Consumer questions: Hybrid cars and childcare

Stop telemarketing calls

Question: How can I stop telemarketing calls to my cell phone?

Answer: First of all, you shouldn't be getting them. Here are the rules. For cell phones, under most circumstances, an actual person has to dial the phone. So it can't be a computer dialing and because people don't dial to do a telemarketing call, that means almost any call you get on your cell phone is illegal. So if you complain to the FCC, they have good reason to go after the callers. You can also sue the callers in small claims court. In addition, you can put your cell phone on the do-not-call list but I wouldn't do that unless you're getting a lot of phone calls because right now most companies don't know that phone number.

Hybrid versus standard car?

Question: What is the advantage of buying a hybrid car as opposed to a standard car? Obviously, it's great for the environment, but what about my wallet?

Answer: They do get better gas mileage, but they don't get that much better gas mileage than a small, light, four-cylinder car. Everyone is rushing to get rid of their SUV to buy a very small car right now, and with $4 gas that obviously makes a lot of sense, except there are too many big cars being traded in so they're not worth much money anymore. So you need to balance how much money you're not going to get for your bigger car plus the higher cost for a hybrid car. In the wash, it might not be there, so you really have to run the numbers. And when you talk about protecting the environment, of course you don't want a big gas guzzler, but it takes a lot of energy and a lot of resources to make any car. The best thing we can do is drive that car for years so that all those resources get used up.

Childcare or stay at home?

Question: Would it be more effective if one of the spouses or partners stayed home, as opposed to paying for childcare? What do you think?

Answer: Financially it's generally not. Child care is generally expensive and most people think it would save money, but the question is, how long will the childcare really last? If you're out in the workforce you keep getting raises. So over the course of four to five years, which is how long most people use child care for, you're making more money while the cost of day care generally stays the same or moves up at a slower pace than your raise. That said, you're talking about family life here and it should not just be measured in dollars and cents. Other measurements include, how good will this be for your children? For your spouse?

For more of Michael Finney's consumer stories and advice, visit 7 On Your Side.

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