Tax Refund

According to the IRS, more than 70 percent of taxpayers are expected to receive a tax refund this year — that’s good news considering that last year’s average refund was a whopping $2,797. If you’re part of that refunded majority, here are five smart ways you can use your hard-earned money to increase the safety and security of your home.

1. Put Up Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Cost: $5 to $99

Nationally, 367,500 home fires were reported in 2014, resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths and almost $7 billion in property loss. Fortunately, working smoke detectors can go a long way toward helping prevent such tragedies — and they’re inexpensive, so you’ll have plenty of your refund left to buy other safety and security products. Basic home smoke detectors sell for about $5 each, while more sophisticated models start at roughly $20.

Don’t forget about carbon monoxide (CO), either, which can also put your family at risk. SafeWise suggests outfitting each floor of your home with at least one carbon monoxide detector. A mid-range model costs approximately $20.

Tip: Nest Protect is a smoke and CO alarm in one. With a list price of $99, it costs more than traditional detection devices, but it also offers several advanced features, including sensors that indicate where the smoke or CO is coming from in your house.

2. Invest in a Monitored Home Security System

Cost: Varies depending on features

According to data from 2014, the average dollar loss per burglary in the U.S. is $2,251. In addition to financial hardship, a burglary of that scale can also cause severe emotional stress. If you’re looking to reduce some of that vulnerability, a monitored home security system — which can help protect your loved ones, property, and belongings — is an effective way to regain peace of mind.

It is worth noting that the price of a security system depends on a multitude of factors, including the level of monitoring included and the number of security devices involved. At the lower end of the price spectrum are DIY home security systems with optional monitoring subscriptions, while professionally installed systems usually cost more. Before you make your selection, use an online security provider search to find the best fit for your needs and budget.

Tip: Some insurance providers will reduce your homeowners premium by up to 20 percent for installing a monitored home security system. That’s because homes protected by security systems are significantly less likely to be burglarized.

3. Install a Steel Front-Entry Door

Cost: $150 to $2,500

Roughly one-third of burglars enter a house through the front door. If your home has a hollow, ill-maintained front door, an intruder may be able to bypass a locked deadbolt by kicking the door down. You can help prevent that scenario by using your tax refund to install a quality steel door.

Modest steel front-entry doors cost less than $200, while high-end models that offer features like fire protection, superior insulation, and decorative design, sell for $1,000 to $2,500. If you can find a happy medium between form and function, you’ll still have some cash for other improvements.

Tip: Replacing your worn front door with a steel one may seem costly, but it’s a financially smart way to use the money you get from Uncle Sam. Not only does it help fortify your home against intruders, but according to the National Association of Realtors’ “2015 Remodeling Impact Report,” you’ll recover about 75 percent of the door’s cost should you decide to sell your home.

4. Replace Worn Locks with Keyless Entry Smart Locks

Cost: $175 to $250

Installing a smart lock on your front door can further enhance the security of your home’s entry point.  With a smart lock, you’ll never have to risk hiding a key under the mat or worry about handing a spare out to household workers. Instead, you’ll enjoy the security and convenience of locking or unlocking the door remotely, right from your phone.

The price of smart locks varies according to what technology they incorporate. For example, the August Smart Lock sells for $199, and a more sophisticated device like Yale’s Keyless Touchscreen Deadbolt costs about $225.

Tip: For additional security and control, consider pairing your new keyless locks with the Vivint Doorbell Camera, or something like the Ring Video Doorbell. Though the Ring doorbell is listed at around $200, you gain the added benefit of having a live video stream of any and all visitors, allowing you to confirm a guest’s identity before remotely unlocking the door.

5. Secure Your Valuables in a Safe

Cost: $40 to $500

Recent FBI statistics reveal that only 13.6 percent of burglaries are solved by law enforcement, and recovering all of a homeowner’s stolen property happens even less often. With statistics like those, you’d be much better off avoiding theft in the first place — and a well-selected safe can help you do just that.

When it comes to size, technology, and price, safes vary quite a bit. A drawer safe, which costs about $40, may be all you need to store jewelry, money, and other small valuables. Homeowners who have many items to secure, on the other hand, might be drawn to a fingerprint safe. These sizeable safes generally weigh over 100 pounds and can be bolted down, so it’s unlikely a burglar will run off with it. The Verifi safe costs considerably more than some other options, but it’s also much larger and provides superior protection.

In addition to protecting your valuables from thieves, a quality safe can also guard them from hazards like fire and water. If you want to keep documents like wills, deeds, and birth certificates secure, use about $300 of your tax refund to buy a fire protected storage box from SentrySafe.

Tip: Handgun owners will want to consider buying the Gunbox. Priced at $499, this high-tech gun safe goes above and beyond to secure your weapon — offering features like an internal motion and vibration sensor that will set off an alarm if the safe is tampered with.

When you get your refund check this year, put it to good use. Consider some — or all — of these ideas to help enhance the safety and security of your home.

Written by Alexia Chianis

Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics. Learn more

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