We save up for vacations, but we can spend way too much on home security when we're away. Here are cheap but effective alternatives.
The following post comes from Debra L. Karplus at partner site The Dollar Stretcher.
Any responsible homeowner knows if you leave a house unattended for any length of time, you’re asking for trouble. So here’s how you can make your house look lived-in while you are away, without spending a fortune on home security…
1. Simple tasks and inexpensive devices make the outside of your house look like you’re home
Tell a few trustworthy friends and neighbors you’ll be away. Invite a neighbor to park in your driveway. Ask friends to walk by periodically – they can pick up any solicitation material on your porch, like take-out menus or political flyers. You may even want to let your local police department know you’ll be away and give them a contact number in case they need to reach you.
Put a few indoor lights, such as those in your living room, on timers. Some people put a radio or TV on a timer, also. Timers cost less than $10 and last forever – the true “poor man’s security system.”
A pile of newspapers on the porch and mail sticking out of the mailbox are major clues you’re away. Contact your newspaper delivery center and have your paper stopped.
2. Reduce the amount of mail you get (even when you’re not away)
Take the time to make a few phone calls to get off mailing lists, such as catalogs or magazines you never read.
Opt to get as much mail as possible online, including bank statements, bills, and investment accounts. Utility bills and insurance premiums can be set up to be paid automatically out of your checking account or credit card. Additionally, you can pay ahead on your credit card so you won’t have to worry about making a late payment.
Do all this and you’ll be amazed at how much less mail you’ll be receiving while away. Options for the remaining mail include having it stopped by filling out a form at the post office, having a neighbor or friend pick it up, or if you are away for a long time, have it forwarded to you at your vacation spot.
3. An unruly garden or lawn screams “nobody’s home”
Arrange to barter with a neighbor; you’ll mow their lawn when they’re away in exchange for them mowing yours. Same deal for autumn leaf raking and winter snow shoveling. Taking turns is simple and free.
If you have a summer garden, invite a friend to plant some seeds and share your garden in exchange for doing some weeding while you’re away.
4. Some things to do indoors for security and savings
If you’ll be away longer than a couple of weeks, there are few additional things that will make your home more secure and save you a buck or two.
Unplug everything you possibly can: the TV, sound system, kitchen appliances, etc., to save money and reduce the chance of an electrical short that might lead to a fire. For protection from plumbing emergencies and expense, drain your pipes, empty your toilet, and turn off the main water supply. Pour a little bleach down the drains to eliminate nasty smells.
Your refrigerator will look like a science experiment gone wrong if you don’t give it some attention before you leave. Empty it completely, raise the temperature to save money, and leave an open box of baking soda inside to absorb odors. It’s not a good idea to unplug the refrigerator.
If your house is inclined to get visits from unwanted pests, set bait or traps for ants, roaches, or mice.
Everyone needs a getaway once in a while. A vacation isn’t much fun if you return home to some sort of crisis. If you travel frequently, a home security system, professionally installed with monthly monitoring, may be money well spent. If you opt for one, don’t forget to tell your insurance company – most homeowners insurance policies will give you a discount on premiums.
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