Category Archives: Money Management

Home Heating Oil Prices Set to Become Extremely Volatile

For decades, the fuel of choice for many homeowners living in cool-weather states has been heating oil. The fluctuation of heating oil prices over the past few years has caused a great deal of concern, as people worry if they can afford to keep warm this winter. Sadly, the reality is that it will probably cost more to heat your home this winter than in years past.

Which Way Will Heating Oil Prices Go?

Frankly no one truly knows. There are a lot of professional traders trying to make money betting exactly on this question. But most homeowners don’t want to bet on the price of heating oil. While they would like to pay as little as possible, more importantly they want some kind of stability in the price.

Benefits of a Fixed Heating Oil Price Plan

With so much volatility in prices, the fixed price plan has become quite popular with consumers. Essentially the consumer and supplier agree on a fixed price for the entire heating season. The consumer also agrees to purchase an estimated amount of fuel during that time. The benefit to the consumer is that they know their cost is fixed.

Plus, the company sets the client up on automatic delivery and estimates when their tank needs to get topped up. That allows the supplier to better schedule their time and ensure the client receives better service.

Generally the estimates are pretty good since their software calculates customer usage based on degree days. If it’s colder than normal the supplier knows approximately how much extra fuel will be used. Naturally, the opposite applies if it’s warmer.

Drawbacks of a Fixed Price Plan

Unfortunately there’s no such things as a free lunch. The customer pays a premium in return for the security of a locked-in price for the entire season. Exactly how much is that premium? It’s very difficult to calculate, because it’s impossible to tell how much the day-to-day (spot) price of heating oil will change in the coming season. Generally speaking, the heating oil price will need to move up a fair amount, in order to benefit from that locked-in price.

The second concern is that you are often required to purchase a certain amount of fuel. Though the amount is normally reasonable (based on prior usage), there’s no guarantee you will use that much in the coming season. What if the winter is warmer than usual?

Also remember that when you sign up for a fixed heating oil price plan, you’re entering into a binding contract. Once the contract is signed it’s usually not easy to get out, not without some kind of penalty.

Is a Fixed Plan Right for You?

Everyone’s situation is unique and there is no right answer. What’s important is to take time to objectively think things though. While it may feel comforting to lock in a fixed price for your heating oil this coming season, it’s vital that you read through any contract carefully before you sign it.

Save Money on Oil Changes: Spend Less and Protect Your Car by Choosing the Right Motor Oil

If you think you’re doing the right thing by getting your oil changed every 3,000 miles, you’re probably only helping the garage, not yourself or your car. Oil change facilities love to tell you to come in every 3,000 miles, because that’s another $25 (at least) in their pocket every time you walk through the door.

The way cars are built these days, you may only need to replace the oil every 6,000 miles. And even less if you use synthetic oil.

Synthetic Versus Regular Motor Oil

Synthetic oil costs more than non-synthetic, and your oil change will last twice as long. It consists of artificially synthesized compounds which can tolerate more extreme engine temperatures. Synthetic also promises better gas mileage, and many factories recommend it. But check with your owner’s manual to see what your manufacturer advises.

Where Should You Have Your Oil Changed?

  • Definitely not the dealer, unless it’s running a big money-saving special. Independent mechanics will do just as good a job for a lot less money.
  • Look for an ASE certified facility. You’ll be assured the facility is approved by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence.
  • Ask a lot of questions and make sure the mechanics are knowledgeable and helpful.
  • Check your Sunday paper and the internet for coupons.

When Do You Need to Change the Filter?

Every time you change your oil. The filter only costs about five dollars. And if you don’t change it with the oil, you’ll leave about 10 percent of the old oil in the engine. If the mechanic says you need a whole lot of other things, ask a lot of questions. Look under the hood yourself. Some newer cars will alert you as to when you need a transmission flush or even new wiper blades.

Should You Change the Oil Yourself?

Sure, if you know your way around cars. But if you don’t, leave it to a certified mechanic. They know what they’re doing. But if you decide to do it yourself, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Five to six quarts of oil (or whatever your car requires)
  • Oil filter
  • Funnel
  • Pan (it should be able to fit underneath the car and hold about five to six quarts of oil)
  • Oil filter wrench and socket wrench
  • Bucket with a lid

Use a socket wrench to remove the drain plug. Then take the oil filter wrench and remove the filter. After the oil drains into the pan, pour it into a bucket. Make sure the engine is not hot when you’re doing this. Then, install the new filter and put the oil plug back in the drain. Remove the engine oil cap and fill with five to six quarts of oil (or whatever your manufacturer recommends) using a funnel. Replace the cap, start the engine and make sure the filter and drain plug are not leaking.

Remember, it is illegal to discard used motor oil or transmission fluid in the trash, on the ground or into sewers. Check your state’s environmental resource agency for recycling facilities. Some oil change facilities will take the oil for you and recycle it. Or go to Earth911 where you can plug in your zip code and find a list of recycling centers near you.

How to Save Money on Petrol/fuel

Car fuel, gas,petrol,juice whatever you call it, it aint cheap! But here are a few ways you can help save a little bit by remembering a few things.

Turn off your air conditioning, unless you absolutely need it. Air conditioning uses an alarming amount of fuel.

Make sure your not carrying any excess weight, if it doesn’t need to be in the car, take it out!

Try not to accelerate too fast or too often, the car uses most fuel when you accelerate, so do so slowly and only when necessary, no gunning it from one stop sign to the next!

Keep the windows as closed as possible, this creates air resistance.

Take anything like roof racks etc off the car unless you are using them, they create drag and resistancewhich will use more petrol

Try to keep an even, moderate speed such as 40-50 (where allowed!)

Make sure the air pressure in the tyres is correct and make sure they are all properly inflated.

Change your air filter every 6000 miles.