UPDATED 1/28/14: As if this persistent cold snap in the eastern half of the US wasn't tough enough, now it's about to take a bigger bite out of our wallets.
Natural gas and propane prices are soaring nationwide right now, and heating oil prices are up as well.
Prepare for Sticker Shock
If you'll need a propane or oil tank refilled in the next few weeks, don't be surprised by a big price increase since your last fillup back in the fall, when prices were much lower.
Natural gas? You may or may not be immune. If you are on a variable natural gas rate, look for that rate to increase in February as providers readjust.
-The price of propane has jumped from $2 to $3 a gallon in much of the nation this month, due to distribution shortages. However, prices vary locally, so yours could be even higher.
We are hearing reports of propane dealers in Ohio now charging close to $5 a gallon, blaming supply issues. Pipelines and trucks have not been able to keep up with demand, especially during zero degree weather. In addition, snow covered lawns have made delivers tougher and slower.
-Wholesale natural gas prices have hit a 3 year high of $5 per million BTU's, up from $4 back in the fall.
-And heating oil in many areas is up from $2.75 to $3.75 a gallon, though just like with propane, prices can vary widely based on local demand.
Early lock-in a good idea
The good news: If you are locked into a rate before January, especially with natural gas, you will not see any rate hike this winter.
That's why it's a good idea to lock in during the fall when prices are low. Many natural gas suppliers offer 6 month and 1 year locks.
While the variable rate is often lower at first, it can jump sharply during times like this.
Help for those who can't pay bill
If you cannot pay your bill, you have several options.
-Duke Natural Gas customers can ask about Budget Billing, or spreading payments out over several months. Call Duke for more information.
-If you can't afford your bill, each state has an Energy Assistance Program.
CLICK HERE for Ohio's HEAP program.
CLICK HERE for Kentucky's Low Income Energy Assistance Program.
As always, don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
Follow John on Twitter (@DWYM)
Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
John Matarese has a caution about some supermarket olive oil
John Matarese checks into a viral coupon for free Chipotle burritos
John Matarese shows one downside of flying a discount airline
John Matarese looks into a problem hitting some Apple MacBooks
John Matarese explains why Ohioans with Cincinnati Bell Energy need to check their bill
About 31,000 Duraflame electric space heaters were recalled this week after reports of units melting and catching fire.
John Matarese reports on a strange charge showing up on many credit cards.
John Matarese warns about the "One-Ring" scam
When it comes to chicken, big packs of boneless breasts look like a good deal. But look closer.
John Matarese looks into an e-mail claiming to offer free credit monitoring