Does burglar-proofing your home have to be expensive?

State-of-the-art home security systems aren’t your only option – there are plenty of inexpensive ways to burglar-proof your home. Even if you have an ample budget for residential protection, it would be foolish to overlook the value-minded steps that are the cornerstone of home security. Here are the top no-cost and low-cost theft-proofing measures that you can implement right away.

1. Keep doors and windows locked

Simply put, good habits go a long way. Statistics on home break-ins indicate that many burglars are just looking for easy targets: Most burglaries happen during daylight hours (between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.) and they are typically completed within 8-10 minutes. 34% of burglars enter the front door; another 23% enter through a first-floor window. The takeaways here? Thieves are looking for easy-access property in houses that are likely to be empty. Lock your doors and windows whenever they’re not in use, even when you’re at home.

2. Update your locks

If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your locks, conduct an inventory: Are any of the locks damaged? Could there be extra keys floating around with strangers? Are any of the exterior locks easy to pick, jimmy or bump open? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it could be time to rekey your locks or to replace them with more tamper-proof versions. To start, make sure all exterior doors have ANSI Grade 1 or Grade 2 deadbolts. Check out our guide to exterior door locks for more details.

3. Reinforce doors, windows, locks and hardware

What if your locks are rock solid but your doors, windows or hardware are weak and flimsy? A well-placed slam or kick could allow someone inside in seconds. Inspect all entry points, especially those on the first floor, and replace, repair or reinforce them as needed. Ideas:

  • Consider replacing exterior doors that are thin, hollow-core, or broken. You can also add additional support with a door barricade or security bar.
  • Door hardware – ensure that the strike plate (the metal piece on the door jamb where the lock’s bolt enters) is properly installed with screws that are at least ¾ inches long. This measure ensures that the bolt can’t easily be forced out of the door jamb. Alternatively, door reinforcement kits include strike plates and other hardware that can strengthen a door’s weak points.
  • Sliding doors – add an auxiliary foot lock or place a dowel in the tracks to physically stop the door from forcibly sliding open.
  • Windows – add window locks, bars or use this checklist for more burglar-proofing ideas.

4. Use motion-sensing lights inside and outside

Turn regular lights into motion sensor lights by switching to motion-sensing light bulbs or by screwing a motion detection adapter in between a regular bulb and socket. Outdoors, they’ll put a spotlight on anyone scoping out your property, and the visibility alone might be enough to keep would-be intruders on their way. If they do venture inside, indoor versions will make it harder for them to move around undetected. Learn more about deterring burglars with light.

5. Be smart about your hide-a-key

Hiding a key in a predictable place like under the mat or in a flowerpot near the door makes things much too easy for opportunistic burglars. Instead, give an extra key to a trusted neighbor, find revolving and unexpected hiding places, or better yet, pick up an inexpensive combination lockbox and install it in a concealed place. It doesn’t cost anything to be a little more careful.

6. Keep your valuables out of sight

Don’t be flashy with your expensive items. Outside, keep your tools, bikes and other easy-to-grab items locked up or safe in the garage when you’re not using them. Inside, use window treatments like curtains or blinds to stop passers-by from casing your home. Similarly, put away high-value items when you’re not using them. Don’t leave electronics, jewelry, cash or important personal documents in plain sight. Keep your most valuable goods and documents in a household safe.

More Budget-Minded Home Security Tips

Apart from the to-do list above, there are a few other considerations you might have when planning out your home security purchases.

Should you use fake signs and fake cameras?

If you’re truly cash strapped, fake cameras or signs and decals advertising a home security system – even if you don’t have one – might be better than nothing, since many petty criminals are just looking for the path of least resistance.

On the other hand, decoys aren’t a wise investment considering the increasing affordability of the real deal. Wyze security cameras, for instance, are only $25-$30 each. Highly rated video doorbells from Mbuynow and Zmodo are at the $60-$70 price point.

If you’re going to buy one home security device, what should it be?

While there’s no upward limit on what you may invest in your home, there are a number of affordable home security devices and systems on today’s market. Which one should you pick? Every family’s priorities and concerns are different, but here are a few value-minded options.

  • A smart lock is an efficient way of making sure you don’t have too many spare keys floating around while still preventing family members from being locked out.
  • All-in-one DIY home security systems often include sensors, a hub, cameras and optional professional monitoring. You may be able to save money by avoiding professional installation, but be sure to compare your options and understand what’s included.
  • Video doorbells give you a unique vantage point about everybody that comes in and out of your house. They also let you out for deliveries and package thieves.