Holiday Bonus, Tip, or End of Year Cash Gift? (Poll)

by cv harquail on December 18, 2009

200912181801.jpg 200912181801.jpg_g_images_spaceball.gifI’ve been reluctant to bring this topic up again because last year the idea of giving your Au Pair a holiday cash gift or top really seemed to freak people out.

Check the earlier posts before you go wild:

How much should you tip your Au Pair at Christmas?

200912181809.jpgHowever, I got two emails from host moms who want to know how many people give their au pairs extra cash at New Years/Christmas/Holidays, and how much they typically give.

Some important background here:

  • In every list you see of “who to tip and how much” at “The Holidays” there is a mention of Nannies & Au Pairs. Now, granted, nannies and au pairs are very different kinds of caregivers, but in the eyes of people who don’t know the difference (and who write these lists) they lump them together.
  • And, the suggested amount? One to two weeks pay, based on how long they have worked with you.

Also — the idea of a tip may feel awkward, or the idea of a bonus might feel awkward, or the idea of giving your au pair cash might feel awkward. Be sure to tell us which part of the idea bothers you- or makes sense to you.


Let’s go to the polls. Notice that they unfold in a logic, so read each question before clicking.

Will you be giving your Au Pair extra cash this Holiday/New Year?

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How much do you expect to spend on Au Pair gifts & bonuses, total, this holiday?

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If you ARE giving her extra cash, are you giving her ...

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If you are giving her cash, how much do you think you'll give her?

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Anonymous December 18, 2009 at 8:19 pm

well, darn. I was going to give her cash, but then when the au pair said on the “Holiday Gifts for Au Pairs” thread that she’d rather have a nice, thoughtful gift, I went out and did some shopping and spent the cash. So now I’m not sure what to do.

CV December 18, 2009 at 9:09 pm

This is the situation where “it all depends” !!! Doesn’t matter whether it’s cash or things– it’s whether you (or anyone) tried to be thoughtful.

For the AP saving money for a vacation trip, cash might be ‘thoughtful’. For an AP who loves makeup, maybe that Sephora gift set is the thing. It all depends. cv

PA au pair mom December 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

We give our AP a combo of gifts and gift cards (just like cash). I think cash, for me, is a little too impersonal. I think it seems like, “i didn’t want to take the time or effort to shop for you, so I am giving you cash”. I understand though that in some situations that would be the gift of choice for APs. I guess it all depends on your situation and your relationship with your AP.

Sota Gal December 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Our au pairs arrive in December, so it is often difficult to choose a personal gift… While I knew that my first AP was a clothes horse, it was difficult to get a feel for her style (as well as convert the sizes when I peeked at her clothes in the laundry) within the week or two I had before Christmas so I tried to guess on what she might like and I also bought some things that I considered to be good american basics. My newest AP is saving her money for a Mac so she’ll probably get a gift card for the Apple store as well as the classes there. We also go for a small easy to bring home ornament and a holiday decoration made with the kids hand and foot prints. Stockings I do gift cards for places they frequent or that I think they’ll enjoy based on their personality and interests, along with lip glosses, hand creme, hair accessories and chocolates. After that I go with cash, usually given at a separate time, unless they are saving for something specific. One AP was planning a vacation to Mexico with her friends so her cash was buried in a box of sand.

au pair December 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Haha, that last part sounds like an awesome idea!

Jenny December 19, 2009 at 3:25 pm

We got our au pair a nice winter jacket and gloves, since she wants to try her hand at Mt Hood this year, skiing and snowshoeing this year and her jacket isn’t nearly warm enough. I got something I thought she would like as well as made sure she could return it for a different style of color. I shopped at the Columbia Outlet so that is was a $200 jacket for $59.99. Then I got some personal gifts, an Ornament of a German Flag and one of a US Flag, I had them personalized, “2009 My Christmas with the H Family” & “2009-Our Christmas with S” She will take the US Flag home and we will keep the German flag as our reminder of a special holiday with her. I also got her stocking stuffers of little things she needed. I was planning to give her an additional $50 or so cash, I don’t think cash is impersonal, I do wish that we could give her more, and hope that it doesn’t seem small (maybe in comparison to what her friends get). She is saving for some trips so we planned to “earmark” it for her, saying this is to add to your savings for xyz trip, if she decides to use it elsewhere that is fine with us.

