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A lot of what people hate about tipping is the uncertainty of it all. There’s no widely agreed-upon rule book for when to tip, and how much to pay. And so we rationalize and agonize about whether a 20-per-cent tip is the new standard in restaurants and how much to tip daycare providers, house cleaners and hair cutters.

I have a couple of holiday-season tipping guides for you, one from Consumer Reports and another from the Two Cents website. I have no idea whether the suggestions made here represent the very latest thinking on tipping, but they make good sense to me. I think you’ll find them helpful in allotting tips in the next month or so.

Worried about cost? If money is tight, give what you can. Also, start a tipping fund in the fall. Toss in an extra $20 bill or spare change when you can and then spread the cash around as required as the holidays approach.

A quick rundown on people in your life you may want to tip: Daycare providers and babysitters, hair cutters, house cleaners, dog walkers, personal and nursing-home caregivers and the superintendent in your apartment or condo. At our house, we also tip our three newspaper-delivery people. Yes, we get three different newspapers.

As for restaurant tips, 20 per cent is the new normal. A $5 tip for home delivery.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list …

Every time she opens her wallet to buy something …

… She asks this question: “Is this worth it?” A frugal woman living in New York explains how she gets by without making a big salary. I figure this type of advice will be useful if you live in Toronto or Vancouver.

Save money, help the environment

Five affordable and effective substitutions for disposable cleaning products like disinfectant wipes and disposable dusters.

A story of unsuitable investments

An investment adviser thought he found a “low-risk fixed-income product” for his clients. Read here about how the clients lost almost $1-million combined over five years, and how regulators dealt with the adviser. Offered as a cautionary lesson in case an adviser tries to sell fringe or “alternative” products.

How to stay mentally sharp in retirement

Right up there with the fear of running out of money in retirement is fear of losing your mental sharpness. Here are two totally doable ways to keep your mind healthy.

Today’s financial tool/app

The Ontario Securities Commission now offers an introduction to investing for rookie investors in 22 languages.

Ask Rob

Q: I calculate that my wife and I need around $70,000 in after-tax dollars to live in retirement. We would be drawing from RRSPs, CPP/OAS and investment income (all taxable). Is there a rough calculation on how much pre-tax dollars we would need to reach that amount?

A: You might find this online tax calculator useful. You can experiment with different levels of taxable income to see what your net income would be in each province. You’ll also get a useful comparison of tax rates on regular income, dividends and capital gains.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

What I’ve been writing about

  • What if today’s economy is as good as it gets for your personal finances?
  • Index investing: Are you doing it wrong? (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)
  • The 93.4-per-cent yield and other tales from Canada’s dividend investing king (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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