Best Nanny Newsletter in The Wall Street Journal Again

Holiday Nanny Bonus: Cash Is King, But How Much?
By Sue Shellenbarger

As the holidays draw near, many parents are trying to figure out the best year-end gift for a nanny or sitter. While these caregivers might seem like family members much of the time, it is best at holiday-bonus time to think of them as employees.

Although it may seem old, currency is both the most useful and the least risky gift. Some 57% of sitters surveyed recently by the caregiving Web site said cash is what they want most. And 93% of nannies surveyed by “Be the Best Nanny Newsletter,” which caters to full-time professional nannies, said they expect at least a week’s salary as a holiday bonus, plus a thoughtful gift from the children.

For a part-time sitter, SitterCity recommends doubling the care provider’s pay for the last job he or she has before the holidays. For a regular sitter or nanny working more than 20 hours a week, consider doubling the weekly salary for a week before the holidays, SitterCity says.

The “Best Nanny” newsletter reports some eye-popping bonuses — $1,200 on average, ranging as high as $8,000, or even a car leased for the nanny’s personal use.

If you can’t dig that deep – and most parents can’t — explain this to your nanny so she isn’t insulted or wondering if her performance has fallen short, advises Stephanie Felzenberg, executive editor of “Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide.” Nannies talk with each other and compare bonuses, and some are hurt or offended if their holiday gifts fall short of average. Also, make sure your behavior matches your words; nannies can become hurt or resentful if they see their employer families spending big on themselves or other people, then pleading poverty with them, Ms. Felzenberg says.

Gift certificates and gift certificates were nannies’ second choice in the SitterCity survey – but make sure you know your sitter’s preferences before buying one. Gift cards for a favorite restaurant or store, or free tickets to a movie, are useful.

If you can’t afford such payouts, consider other gifts that could be considered a benefit of the job, such as occasional personal use of a family car, frequent flier miles, a good laptop you no longer need, a week at a time-share, or an extra day off. One-third of the sitters surveyed by SitterCity aren’t expecting anything, the survey shows.

And don’t underestimate the value of a heartfelt “thank you” and lots of support on the job. Both SitterCity and a survey by Bob Nelson, an author and speaker on employee motivation, show employees value personal praise, and increased autonomy and authority when they are working, over almost all other kinds of rewards.

Readers, how do you handle the year-end bonus question with your nanny or sitter? Any gifts that have hit the mark? Or fallen short?

Read our post about holiday bonuses and comments by clicking here.


  1. Despite the one person that posted we sound greedy I think the advice is perfect.I just started this new nanny job in August and the family did NOT give me a bonus. I am now on vacation until after the new year and they are in London. They did not give me a bonus before they left.I am not greedy. I took a moderate paying job and work my butt-off. I put 100% into my job! I am exhausted when I arrive home every night! So of course I am hurt I did not get a bonus! The advice from the newsletter for parents to explain why they aren't giving me a bonus would really really help. I am so upset because I work so hard. Why could they have not said "thank you" with a small gift or $100 dollar bill?See, I am not an arrogant ogre, but a stuggling paycheck to paycheck domestic worker just wanting some thanks for my job well done!

  2. I just read The Wall Street Journal article and the comments left after it and the parents do NOT argue with your valid advice.

  3. I agree it is important for parents to think about what their gifts say about how they feel.As long as we don't base our job happiness on the Christmas bonus any gesture of thanks is appropriate.I think WSJ misquoted you because people who comments said some of what Sue wrote. But nontheless, your point was made. Parents need to keep the lines of communication open. When they don't give raises or bonuses the nanny will notice.

  4. I think it is about professionalism. If the nanny is in her chosen career and a professional and the parents can afford a bonus then she ought to get a healthy bonus.For nannies that complain about their jobs and hate the job they might not deserve one.Each and every nanny loves any gift from the children. That is why we are nannies, we love kids.Maria in Miami FL

  5. Best gift I ever got was Broadway tix front row center for me and my boyfriend! Just awesome. I went to NY to visit my family and went to the show then.Michelle Seattle WA

  6. Pretty big difference between the inexperienced part time nannies found on sittercity and professional full time nannies that subscribe to Be the Best Nanny Newsletter.Thank you for informing those that are ignorant of how to treat a professional even if she is a domestic.

  7. I would like the same gifts that I give the family such as scrapbooks or memory books, photos in frames, or items made by the children.Jo Outside of Madison WI

  8. I am glad you are getting knowledge out about our wonderful profession and how we deserve to be compensated. I wish there were even more qualified great professional nannies like the ones that subscribe to your publication.Anne Indiana

