Many people, including seniors and Social Security recipients, live on a fixed income. The monthly check in the mail has to cover all of life’s expenses until the next month, and the next check. When affording the essentials is your focus, making room in your budget for home security may seem impossible. But if you’re getting on in years and live alone, or if you live in a neighborhood where the cost of rent is low but so is your sense of safety, home security is an important consideration.
Build safety into your budget
A limited income is a hardship. But that check’s regular arrival is also a point of dependability. Your budget is the same month after month. When you subtract all the equally dependable bills (housing, transportation, food — the essentials), the remaining total should tell you how much home security you can comfortably afford.
Simple systems with one or two gadgets can provide ample security for a reasonable investment: $100-$200. Even less if you go with a single, well-priced security camera. And if you opt to monitor your security devices yourself, you’ll avoid monthly fees.
But say you do want a full, traditional security system — door and window monitors in addition to a security camera, plus professional monitoring so you’ll always have help in an emergency. Prices for those systems are dropping in the freshly competitive home security market, allowing more consumers to afford protection.
A single device can provide home security
If you want to make a single purchase, we recommend going with either a video doorbell or an outdoor security light. The best models combine multiple security features in one. Our favorites in both categories record video when they detect motion and send you the clip. They also support live streaming. Two-way audio means you can talk with whoever is at your door, whether you’re home or away. Security lights add super-bright, motion-activated LEDs to the mix.
If your fixed income can accommodate one good-quality home security purchase, a smart video doorbell or outdoor security light are our top picks. Budget a couple hundred dollars for either.
You need a smartphone for most affordable home security options
Professional monitoring comes with a monthly fee. For a traditional system like ADT, that hovers around $40 per month. Now, there are industry newcomers offering professional monitoring for substantially less. Many have also thrown out the long-term contracts that made home security unappealing for many. But if you want to sidestep professional monitoring and keep track of your own devices, you’ll need a smartphone.
A smartphone allows you to stream security camera footage, receive alerts when motion is detected (by cameras or motion sensors), and control your devices. Chances are, you do have a smartphone — researchers predict that by 2020, nearly 93% of U.S. mobile phone users will be smartphone users. But if you’ve stuck with a simple flip phone up till now, know that saving money on professional monitoring will mean spending money to upgrade your phone.
Use smart home security as a health monitor
If you’re a senior or someone with health issues, a home security system that combines smart home automation with surveillance could do double duty. Smart speakers, hubs, and cameras can help you navigate your home with greater ease, while providing whole-house, hands-free access to the phone. Anyone who lives alone, anyone prone to falls, or anyone who worries about getting help when they need it could find a smart device improves their general sense of safety.
Be aware of hidden fees
Unexpected expenses can mean going into debt for someone on a fixed income. When considering your home security options, make sure you know all the associated costs before making your decision. Traditional home security companies typically charge for installation. Most smart cameras comes with a small monthly fee if you want to be able to store your footage for more than a couple hours. Always get on the phone with a representative so you can ask them to walk you through all the line items.
Make sure you’re getting the best rate for home security
The time you sign up for a home security service should not be the only time you call your home security company. As with many services, like cable, satellite, and internet, home security monitoring prices aren’t etched in stone. Secure the best offer on a monitored home security system by calling and negotiating the price from the get-go, then re-negotiating if you see better promotional pricing come out or if the company ever tries to up your rates.
Free and cheap home security tips
Ramp up home security without impacting your budget
There are plenty of ways to improve your home’s security without plunking down cash on technology and monitoring. These tried-and-true safety practices are doable even on a slim budget. The boost to peace of mind? Priceless.
- Change out old, weak locks for something sturdy. Deadbolts do the job.
- Make sure all windows are able to fully close and lock, and keep them locked by default.
- Use curtains and blinds to prevent anyone on the outside from getting a good look at your home’s contents and layout.
- Put up a home security sign, even if you don’t have home security. A fake security sign can still deter criminals who are looking for easy targets.
- Avoid stashing spare keys in the typical locations; entrust one to a neighbor or relative instead.