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The cost of heating oil, family matters, friends' disasters

January 18th, 2014 at 06:16 am

I've been tracking the cost of heating oil for years. Not just in the winter, but also in the summer months, too. I like to have an accurate picture in my head of where prices are going. Over time, I learned there were really just two area oil delivery outfits that consistently had the best prices, so those are the two I alternate between when ordering a delivery.

This week, their prices were $3.71 and $3.79 a gallon. In the 18 years I've owned my house, heating oil prices have never been that high. It's a record!

Online energy trend outlook reports from the federal government confirmed my fears that we are seeing record high prices on heating oil here in the Northeast. In most other parts of the country, oil is not used nearly as extensively as it is here.

Unfortunately, many heating oil companies have minimum purchase requirements of, for instance, 150 gallons. So that makes it difficult to try to time your purchases, or buy a smaller amount when prices are higher in the hopes that by the time you need more oil, later in the season, prices will have dropped.

In fact, it really irks me that they do that. When I questioned that practice with the gal yesterday, she said without the minimum purchase requirement, they wouldn't make as much profit. But then she quickly corrected herself, saying well, their truck only gets 6 miles to the gallon. But you already organize your deliveries so that all deliveries to a given town are done the same day, right? I said. Yeah, but in a more spread-out town like yours, the houses aren't close together, she said.

And so it went. As much as companies preach how "customer-friendly" they are in their marketing, they are all looking out for their own bottom line first.

Since I have just a 200-gallon oil tank, a 150-gallon fill-up essentially fills up the whole tank. In the past I toyed with the idea of buying a second oil tank to put in the garage (there's room) so I could better time my purchases, but I never got around to it and now that I hope to move at some point, I won't bother with that particular expense.

I usually fill up just twice a year. The first fill-up is always in the summer, when oil prices (and demand) are lowest. But then I have no choice but to fill up again in the dead of winter, when prices are highest, usually around January.

I've got a quarter of a tank left now and decided to wait one more week rather than have to buy at $3.71. Psychologically, it's hard for me to buy when I know prices are highest. I may not have a choice next week, but at least now there's a chance they'll dip a few cents.

It was a fairly uneventful week at work, and I got in my 40 hours. Work continues to be rather slow paced and at times, the day is very long for that reason. But my boss seems happy with my work.

Ballard Deign again has a sale on some ceramic garden seats I've always liked.



I think they're regularly priced at about $130. Now they're $99 with free shipping. So tempting, but honestly, I don't need them, I just admire their looks, and again my savings plan is important to keep in place as I could be unemployed again in July.

I love Ballard Design in general, so I allow emails from them. When I got an email mentioning the sale, I found myself scanning the sale items and found these garden seats, but I eventually left the site. At that time, the garden seats were on sale for $99, but no free shipping.

The next day, I get another sale email, and this time, it's $99 and free shipping. They must track your visits. So perhaps it's worth it to remember not to make a purchase the first time you visit the site after getting an email, because you may be able to do better just by waiting for the follow-up sales pitch.

I now officially have two nieces and a nephew. Technically, they are "half-nieces and a "half-nephew," as they are the kids of my half-brothers, from my dad's second marriage. My brother Bob married a Chinese woman and their kids have a very interesting, almost soulful look to them because of their eyes.

I don't have kids of my own. My plan has always been to leave my money to environmental charities, something that's very important to me. But there's the question of my tangible belongings and personal possessions. I would hate to see it all pawed over in an estate sale, going to strangers. So I think I may leave just my personal possessions to my nieces and nephews, although I have never seen them in person.

Before they were born, I only saw my brothers once in a blue moon. They grew up separately from me and my sister and pretty much lead separate lives in NJ, while my sister and I are here in CT. It would have been very nice to have closer relationships, but the realities of time and distance intervened.

I had once shared with my dad my plans to leave my money to charity, and I remember him saying, "Keep it in the family." But there's a part of me that resists doing that, especially since my brothers, while friendly, have never made any effort to establish closer ties, initiate a get-together or heck, even remembered my birthday with a card. Now that they are married, I notice I get Christmas cards regularly and this week I also got some baby pictures.

Spoke to my friend R. last night. He has a habit of often reminding me of all the good things I've accomplished and making me feel good about that. The fact that my house is paid off, my brand new car is paid off and I'm making good money (now).

