Consumer questions: Childcare, tipping

Childcare expenses and options

Question: My husband and I are thinking about starting a family soon, but we are really concerned that the childcare expenses in the Bay Area are almost out of reach for us and we're wondering what can we expect and how can we plan for these expenses and what you would recommend?

Answer: A lot of folks are struggling with this. Childcare costs range everywhere from free (exchange babysitting services with someone else) to having a private nanny. A basic daycare center these days costs somewhere between $600 and $1,000 per month, and possibly more. There are some low-income, government and agency options worth looking into. To find out what's available and if you qualify, call your county's social services division. Also, find out if your workplace has a pre-tax childcare fund, and if they don't, have them set one up.

Do you need to tip after bad service?

Question: If I get terrible service at a restaurant should I leave a tip?

Answer: It depends on where the terrible service came from. If the food was lousy or arrived very late, if the greeter/host was unpleasant, it's not fair to take that out on the server. But if the server is the one doing a really bad job, you should leave a tip in the amount of one penny, so that they know you're sending them a message that you were very unhappy with the service. If the server is exceptional, consider leaving a higher tip of 25 percent. If they're just mediocre, then leave something between eight and 10 percent.

Saving for College?

Question: I have an 18-month-old so I'd like to know what advice you have as far as saving for college for him?

Answer: Get started right now. That is the most important thing you can do. In 18 years from now, a college education (not including living expenses) for a private institution is expected to be $300,000 for four years, and nearly $100,000 for state schools. So it's very important that you start saving now. To reach those amounts you need to start putting away at least $500-$600 away a month. If you can't afford that, even just saving $50 a month can be a big help.

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

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