  9. I have been at both ends of the spectrum , regarding bonuses, and yes there were times I felt hurt by some employers.But I started to see how they really treated their kids and extended family, and knew some things just couldn't be felt so personally. I know a nanny who is college educated and isn't happy about the direction some things are going with her job. BUT, she is learning to make the best of it, WHY, because for her the other job she had between this one and her previous one was minimum wage, no benefits, in fast food. And part of me can say been there done that, you learn so things over time to make being in this profession better and easier for you.You can't gauge how people are going to end up after the interview. I worked for these people in recent years that sounded wonderful on their portfolio and in phone calls, but then after a few weeks I realized they are cheap, I'm doing my best, and I just can't do this.This is where I learned to take an even tougher stance regarding interviewing families on their philosophies as much as they interview me. Did more behavorial interviewing questions. And, tried to ignore the economy for a little longer instead of jumping at a job because it was better than not being unemployed like some.Once I got the job, I decided okay now I'm not just going to do it well. I'm going to continue to develop my resume in other ways to make myself marketable in the future. I continued volunteer work with kids. I networked in the neighborhood. I have pursued coursework.If you aren't happy with your job, then working on improving yourself to move on to something else.Lisa

  10. All this being said I still want a heartfelt gift. The George Foreman grill won't cut it. Bonus is more important but I think my feelings will get hurt if I don't get something with some thought in it.

  11. We are a host family and coordinator with Cultural Care Au Pair. With our au pairs, we have always given one week's stipend and a few souvenir type items, to help her remember her time with us, such as a T-shirt. We always had the kids make something for our au pair as well, and given our au pair a photo of the kids in a cute frame. Because au pairs live with a host family, we have had most of our au pairs around over the holidays, and so my family has also given our au pairs gifts — iTunes gift cards, purses, that way they have stuff to open on Christmas along with the whole family. We also make sure that we fill up her stocking too!

  12. I am glad to see you are getting some info out about how to properly treat and respect nannies. We provide an important skill and perform importnat tasks allowing parents to contribute to the American economy.Naysayers should realize that my holiday bonus is my life's blood. I am sure it is for other occupations too. It is important to inform parents that nannies deserve appreciation for their hard and most important work. Praises and thank-yous are often more important. But if the parents truly respect and appreciate their caregiver the best way to show that is a gift from the kids and cash.For those who have hired less professional, inexperienced, or unqualified nannies I agree they may not deserve a bonus. I can honestly say I do not know those nannies. The people who care for your children (daycare, teachers, nannies, au pairs) deserve a bonus.Nothing wrong if parents can't afford it. Just explain why. Nannies are sympathetic and around to help. Doubtful they will leave a great family caring for children they lobe if the parents are in a bind one Christmas season.Nancy, Nanny of Two10 Yrs ExpRichmond VA

  13. I meant to write "love" not lobe above. Caregivers leave parents they don't like, not children they LOVE was my point.Nancy

  14. I will never be disappointed with a gift. I was once diappointed with a low bonus but the family just was not aware of what is expected with a professional nanny rather than just a sitter. I never said anything, but I remember, I wanted to cry.

  15. The best gifts are craft books and anything I can do with the kids. Does NOT have to be expensive. But, at least something. I love the Coach and Channel handbags I have been given but the inexpensive craft books are just as good.I do actually expect at least $1,000 for bonus. Since I have worked as a nanny since 1998 I never got lower than $1,000 for bonus. But I never expected it either. I guess if I didn't get it this year I would notice and it would hurt my feelings actually.Chicago area nanny

  16. I think Bob Nelson's point is good too. If the parents do not allow you freedom to accomplish your tasks in your own way, in your own time and more importantly don't back you up when you discipline the job will be unbearable.No nanny, parent or child is perfect. But if the parents undermine the nanny no bonus or gift will make up for the feeling of not being appreciated at the job.Texas Rose Nanny

  17. How about getting bonus a little early? My employers already gave me my bonus because I can now use it to tip the people I need to also, as well as use it to buy gifts. I would never complain about getting it Christmas Eve, but I really appreciate getting it two weeks early.

  18. First if you google holiday tipping you will find most sites actually suggest one to three weeks salary as average nanny tip.Next, my bonus arrived in a check ending with .62 cents and must say it did take me back. See twenty dollar bills in a card seems much more warm then an amount ending in less than .00 cents that must be taxed. Makes the bonus seem like a chore rather than a gift.Finally, I won't say anything to the parents that would just be rude. I appreciate their generosity. I love the job, love having a job, and am greatful to have a job. It would be wrong to complain. That said it is still weird getting a check not cash not ending in a rounded number.Bonus is one third less because I will pay taxes on it. As much as publications like this boast nannies should pay on the books, here I am taking home much less than my friends because of it.

  19. I wouldn't complain about the bonus being on the books. Most families that even pay taxes with their nannies (most by far do not pay taxes) under report how much they actually make. If the nanny ever needs disability or unemployment they will get a higher benefit than when they under report how much they actually earn.Do not blame parents for paying you legally. Be happy you have a job and hopefully may get to save sometime soon too.

  20. I know a nanny in town that complains because she gets $1,000 holiday bonus each year for the past 6 yars and it has never increased.Suburb of NYC in NJ

  21. Good to see your positive image for nannies getting out into the media. Keep up the good work. Thank you for such a great resource. I thank you for inspiring me to be a better nanny.

  22. Warning to parents my nanny friends and I were out tonight and we all compared bonuses.

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