Of all the things we give her, I think the ornament will be her favorite, just because that’s the great Au Pair we have! :)

au pair in germany December 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

My host parents gave me two weeks pay and a small gift set from a German Christmas market (sweets, chocolate, liquor and a mug.) I’m not sure if the money was meant as a Christmas present or if it was just my usual pocket money – I only worked two weeks this month because they’re going on holiday and said I could go home for Christmas. I’m treating it as a present, though :) They also gave me small presents for everyone in my family.

Hula Gal December 19, 2009 at 6:13 pm

We are not giving our au pair cash. She is getting an extra two weeks vacation over Christmas since we are going out of the country. We paid for her plane ticket to see her friends which she was happy about. And some small items for her stocking. (about $150 total) Anything more than that would have been a lot more than we spent on anyone else in the family so this seemed about right. We try to be thoughtful but not over do it with anyone when it comes to gifts. One or two weeks pay was more than we thought was appropriate to spend.

Hula Gal December 21, 2009 at 11:36 am

just to follow up – we had our Christmas celebration early this year do to our upcoming trip and our au pair was very pleased. I believe she was as happy to be a part of our celebration as she was to have a stocking and a gift to open. This is our first Christmas with an au pair and I think I have really firmed my belief that the best au pairs want to participate and be thought of by way of having a gift to open and a filled stocking. I believe that the dollar amount of the items is not as important when their heart is in the right place.

Anna December 19, 2009 at 8:03 pm

This year I am not giving cash (last year I did, to the au pair who always seemed to not have enough material things, and expect from us more than we could give). I cannot really afford cash right now.
But I did spend about $140 total for a bunch of Hanukkah and Christmas gifts (we are Jewish, so didn’t want her to feel left over when my kids were getting presents, so she got hers split into two occasions).

NoVA Host Mom December 19, 2009 at 8:36 pm

We are not giving a specific tip or cash bonus this year to our AP, but we tend to give her a little bonus from time to time all year long (when we travel, a little extra spending money, or a “just because” type of thank you). We are doing gifts (I shop sales like mad anyway) for the holidays. I guess it will likely depend on the relationship with the AP and such that will determine what we do each year with each AP.

We also recently bought her a new winter coat (more appropriate for our climate than the one she arrived with from Central America) and tend to do little things like that. She does a lot for us and really does an amazing job with our daughter, so we tend to be more willing to do a bit extra for her year round. This was not the case with our first AP, who lasted only 4 months.

CT Au Pair December 19, 2009 at 8:53 pm

One good topic can be: Do Au Pairs pay taxes??? Anyone know? I am in CT but my LCC couldn’t give me and answer! Can you help, please?!

DC Mom December 20, 2009 at 1:34 am

Au pairs do not pay taxes, because their weekly pay is not officially a salary. they are in the US on a student visa, and the $200 or so per week is a “stipend” for incidentals.
Shame on your LCC for not being able to tell you this!

franzi December 20, 2009 at 8:03 am

DC Mom’s answer is right, APs do not pay taxes but that does not mean that none on a j-1 visa pays taxes. it’s just the special AP situation

Anna December 20, 2009 at 11:01 am

Actually, au pairs DO pay taxes.
Every year or LCC sends out a reminder. They have to fill out tax forms and pay taxes on the stipend they earned.

MommyMia December 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Right, it’s tricky and there are many ways of doing it. Our agency says to “check with your accountant regarding the laws of your state,” but technically, they are your employee and you should be witholding from their wages. You can choose to pay this yourself rather than ding them, and I expect that most don’t file tax returns to get a refund, although we do give them the paperwork and instruct them how to do so, if they desire.

AnnaAuPair December 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm

As this doesn’t really fit in here, I asked CV to maybe open a topic about this ’cause I know that a lot of AuPairs and HF are confused about paying or not paying taxes.

Anna December 20, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Not really, we are not required to do withholding. But they are required to fill out the form 1040NR-EZ,,id=96420,00.html

Anonymous December 22, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Confusing & rarely pleasant. Now planned for Jan 10 ! cv

Janet December 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Check w/ someone who knows, but I applied for an employer TIN and I give our AP’s a W-2. I file a W-4 (a summary page) with the Social Security Administration along with copies of the AP’s W-2 and also file the amount paid and taxes w/held on 1040 Schedule H filed with the IRS. At first this was confusing, but I have figured out what I should do. I don’t anyone to ever come back and say we didn’t do our taxes correctly. I usually pay the withholding amount out of my own pocket but base the withholding on the tax tables or how much the AP would owe for the year.

