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How Much Should I Tip? Your Money Questions Answered

Should you rent or buy a home? How much should I tip the delivery person? Will money make me happy?

Ask ten different people, and chances are you’ll get ten different answers. Those are the type of questions where everyone seems to have their own opinion or philosophy.  That’s exactly what makes them a great fit for Mint.com’s new feature, Mint Answers.

We launched Mint Answers a few weeks ago to give consumers a platform to voice their personal finance and investing questions. Since then, hundreds of you have asked – and many more have chimed in with responses. (At Mint Answers, your questions are answered by experts, as well as by other community members like you.)

Below are three of the most popular questions for the past week. Find and ask (or answer) more at answers.mint.com.

Rent or buy a home?

Every day I read blogs about this sort of thing and there are pros and cons of both. With the housing market where it is today, which do you advocate?

1. There are aspects of this question that go well beyond the financial, but purely in terms of money, you can’t beat the New York Times’s buy vs rent calculator. In my market, it says rent. Yours may vary.

2. Oh man, I may be the only financial blogger here that wants to go BACK to renting…Financial costs aside, it really messes with your freedom. When you own a place you can’t just pick up and move whenever you feel like it – or if worst case you lose your job.

If you’re totally cool with settling down in one spot for 4+ years, then disregard this comment.  But if you’re a roamer/military kid, then really THINK about this before you sign away…there’s no shame in renting at all 😉  And you can still build up your net worth in plenty of other ways too.

3. [You’re] not the only one :)! We are currently selling our house so that we can rent. We consider owing anyone money a burden that we do not wish to partake in anymore.

We are not making this decision without a plan though. Starting in 2011 our 4-5 year plan to save money to buy the house we want to live in will begin. When I say buy I mean the 100% down plan.

Renting for 5 years is not the worse thing one could do, especially when the reward is a paid for house. When your house is paid for there is not a recession anywhere that will render you homeless. (Unless you don’t pay your taxes that is.)

My answer is: Rent until the purchase of a home, whether with debt or not, is a blessing. (If you have an emergency fund with at least 6 months of expenses set aside, have an additional 20% to avoid PMI ,and buy well within your means it will be more of a blessing than a burden. It’s also not a bad idea to save yourself a lot of money by getting a 15 year mortgage instead of a

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What do you normally tip for food delivery?

We ordered Indian food the other night and the bill came out to $35…my instinct said to tip $5, but then I wondered if take out is different than, say, sit-down service.  Twitter friends came in with $3-$8 — I ended up tipping $6. Am I crazy?

1. I usually tip 20% no matter what but I used to work in a restaurant.  I haven’t typically used a flat rate to tip.

2. For delivery, I usually tip 10% to 15%. If it’s a small order, I’ll tip a higher percentage because the delivery person still had to make a trip out. I tip towards 20% if the food is still warm when it gets to my apartment.

3. I tip $3, standard, for anything under $20, and $4 for anything over $20, with an extra $1 for particularly fast service or for inclement weather.

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Will money make me happy?

1. If money has the ability to truly make people happy, how come there are so many miserable rich people?

It’s a question that requires more clarification. Money is often attributed as causing happiness, but only because it allows one to afford either necessities or luxuries of life. You would be hard pressed to find someone happy with bricks of gold if they were stuck on an island like Tom Hanks in Castaway.

I met a man once who was a multi-millionaire while I was working for a top US Bank. He was trying to leverage some of his real estate for more real estate. This man was 80 years old, and even though he had more money than he knew what do with, he was still trying to build wealth through deals as he did in his youth. He explained to me that even though he was well-off now, he was only really happy when he was making deals, working hard, and risking for a greater prize. Not exactly the picture of contentment.

In the end, you can’t take it with you. You won’t be lying on your death-bed thinking about stock quotes and the previous year’s rate of return. Money is a great tool. But it is a fleeting tool that more people have made themselves unhappy over than have become rich.

2. If you have no money and are struggling with every day needs, money will make you much happier. If you have some money and get more money, the money will probably make you a little happier, but not nearly by the margin that it did before. If you are a billionaire and you just got another billion, you might be happier because you are now another billion ahead of other billionaires, but I’d venture to say that happiness is fleeting. But what do I know. I have no billions. 😉

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Do you have a money question that you feel has no black-or-white answer? Go to Mint Answers and ask away! While you’re there, feel free to answer questions from other community members. Come back often, as we introduce new enhancements to this feature.