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Budget Guide to Improving Your Home Security

Anne Dennon

Anne Dennon

Home Technology Writer

4 min. read

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According to data gathered by the FBI, property crime in the U.S. has been on a marked decline over the past decade. Burglary — illegal entry with the intent to commit crime — occurs about 100,000 fewer times year over year. 

While the broad trend is positive, property crime is still an active concern for any homeowner. Depending on your neighborhood, break-ins may be as common as missing pets. The good news is that you don’t have to plunk down big money to protect your home. Affordable home security starts with the basics: secure windows and doors, good locks, and maybe a strategic smart device or two. 

DIY Home Security


While the upfront costs of a traditional home security package can be daunting (around $500), the more obnoxious charge may be the monthly bill for professional monitoring. Eschew professional monitoring for DIY monitoring, and you guarantee yourself the cheapest home security — no monthly fees, or just a couple of dollars per month for cloud storage. 

Top picks for self-monitored home security: 

All three offer sleek, high-functioning equipment that you can keep an eye on yourself, thanks to just-in-time smartphone alerts that allow you to check recorded movement, then take action. 

Pick an all-in-one device

If you’re going to go with a single device, we recommend either a smart security light or a smart video doorbell. Both combine the security (and identification possibilities) of a security camera with other, useful capabilities. 

A video doorbell supplies convenience: Respond to neighbors and deliveries when you can’t come to the door, and make sure your kids get home safe. A video security light doubles down on safety. Motion-sensing lighting will stop trespassers in their tracks, while capturing footage. 

Top picks for video doorbells and outdoor security lights:

Basic safety measures

While tech-based security doesn’t have to break the bank, it’s easy to increase security without tech. Just consider the physical vulnerabilities of your home, then take advantage of tried-and-true solutions. 


  • Send the right signals. 
    • It’s true — a home security sign stuck in your front lawn deters burglars. If you can’t afford the real deal, pick up decals or signage from Ebay. Crooks may blow past it on the off-chance that the sign is phony, but chances are they will continue down the street in search of a surer target. 
    • Another sign to consider: Beware of dog. You don’t have to have a doberman to get a sign that says you do. Put trespassers on the alert by placing a menacing notice about your guard dog on a gate or side door. 
  • Keep it on lock. 
    • Making sure your windows and doors are closed and locked is a good move; upping the strength of those locks is a better one. Consider placing a deadbolt on all entries, then exit through the garage. Sliding doors and windows can be reinforced on the cheap with a dowel stuck in the grooves. 


  • Contribute to community safety.
    • Areas with good rapport between neighbors tend to be safer. Do your part to increase local safety by getting to know your neighbors and letting them know when you’re out of town. 
    • Join a neighborhood watch group like Nextdoor to pool observations and tips. 
  • Keep foliage trimmed. 
    • Overgrown shrubs and laissez-faire gardening can get you in trouble with your HOA. They also supply trespassers with perfect hiding areas while they check out the best entry point into your home. A trimmed lawn accomplishes much of the same things as a security light: It lets people know they can be seen. 
  • Be extra safe with extra keys.
    •  Let us guess, beneath the flower pot? Under the welcome mat? Be sneakier about where you stash any extra keys. An inexpensive combination lockbox, installed somewhere inconspicuous, should do the trick. Or entrust it to a neighbor. If you like the simplicity of keeping an easily accessible extra key on your own property, approach it like you would a work password. Unobvious and regularly updated. Now it’s in the rose bed, next in the rock wall, then taped to the bottom of the mailbox. 

Keep up appearances

While on vacation

  • Practically live-streaming your vacation — Made it to the airport! Boarding! Mai Tais on the beach! — has become common practice, but it’s not the wisest move when it comes to home security. You’re broadcasting your absence
    • Restrict posts and be vague about the dates you’re gone. Maybe even wait until you’re home to brag about Cabo. Hey, you’ll also be more present for your time off. 
    • Keep sightlines into your home obscured. You don’t want expensive items, like art and electronics, beckoning to potential burglars from the street. You also don’t want to allow them to easily case the layout of your home. Make use of blinds and curtains, but get creative — a totally barricaded home looks unoccupied. 

While at work…

  • Most burglaries occur between 10am and 3pm — in other words, when your household is at work and school. 
    • Ask retired or at-home adults on your block to keep an eye on your home during the day.
    • Schedule automatic lights to mimic occupancy. 
    • Leave a car parked in the driveway. While the safety trade-off is allowing your car to sit exposed, cars have alarms. And because cars make a home looked lived-in, the illusion could protect both.