dozen $100 dollar bills on a small Christmas tree like described by another nanny above too. So I guess it’s possible to have that much in cash, but typically the parents have paid me my holiday bonuse with a check. It has not ever been taxed. Weird they never thought they would get “caught” for not including the gift in my annual salary. More nannies than we know work under the table and are paid in cash all the time. Cannot complain if it’s taxed though. H.B.

  21. I am a nanny and my bonus is taxed I get a pay stub for it just like I do for my work week I get paid in cash. It is always better to be safe then sorry. sara

  22. I totally have to agree with Sara. P.C.

  23. You are right it does need to be taxed. I for one wish it did not but it is considered compensation by law. You are doing the right thing. Your nanny will more than likely respect you for it. Nanny D.

  24. I just feel like I worked for so long and so hard to get my employers to pay me “on the books” that I’m actually glad to be paying taxes. I would like a higher percentage to take home of course. But, if I were to need disability or unemployment I’d want it available for me. Since I am an American I deserve to be paid “on the books.” I will take the GIFT bonus no matter how I get it (taxed or not). Nanny K.R.

  25. I do want the moncy bonus most. But my favorite gifts have been designer handbags like: Yves Saint Laurent and Coach. I have exchanged them though and I’m not sure if that has insulted my mom boss, but those were my favorite gifts received because I cannot afford them on my own. Gift certificates to stores I don’t typically shop at because I cannot afford them are great. I have not liked getting manicures because my hands are too dry and bleed from cleaning their home and manicure just makes it worse. Obviously it was a nice gesture though since the family doesn’t know about my not liking manicures. My biggest problem is not overspending on the parents and kids I work for. I feel so guillty they give me so much that I overspend on them. Personally I want a cash bonus and I wish I didn’t have to pay taxes at all. Of the nannies I know most are paid under the table I wish the parents didn’t make me pay taxes to fund an immoral war, fund wall street bail-out, and so on. I need money now and they take nearly one-third of my salary right now.

  26. The fact that the discussion of an article about holiday gifts and bonuses has turned into a discussion about paying taxes doesn't sound quite like the Christmas spirit in which presents are given. The reasons to pay taxes are many and the benefits of paying taxes are great. I want American nannies (like myself) to realize that they do not differentiate themselves from illegal aliens if they don't pay taxes. You are protected by paying taxes in case you are hurt, unemployed, and social security is there for when you retire. Plus, I don't mind helping to fund public schools, healthcare (medicaid & medicare), and defense spending. Yes, there is a problem that I don't have healthcare but am paying for medicaid and medicare. Granted most Americans want our soildiers home and out of the war. The idea of having to pay for war infuriates me. But, while the soldiers are deployed I want them funded and taken care of. I want VETs to have the mental and physical healthcare they need and deserve once they arrive home. Taxes are a good thing (even if we all wished we were contributing in moderation). If you are an American, pay your taxes. If not, that's an ungiving spirit of Christmas itself. We cannot just take and not give back. Our government helps protect us. We have a responsibility to help it running.Happy Holidays and if you are an American citizen pay your taxes!

  27. I got a live table tops sized Christmas tree with $100 dollar bills tied with ribbon on the branches for my bonus.I guess the parents I work for do read these ideas! Happy Holidays! Nanny Meg

  28. Plane tickets home or vacations, tuition payment, car insurance, car down payment, gifts that could also be considered as benefits are my best ideas.

  29. I got gifts but no bonus because I am part-time, which isn’t fair to part-time employees, I don’t think. Oh well, at least I have a job.

  30. I have been a nanny for a long time, and for several families. I know I am an excellent nanny. Unfortunatley, in my experience over the many years, many families do not generally give their nannies good holiday bonus. It does hurt when you’ve been with them for years and years, but as long as I am paid well and respected the rest of the year, I don’t let it bother me too much.

  31. Just remember that nannies don’t typically have the 401K’s and benefits the parents that hire them typically have. I am using my nanny holiday bonus to purchase things like my membership to professional organizations, pay my health insurance premium, prescription costs, car payment, car insurance, and so on. It’s true, I waited for the bonus to pay off these enormous bills.The parents I work for get a car leased and gas paid by their employers. They get a cell phone to use for work. The parents I work for have health insurance provided by their employers and a 401K. And guess what? I work in Manhattan and so do my parent employers!! The BOTH work for the companies bailed-out by the government!!! They are doing just fine.I have similar expenses but on my much lower salary. Not that I expect to make $600,000 working as a nanny either. I’m always going to be in a lower “class” and receive lower pay than them. But the bonus means a lot since I wait for it before paying essential things I need that are very expensive that many parents may take for granted.All that said, I love my nanny job and the family I work for. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong. I would stay even if they had to lower my bonus this year. If nannies and parents communicate effectively the nanny will stay through tough times.P.S.: I got a GREAT bonus (more than 3 weeks salary) and lovely gifts. I am very fortunate. I am sincerely grateful. I just hope the parents I work for know how much I appreciate their generousity. I wish all nannies could love their jobs as much as me and their parent employers appreciated them as much as the family I work for values me!Happy Holidays!

  32. Parents: You get what you pay for! Don’t be cheap! Don’t create a resentful caregiver!

  33. Cash is the way to go for holiday bonuses. But I still like a few thoughtful gifts from the kids. I’m shocked so many nannies want to pay taxes. I would think we don’t make enough to send 20% or more to the government. L.D. on East Coast

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