Recently there has been a spate of minor burglaries in my apartment complex, which prompted my wife and I to consider getting an alarm system for our apartment. We looked into this via various on-line sites and calls to security companies in our local area and found that the costs would be about $500 to install/wire the system, and then $60 dollars per month to have back to base monitoring. Total cost for the year would be around $1220. Ouch. Given the break-ins were relatively minor and as we had home insurance I got around to thinking that there must be cheaper (frugal) ways to protect ones home. Here is a list I came up with, and am already using some of these precautions. Best of all, the cost is significantly less than a full fledged alarm system.
– Buy Patio door bars. These simple security devices are available as a rod or bar lock as well and are very effective from both a cost (less than $20) and security perspective. I absolutely recommend using a security bar lock.
– Get Deadbolt locks for your front door – these are better than normal locks as they have a double locking system making them harder to pick than a regular lock. We already had this installed and it is almost impossible to break without heavy duty tools. (Cost = $20 – $50)
– Turn down the ringer on your phone when you are out. It is a clear sign that someone is away when the phone rings loudly multiple times and no one picks up. (Cost = $0)
– Beam ’em. Get a motion sensor light for your back or front yard so that anyone approaching gets “beamed”. This will make your home a less likely target for nighttime break-ins. (Cost = $25-$50)
– Join the neighborhood watch (or start one). This is absolutely free, and sometimes a neighborhood watch sign can be enough to convince a thief to go elsewhere. (Cost = $20 for the cookies and coffee at the meeting)
– Get a Timer Switch for a couple of lamps in your house, which allows you to set a specific time for lights to come on when you are away. This will give the impression that someone is home. Change the setting by an hour here and there every month to avoid predictability. This security tips is especially useful if you are away for an extended amount of time. (Cost = $20 – $50)
– Put away ladders or tools. Don’t leave ladders or tools in your yard or porch. This just helps burglars, by giving them the means and incentive to get into your house. I used to leave my ladder on my patio, but now lock it up. (Cost = $0)
– Tip your local groundskeeper or janitor $10 or so a month and ask him to keep a special eye on your place while doing his normal duties and to call you if anything suspicious is going on. This would only work if you have someone you can trust and live in an apartment or condo complex. (Cost = $10 per month)
– Replace old locks. Get inexpensive locks for your windows and if you are in a rented place that has a history of break-ins replace any older locks as everyone who’s lived in your house previously had an opportunity to make copies of the keys. If you are renting, you should ask the landlord to pay for replacing all the locks before you move in. (Cost = $100 – $200 for locks and services)
– Home for Lunch. Every other week, go home for lunch or just stop buy during the day once in a while. Normally burglars scope out a house for a week or so before breaking in and look for regular patterns. So by breaking up your normal pattern you may put-off would be intruders. (Cost = $0)
– Holidays. If you are going on a extended holiday, make sure you lock everything up, put your mail and newspaper delivery on hold. Also have your neighbors check-in on your place on a weekly basis. (Cost = $0)
– Close those windows. As summer is here, people tend to forget when they leave windows or patio doors open which provides easy access to would be intruders. So have a little sign on the back of your front door saying something like “Don’t forget to check the windows and doors are closed“, which will be a good reminder when you are rushing out of your apartment. (Cost = $0)
– Lastly, update your home and/or property insurance, especially if you have purchased a number of new things and have valuables at home. If something does happen, you want to make sure you get the money you deserve to replace everything. You should also keep a home inventory, with pictures, of your belongings to help prove what you had to your insurer in the advent of theft.
At the end of the day your family’s security should be paramount. If you feel that the above or other frugal security measures are not sufficient by all means get a full fledged alarm system. A good nights sleep and less anxiety about your family or properties safety does has a high intangible value.