MTR December 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm

We gave our Au Pair an early Christmas gift when we gave her a new camera before Thanksgiving. She was going on a trip over the Thanksgiving weekend and she did not have a camera. We got her one and let her know that it was an early Christmas gift as we were planning to get it for her for Christmas anyway. Now, for Christmas we will get her a small gift card, probably around $20 just so she has something. Her birthday is also coming up in early January, so I cannot go a spend hundred’s of $$ in such a short period of time.

We are Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas. We also did not get her a Chanukah gift. Only kids get Chanukah gifts in our family. However, I just got back from a business trip on the first night of Chanukah and brought her same souvenirs that I brought kids.

We are still undecided of what we will get her for her birthday.

anonmom December 20, 2009 at 1:03 pm

We do not give cash, but I probably end up spending more than the weekly salary buying our au pairs gifts. Christmas is a big celebration in our family, and since Santa brings us gifts- children and adults, Santa has to bring the au pair gifts, too. The past few years our au pair has gotten an ipod, along with assorted stocking stuffers- gloves, candy, slippers, etc.

Janet December 20, 2009 at 10:31 pm

We usually give stocking stuffers, a gift like a sweater or pajama’s, and the rest in cash.

Sara Duke December 20, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Our au pairs (we have had them for the past 7 of the 8 past Christmases – the only exception was when we gutted our house to create a handicapped accessible wing for our daughter) have traditionally recieved $150 in cash (this has not changed because of the increase in the cost of gifts), a Chanukah present (I try to keep this under $5 because we also celebrate Christmas), a Christmas stocking filled with warm socks, gift cards, chocolates, etc., and Christmas presents (appropriate attire, things suited to their personality, etc.) By the end of the day, we have usually spent about $300 I suppose. Why do we do this – our au pair is lifting our special needs child (54 pounds and counting) up on a changing table and changing her diapers, then feeding her two meals a day, plus keeping an eye out for her because she’s medically fragile (and quite frankly doing a better job than nurses have done). We’re not rich, but we are grateful.

For our au pairs birthday, the answer is, it depends. If it’s clear that she is not extending with us, then she gets a box to fill as she pleases and we send home airmail (it usually costs us $150). If she’s extending, then we purchase appropriate birthday gifts for the season, with the addition of a little cash.

I personally don’t think giving the au pair cash is a bad thing. It permits them to spend money as they please (and I can tell you most of ours have spent it on taking extra classes — or the TEOFL test). Personally, what I do think is hard for au pairs is sitting around the tree with their host families is only getting cash while everyone else opens presents (especially if they have arrived recently and are especially homesick).

My parents always send our au pairs gifts. I encourage family members who are celebrating the holidays with us to include our au pairs.

Personally, I think of the cash tip as extra, not as a “gift.” I wouldn’t necessarily give it to an au pair who was merely OK. Frankly, every one of our au pairs have had to give more than 100% because we have a medically fragile and retarded child. Our cash tip is a means to say thank you for caring enough about our children to do your job well. In my opinion, any au pair that engages children, asks if there is more work needed, and does what is asked willingly, deserves a tip without begrudging it of her.

Darthastewart December 21, 2009 at 1:41 pm

I notice that there are several host families with medically fragile kids. How has that worked out for you? How hard has it been to find an AP for that child?

Sara Duke December 22, 2009 at 9:01 am

We have had 5 au pairs: a pediatric intensive care nurse, a special ed teacher, a child psychologist, a child recreation planner, and now another teacher. Note, all have direct experience with children before they applied for the au pair program (we ignore the business majors who get just enough babysitting experience to be eligible). Three have been “Au Pair Extraordinnaires” which give them a higher rate of pay.

It has not hard to find au pairs willing to care for our daughter. I think she helps us select young women who are truly interested in children. When we first started looking there was no emailing au pairs — we had to telephone them blind. Now, we email candidates, and tell them directly that we have a handicapped child and would like to interview them. We offer them an opportunity to contact our current au pair.

We are generous with our au pairs – we expect them to behave like adults and all have risen to the occasion. We don’t have a curfew, we provide a car, we rarely ask them to work 45 hours per week (now that both kids are in school), we have an open door policy for guests (including boyfriends), and make every attempt to include them in family activities. We don’t feel like they trample on our good will – what we get is excellent care for our daughter.

