Improving your security: top tips to make your home safer on a budget

Improving your security: top tips to make your home safer on a budget

You don’t have to spend a fortune making your home more secure. Piper Terrett reviewed her home security and found these budget ways to deter would-be burglars.

Piper Terrett

Mortgages and Home

Piper Terrett
Updated on 31 October 2019

With the nights beginning to draw in, I’ve been thinking it’s time to beef up our home security.

Walking the dog in the evening, it’s surprising to see just how many of my neighbours sit with the lights on and curtains wide open, with big HD TVs on display – an invitation to burglars.

More break-ins occur in October and November than any other time of the year, rising by 5%, according to research by insurer Aviva.

You might assume Christmas would be the prime time. 

However, Bonfire Night is the worst night of the year for burglaries and car thefts, which increase by around 20% as families go out for the evening, leaving homes unattended.

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Bonfire night is the worst night for burglaries (Image: Shutterstock)

But you don’t have to spend hundreds on a whizzy burglar alarm to protect your home – in fact, the police say an alarm alone will not prevent thefts.

Instead, there are plenty of cheap low-fi (and low-cost) ways to improve security.

6 ways burglars can get into your home

How modern burglars operate

Most home burglaries don’t happen at night-time, but between 10am and 3pm, when people are at work.

What’s more, break-ins tend to be opportunistic rather than planned. 

When interviewed, many criminals told police that they didn’t carry heavy tools because this would attract attention. Instead, they used whatever they can find lying around to break in.

This could be tools or even a ladder someone has been careless enough to leave out.  

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Cheap & simple ways to outwit would-be burglars 

Keep tools safely locked away

With the above in mind, it’s best to keep your tools locked away, fences in good repair and garden sheds padlocked.

My husband, a keen gardener, has a habit of leaving his tools out to rust and our shed doors wide open, so it’s time we addressed this.

While our fences are fairly secure, we have an alleyway along the back of our garden which someone could use to gain access to it.

Bricks are another handy break-in tool and I’ve just realised how many of these we have in our back garden. Time for a serious tidy-up!

Keep car keys and financial paperwork out of sight

The modern burglar snubs heavy items like TVs and stereo systems because they may draw attention.

Police say they aim to be in and out of your property in just 10 minutes.

So, instead, they look for smaller, portable items such as car keys, small valuables, like jewellery or cash, and paperwork containing personal data they can sell to identity fraudsters.

The police say it’s unwise to leave car keys within sight of the front door.

This is because it’s easier for criminals to spot them as they enter the house or if they pose as a salesperson and knock on your front door.

We recently installed a letter holder near the front door which has key hooks on it, so it’s time we stopped hanging our car keys on there.

It’s all too easy to leave paperwork with your personal details lying around, so lock it away in a filing cabinet or if you don’t need it, put it through the shredder.

Again, this doesn’t cost anything besides time and a few pounds for a padlock, although a shredder might cost you £20.

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Cut high hedges

With burglars choosing a target based on how quickly they can get in and out, the aim is to slow them down or deter them by putting obstacles in their path.

Robbers are less likely to want to break into a home in full view, so security experts suggest trimming high hedges so neighbours will notice any unusual activity outside your property.

We have a big hedge by our driveway. We’ve kept it because we like the privacy, but this is a security no-no we need to correct.  We have hedge clippers so we can do this for free.

Keeping hedges trimmed deters burglars (Image: Shutterstock)

Improve your lighting

Criminals don’t enjoy the limelight and don’t want anybody to see what they are up to.

Improving the night-time lighting outside your property is another effective deterrent.

We already have an outside light, but installing some cheap motion sensor security lights would also help and I have found some for just £15 to £20 each online.

Putting in a gravel driveway would cost a lot more – burglars hate making noise that might draw attention to them and it’s virtually impossible to walk on gravel without doing so – but could be something we could consider in future.

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Lock your doors and windows

It seems obvious but it’s easy to forget.

Keep your doors locked at all times – even back doors when you’re home - and lock your windows to make it more difficult for burglars to gain access.

We have window locks but, again, only tend to lock them when we go on holiday, but it’s simple to do and costs nothing.

Lock UPVC doors from the inside as burglars can use a hook to open them – we do this anyway as our toddler can open them!

Bolster glass-panelled and patio doors

If, like us, you have a glass panelled back door these can easily be kicked in or smashed by determined burglars.

However, many DIY stores stock shatter-proof film which can be applied to the glass to make it more difficult to break.

Certain films claim to be able to withstand an attack with a baseball bat or crowbar – some even a bomb blast - and prices start from just £20 a roll.

If you have sliding patio doors, another simple trick, recommended by Florida-based security website Crime Prevention Security Services, is to place a broom handle or wooden bar along the bottom track to jam the door. 

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Make your property look occupied when you’re out

Leave the TV or radio on when you’re out to make it sound like someone is home.

Put lights on a timer when you’re away on holiday or get a neighbour to put them on for you.

You could also ask a neighbour or friend to keep an eye on your property for you or park their car on your driveway.

I often leave the radio or television on when I’m out anyway as company for the dog.

Post sticking out of your letterbox can be another sign that your home is empty, so ask neighbours to collect it for you.

We use neighbours or a pet-sitter who does this when we go away, as well as looking after our cat, but Royal Mail operates a ‘keep-safe’ service for up to two months where they will hold onto your mail.  

It costs £15 for up to 10 days and five days’ notice is required to set it up.

Keep Mum about holiday plans on social media

While it might be fun to post holiday snaps on Facebook or Instagram or tell people you’re going away, the police say it’s best to avoid discussing holiday plans on social media.

Criminals can use this information to your cost.

I rarely announce on social media that I’m going to be away and only post photos after my return because, as it’s just not worth the risk. Common sense costs nothing.

With Christmas fast approaching, make sure you read our tips on how to stay safe during the festive period.

*This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.

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