Unfortunately, after having been helping his niece get through a divorce and search for a new house for her and her kids, the niece finally rebelled against my friend's domineering ways and told him that while she appreciated his help, she wanted to make her own decisions from here on, as it was her life they were talking about. My friend R. is extremely controlling about everything he does. That's a big reason why he and I broke up 30 years ago when we were dating. It's why his wife left him. And now his niece.

I mean, his intentions are good but he goes way overboard, crossing boundaries he shouldn't cross. Although he is using much of his own money to buy his niece a new house, he was also pressuring his sister (the niece's mother) to pitch in $50,000 and also the same with his other niece, as she and her husband are both accountants and make very good money.

That backfired as well, since the other niece has own kids' college to think about and the mother has her own retirement to think of. It's fine that my friend R., with no kids of his own, wanted to contribute his own money, but it was wrong of him to tell others in his family what to do.

Oh well. People are all so different.

And then there's the woman I work with, who finally got a visa for the man she met in Jamaica and married 2 years ago. (She's white, he's black.) Now she's got him home and he's living in her nice condo (which her parents paid for) while she goes to work (sometimes). She's a contract worker too, and her job will end in March.

She's spent many thousands of dollars on this guy, traveling to see him 14 times during the past 2 years. Since I started working there in October, she spent most of every day, when she decided to come in to work, on visajourney.com, poring over it to learn all the ins and outs of how to get a visa and answer the questions right in the interview.

She's talked to creditors she owes money to at work. She had former alcohol problems. She smokes. Her life is a mess, but she has this strangely endearing quality about her, really a naivete, that makes you want to help her. Her parents still pay her bills.

She's only supposed to be working at home one day a week, but she takes extreme advantage of our good-natured boss, who travels every other week, so she has often worked from home 3 or 4 days a week when our manager is not in.

Her husband doesn't know how to read or write (!!), so her parents are helping him get classes, so there's at least some hope he can get a job.

OK, so for whatever reason, you didn't go to school as a child. But the guy's in his early 40s now; why didn't he ever take the initiative to learn how to read and write as an adult? This guy sounds like such a loser to me and he's had the world handed to him on a plate because my co-worker is exceptionally needy and insecure and just wants someone to love her and make a baby with her.

This guy literally has a new lease on life. Flying to America was the first time he'd ever been on a plane before. And now, she tells me, he is telling her to get rid of her cat. Because Jamaicans don't keep animals as pets and he doesn't get it.

I am so, so wanting to tell her to stand up for herself and her own needs and happiness, not just his. I mean, this guy owes her a lot. He should be trying just as hard to please her as she is to please him. She's a very needy person. She calls him several times a day to see what he's doing. This poor cat is FIV positive, so it's doubtful it would get adopted very soon; everyone wants a healthy pet.

I want to tell her, look! He's in America now, so he should adapt to the American way of life, not the other way around. I hate seeing such an imbalanced relationship; to me, it seems doomed to failure. So far, I've managed to keep my mouth shut.

Ironically, the condo she lives in is one I LOOKED at in an open house when it was for sale last summer. This town is over an hour away from where I live, but I just happened to discover this lovely condo complex of detached condos in a nice, woodsy setting, just minutes from a gorgeous state park on Long Island Sound. And now I sit right next to the woman who lives there now. Talk about small world.

4 Responses to “The cost of heating oil, family matters, friends' disasters”

  1. snafu Says:

    Good on you for remaining silent with colleague whose 'life is a mess.' Unless she presses you for an option it's best to vent in a save place like SA blog. The garden seats sound lovely, would you find them practical with your longer term plan to sell and buy a condo? Have you considered changing your heating system to natural gas?

    We live in the heart of oil/natural gas production but this season natural gas is $ 3.70 - $ 4.10 per JJ and we're all in shock at the January bill with a wind chill factor that moved the thermometer to minus 50 C nearly daily in in that timeframe. Our old build

  2. snafu Says:

    sorry, computer is dropping sentences. ..Our old build condo [1976] requires us to heat the garage at night if the temperature drops under 25 C as there is threat of water line breaks. Those are very expensive when the ground is frozen with 15" of snow.

  3. PatientSaver Says:

    Yes, the garden seat could be practical in my future condo, though the color (gray) I want doesn't go with colors I now have here. Can't get gas here cus there are no gas lines here. I included a photo in the post. Love the colors.

  4. Looking Forward Says:

    What would happen if you called for a fill-up, but only needed, say, 100 gallons? I'm only curious because then you could "adjust" your timing to like April & October. Would that help?

    When we had a propane tank at our previous home we were on the a monthly route. Why don't they offer something like that??

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