Three years ago we gutted our house to create a handicapped accessible bed and bath for our daughter, and to make the floor plan easier for her to navigate. We couldn’t have an au pair for a year and during that time we went through 25 nurses, including 5 who failed to show up for shift. The bus driver left our daughter in the custody of neighbors — including one who was 9 months pregnant and one who was 72 at the time. Although Medicaid paid for the nursing, it wasn’t “free” — I took 4 hours of leave every time my daughter had a doctor’s appointment because I had to provide two-way transportation, and quite frankly, only one nurse every loved and cuddled my daughter the way all my au pairs have.

I will be very sorry when my son ages out of the program in 5 years. Au pair care has been an excellent model for us — the bumps have been minor when compared with the nursing.

Jane December 21, 2009 at 11:09 am

We give our au pairs lots of presents for Christmas, but we do not give a cash tip, which I also think of as something separate. For Christmas, I spend about $150-$200 on our au pair, which is more than I spend on anyone else in the family, so I think it’s very generous. I try to pick personal gifts that I know they want but wouldn’t buy for themselves. Since our au pairs arrive in the summer, I’ve had plenty of time to get to know them and their likes, which I agree is key. I don’t think I could spend so much on someone I didn’t know well.

Why no cash tip? The thought of a cash tip does make me feel uncomfortable, as this is someone we are treating like family. They are getting paid their stipend and room/board for their work, and as far as a tip, they get lots and lots of extras from living with us, so I don’t think a cash tip is necessary. Our au pairs have all had family stay with us for 2 weeks over Christmas. The extra cost of having extra adults in the house for 2 weeks does add up–more food, more showers, more car use, bonus vacation days that we don’t count against their 2-week vacation allotment, etc. This in my mind is their bonus from us for doing a great job. Some of the girls really appreciate this expense that we take on for them–others not so much.

This year, our au pair does not seem to get the cost of things so much, so she might be disappointed that she does not get a cash tip if her other friends get one. However, the host families of those friends are not housing the au pair’s family when they visit later in the year–they are staying in hotels the whole time and using rental cars. Our au pair is a great girl and does a great job, but she does pinch every penny from us and that does make me feel less inclined to give her more than I have to sometimes: Example–asking me for $1.00 in gas money when I sent her to the local pharmacy to get her flu shot (which I paid for) on her way to do her own personal shopping, yet, ignoring the fact that I did not ask her for gas money when I picked up her friend from the airport (which I now do, as a result.)

Hula Gal December 21, 2009 at 11:31 am

Gosh – I’d think your penny pinching au pair was the same person as my second au pair except for the fact that she did not successfully rematch and went back to Germany. Every penny was accounted for and every opportunity to get a penny from us was acted upon. Definitely grates on the nerves.

Jane December 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Yes, it really does get frustrating when she tries to get every possible cent out of us, especially when we already were willingly paying for things for her that we don’t have to. It is backfiring on her, as we now make her pay for every little thing that is part of her responsibility. I first tried to have a mature talk with her about it–reminding her of all the things we paid for that we didn’t have to, but it didn’t work! It’s a shame, because it is a real sore spot in our otherwise very good relationship. It may be cultural and she may not realize how the penny pinching makes us feel. Our au pair is from Germany also. Short of directly saying–it bothers me when you ask for money that is incidental and is more than returned to you with other things–I don’t know what else to do.

europhile December 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Hi — just wanted to say that I have had three APs from Germany, and none of them was a penny pincher. Just to make sure people don’t get the wrong impression.

Jane, the penny pinching would piss me off, too, and I am amazed that you can still get along with her, despite having to run a tab constantly.

Jane December 22, 2009 at 10:03 am

Our other au pairs were German too, and were definitely not penny pinchers–so no, I don’t mean to give the wrong impression either.

Anonymous December 21, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Our AP will be getting 20 bucks in an apple (It’s apparently a Montenegro thing!) and a bunch of gifts (Nano, Twilight Blu-ray, bubble bath) totaling about 200 dollars. It’s what I spent on my daughters roughly. She’ll also get some stuff from both sets of grandparents. She is being treated just like the rest of the family – for better or worse :)

europhile December 21, 2009 at 8:54 pm

We will give our au pair a voucher to one of her favorite stores, a bedspread for the warm summer months (it’s summer where we are), as well as some small gifts from the kids — all in all probably the equivalent of about 200 dollars.

