Could a home security system be right for you?

Should You Be Alarmed?

by Lee Doppelt

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According to FBI crime statistics, in 2016, $3.6 billion in personal property was lost by Americans due to home burglary. In fact, just last week, a house on your block may have been burglarized. That's creepy. The family's homeowner's insurance might reimburse for some, but not all, of the loss.

Safety and security are basic to human survival according to Dr. Abraham Maslow, well-known psychologist who popularized the Hierarchy of Needs in 1943. Over the years, you've scrimped and saved and have become a dollar stretcher extraordinaire. Good for you! But what's the purpose of all that frugality if you can't have some peace of mind? Maybe it's time to consider a home security system, burglar alarm, and/or fire alarm for your home.

Commercially installed home security systems are the most expensive but have an excellent reputation.

Many national and local companies sell and install home security systems. Security systems are purchased like cars in that you order groups of features as a packaged deal. A basic system could cost as little as $400, or as much as over $1000.

Your system will have a master control, a back-up battery power source should your electricity fail, at least one key pad, some motion sensors for exterior doors and windows, an indoor alarm that's loud enough to be heard outdoors, some signs to stick onto doors and windows, and some lawn signs. Smoke detectors are also an option for fire safety. The more of these components that you select, the more it'll cost for parts and installation. If you have the foresight to choose all the features you anticipate desiring, you'll save money on installing more components, such as additional window sensors, at a later date.

Perhaps the main advantage of a commercially-installed system is that it's designed to be monitored. That means it's connected to your home phone system. If an intruder enters your home, in addition to the loud alarm inside the house, a call will be dispatched to the police; patrols could be at your home within minutes. If you have this feature, you'll have given a house key and your alarm code to some trustworthy neighbors, in case you're away when the alarm sounds.

You'll pay a monthly fee for this monitoring, $20 or more, depending on factors like where you live. You can ask for a lower rate if you pay the fee annually. The company that installs your system does not necessarily need to become the company that monitors it. Shop around for the best deal that suits your needs.

As with any other major purchase, you want to obtain several free estimates, read published reviews, and contact people who have systems, asking for their recommendations. Some companies offer senior citizen discounts for the system and for the monitoring also. Additionally, expect a discount on your homeowner's insurance, $50 or more annually, if you have written proof for them, a certificate from your alarm company, that you have a monitored security system.

Do-it-yourselfers can purchase and install relatively inexpensive alarm systems with ease.

Search online or visit your local home improvement center and you'll see that for as little as $400 you can purchase a system with motion detectors and an alarm to scare away intruders. Some systems even include cameras. These types of systems get mixed reviews and occasionally have the reputation of being less reliable than the commercially-installed systems. Talk to families that have them and solicit their opinion. Like commercially-installed alarms, these systems can perform monitoring.

Related: 6 Ways to Protect Your Home While You're Away

Households without landline phones have additional options.

Increasingly more households are abandoning their landlines for cell phones. Whether your security system is professionally installed, or bought online and installed by you, there are options for getting the cops to your house quickly. Different systems specific to cell phone calling or internet are available for a comparable price.

You purchase and install a system with Global System Mobile Communication (GSM), which can dial your cell phone. Then you call the police or 911. Or if you like the monitoring feature, you can install a different type of system, which also has a GSM. You then purchase a prepaid cell card and set-up with one of the cellular companies. If your alarm is tripped by an intruder, this type of system will dispatch a call directly to the police.

A home security system purchased online and installed by you is the cheapest security system and is probably the best deal.

Select the type of system that calls you on your cell phone for the biggest savings. Search online for discounts and promotion codes for the type of system you choose to reduce the cost. That's the cheapest way to get home security for your home.

Indeed, being a frugal family is truly admirable and just plain smart, but don't take short cuts on things for your home that rob you of basic comforts. A home security system may be worth the expense. Explore your options and don't hastily making your decision. You'll be glad you did!

Updated December 2017

Take the Next Step

  • Utilize these cheap home security solutions if an alarm is not in your budget (or even if it is!).
  • Determine if you have the best door for securing your home or if you should see about upgrading.
  • Make sure you're not overpaying on your mortgage. If you haven't looked for a lower mortgage rate in the past year, use our simple tool that compares different lenders to see what your monthly mortgage payment could be. It's private, only takes a minute and could show you how to save thousands!
  • Protect your family financially, too. Use this simple checklist to find out if you are heading for debt trouble and what you can do to prevent it.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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