October is a funny month. One day we can be basked in warm sunshine and wondering how long this 'extended summer' can last, and the next day we're wrapped up in woollies and worried whether snow is on the way. For those of us reliant on heating oil to keep warm, there is an extra problem: when is the right time to stock up for the winter?
Oil prices can fluctuate wildly, and they can also be obstinate about falling. Despite economic worries, global demand is high and there are long-term fears over oil supplies. During 2011 the retail price hasn't fallen below 55p/L or thereabouts, and as the nights draw in and day-time temperatures drop, we need to think seriously about stocking up. The golden rule around this time of year is to make sure that you have enough to get through the winter. Check back through your old invoices to try and gauge how much oil you might use, and double-check your tank for its current level. (You are already checking your tank every week or so anyway, in case of thefts or spillages - right?)The way prices are, I would recommend buying as little heating oil as you think you need to get through the winter. There is the natural expectation of price spikes over winter, but it's likely that post-winter prices will return to current levels. It didn't happen after last winter, after the shockingly-high price hikes, but let's hope that this was exceptional behaviour.
If course, if you usually need to buy oil mid-way through the winter season, then you're probably best off filling up your tank right now. Prices really aren't about to dip before winter!
Get yourself into an oil buying group straight away if you can; otherwise, get on the phone and hit the suppliers for your area!