Anonymous December 23, 2009 at 7:23 pm

The past two years we’ve done $100 cash plus something fun (a handbag from each au pair’s favorite brand), and a Christmas ornament that represents our state. The total amount has been a little over $200, and the gift has been well received… I know that most au pair’s really value the extra money for travel etc, but I also think it’s nice for them to have something to take home from us.

anon December 23, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Last year, we gave our AP a small gift (a fleece vest of the local university), a filled stocking, then cash. This was because she wanted to travel but didn’t want “stuff” to have to take back home, so we gave her money so she could do her travel. This year, our AP (a different one) isn’t as interested in travel, so I focused more on gifts. She also doesn’t want stuff that she has to take back home, but she also has never had a stocking before, so I focused more on putting together a nice stocking; had a makeup bag made by a local company monogrammed (so it’s personal and local and useful– something she can take home easy); then a photo album with a gift certificate to have photos printed to fill the album. I also didn’t spend as much money on her as we did on our AP last year, since we’re in a much different financial situation this year than last (unfortunately).

an au pair December 24, 2009 at 9:11 pm

I left my host family to go home a few days ago (early, but on mutual, friendly terms). I made the parents a nice card and wrote a note inside thanking them for everything. I also got them a few small gifts. I got the children a few smallish but nice gifts which they liked a lot. In return, the family gave me the xmas card that they were sending to everyone with “Thanks for your help” written in it, and a pair of mittens. They also had another family over for dinner the night before I left, taking their children’s attention away from me completely on my last night there. It made me feel like the family appreciated nothing that I’ve done for them in the past several months.

I’m VERY glad that all of you seem to be much more appreciative and generous. It’s not that I expected much, especially since I was leaving, but I was still disappointed and sad about how this ended.

Aussie Au Pair December 29, 2009 at 1:21 am

This year for christmas i spent at least $200 on both of my host children and roughly $150 on my host parents. i understand that this was my choice but i did so believing they would be spending money on me. I was firend with their previous au pair and she had told me what the host family had gotten her for christmas so i had some expectations that i would be given similar things as she was, and unfortuantly i wasnt. It made me feel like i wasnt appreciated and that they prefer to have the old au pair with them i have almost been with them for a year and have raised their baby girl since birth, so it not like im new, so i was just a little offended that they didnt seem to value me as much as the old au pair.

Windy City Host Mom January 1, 2010 at 10:23 pm

This thread was informative. I feel mixed about what we did for the Au Pair Gift. Our year is up with our Au Pair and it has been a bit challenging. She never emotionally clicked with us. And for that I was resentful. While I attempted to be as generous as possible through the year I would have been more generous if she had been appreciative. For her holiday gift I gave her a few about 4 extra vacation days and a $45 pair of shoes. She did not get the children holiday gifts which doesn’t sit well with me. I didn’t expect much just something small. We welcome our new Au Pair in a couple weeks and hope 2010 holds more warmth than what we saw.

TXMom January 2, 2010 at 10:52 pm

That is so sad. I would have a big problem if an AP who celebrates a holiday didn’t get the kids a small gift, too. I understand they have a tight budget, but our AP’s have made gifts or spent their last dimes to see the kids smile. I don’t think I could host an AP who didn’t love my kids to pieces. Move on; it’s her, not you! :)

M in NY January 6, 2010 at 12:37 am

I have been an Au Pair for just over six months now, and I have to say that it’s now, over the holidays, that the family and I really connected. We spent Thanksgiving together with almost the whole family and I got to participate in all the Hannukah-celebrations. AND, they accknowledged Christmas even though they don’t celebrate it.

I even got both Hannukah-gifts and a Christmas bonus which made me very happy! Not just because of the nice gifts (a party top and some lotions for Hannukah and $150 for Xmas) but also because it felt like they took the time to think of me and treat me just as nice as the rest of the family. I even got gifts from the extended family, which was really surprising but oh so nice.

I think that just something thoughtful (it doesn’t have to be expensive) is enough to give the Au Pair. Like some people have said: if she wants to travel or shop on the holiday sale, give her some money. If she likes to have chocolate-and-movie-night, well maybe some chocolate and a dvd would be nice?
Or maybe a couple of extra days off in combination with a weekend or smth? That could be just as appreciated!

But the main thing for me was that I really felt welcome during the holidays, and that they made sure that I was okay on Christmas when I couldn’t speak to my family back home. That made me so happy.

M.Aupair January 1, 2011 at 9:45 am

Wow, I was shocked when I read about how great some of you treat your au pairs! I’m au pairing for the first time with a family in Ireland and have unfortunately experienced the other side of things. For Christmas I was allowed the Friday (Christmas Eve) off to visit friends and given a broach. Can’t say I was thrilled (it’s nice getting a bonus for the holidays..lets you know you’re appreciated), but I start with a new family in January and am looking forward to more welcoming environment!

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