The Renters' Guide to Tipping

"When I sold my house and moved into my apartment," says Lydia Morgan, an enthusiastic renter in Chicago, "I loved not worrying about the foundation of my home. I have a great landlord, and I wanted to do something to show my appreciation to her but I wasn't sure what was appropriate."

While renting your home does get you out of things like cleaning your building's gutters, it doesn't entirely get you out of holiday tipping. In fact, in Morgan's case, a holiday tip is exactly solution to her quandary.

But what are the rules? Who do you have to tip and from whom can you save a few bucks to put toward your holiday credit card bill? Follow the renters' guide to tipping and you can show the right people your appreciation at this time of year:
1. Tip Your Landlord or Building Manager: You don't need to tip both, but whomever you call when
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something goes wrong in your house or apartment is the person you need to acknowledge at the holidays. You don't even have to break the bank. Dinner for two at a restaurant or a check for $50 is nice -- but if you can't afford that, buy a nice bottle of wine, include a note and turn them in with your next rent check. Then just see how quickly your clogged drain is unclogged in the year to come.

2. Don't Tip the Garbage Man: It isn't that you don't appreciate the difficulties of their job, but it is not your obligation to tip them at the holidays. Your building management should do it. After all, they are the ones responsible for garbage removal in the first place. In fact, the same goes for any service you don't pay for that your management does -- from landscapers to window washers. Unless they are working for you, it's okay to let it go.

3. Tip Your Doorman: You knew it when you decided to live in a building with a doorman that there are additional costs-and holiday tipping is one of them. The rate for tipping varies by neighborhood and building, according to Kimberly Palmer in her recent article for U.S. News, so ask someone who has lived there for a while what they usually fork over. Palmer suggests that if your doorman helps you to your apartment with groceries or packages, factor in five to ten dollars per trip.

4. Don't Tip Postal Workers, UPS and FedEx: If you don't get much mail and only get the occasional package sent to you by your sister for your birthday, you don't need to tip. Other people are out there ordering boxes of underpants and wine goblets from and collecting magazine and catalogue subscriptions like it's a hobby. These are the people who need to tip at the holidays. And your postal worker knows it. You, on the other hand, can let this one go.

5. Tip Postal Workers, UPS and FedEx: Especially if you get a lot of packages and mail, make sure you offer a tip by leaving an envelope in your mailbox or handing one over when your doorbell rings. If packages are just left in your hallway or vestibule, the tipping rule does not apply. But if you have face-to-face contact with your delivery person, it is the right thing to do. Don't worry, you don't have to exceed $20 and since this is more of a kind gesture than a have-to, if you can't afford that much, you can offer $10 or less. (But if you are the guy or gal ordering weekly from Amazon, face it, you can probably afford the $20-- and your delivery people know it.)

6. Tip or Don't Tip the Newspaper Carrier: Obviously, if you don't get a newspaper you don't need to tip the newspaper delivery person. But if you do, $10 to $20 is the norm. If it's a kid, a wrapped gift or a cool gift card will make their day.

No matter what, don't think of tips as an inconvenience or frustrating expense. They are simply a way to make people who help you through out the year feel good at the holidays.

"I gave my landlord a gift card for dinner at a great restaurant in our neighborhood," adds Morgan about her quest to let her landlord know she cares. "She was thrilled and it made me feel good to do it."

Joselin Linder is co-author of The Good Girls Guide to Living in Sin (Adams Media, 2008).

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