If You’ve Got $500 Make These 7 Security Moves

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There’s no denying it—a lot of resources are competing for our money right now.

And while a mess of things outside of our control keeps swirling around us, we don’t have to surrender to the tumult. Taking control of your personal security helps you breathe easier and sleep better at night.

Here’s the deal: burglars and porch pirates don’t want to work hard to get to your goods.

The more barriers you put in their way, the better chance they’ll skip your home and move on down the road to easier pickings. And a little investment now can save you thousands in the long run.

Burglars get away with an average of $2,600 per hit—and that doesn’t even begin to cover the other losses: feeling safe, sleeping through the night, and not looking behind shower curtains and under beds for intruders.

If you’re still deciding on the best use for your tax refund, here are seven ways to feel safer—and worry less—for under $500.

Person holding calculator that says 500 and another person holding money

Image: Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

1. Install your own private security guard

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get a full-time sentry to stand guard outside your home just like the Queen—especially for $500 or less?

That’s not going to happen, but we’ve got the next best thing. 

A DIY home security system like Cove puts your home under 24/7 protection with pro monitoring. 

You can get a starter setup from Cove for about $300 and that includes a control panel, motion sensor, and two door or window sensors. Best of all, Cove’s professional monitoring starts at just $14.99/month (or around $180/year). 

Savings alert!

Cove offers deals all the time—so bookmark our Deals page so you don’t miss out on specials like 50% off equipment or a free indoor security cam. 

2. Make your front door smarter than the average burglar

A shocking number of burglars just stroll through the front door. The least you can do (literally) is lock the door when you leave. 

But why stop there when you can upgrade your lock to a smart one that lets you control it from anywhere—even if you forgot to lock up when you rushed out in a flurry?

Swap out the bargain-basement lock your home builder or apartment complex installed for this Schlage smart lock with a built-in alarm and the highest security ratings you can get. 

For around $360 this lock does a better job than a moat and drawbridge—and you can lock and unlock it from anywhere with the Schlage Home app.

If you rent, try this heavyweight lock that works on any door. It’s also landlord-friendly (that means it won’t cause any pricey damage headaches). The Defender Security Lock withstands up to 800 pounds of force and won’t make a dent in your rent budget at under $20.

3. Fool porch pirates by locking up packages in plain sight

Over 200 million packages were swiped from porches in 2021—and if your packages are left out in the open, they could be next. 

Sink porch pirates with a secure DeliverySafe package locker, right on your front porch. With this foolproof solution there’s no need to keep track of QR codes and complicated delivery PINs or drive all over town to find the locker depot where your packages are waiting. 

DeliverySafe boxes are lockable, large, and can be anchored. That means package thieves won’t see your deliveries, and they can’t run off with your DeliverySafe locker because it’s bolted to the ground. 

For just $500, you can send porch pirates packing and never again worry about losing out on your latest delivery. Plus, package theft is one of the only crimes that often hits the same person multiple times—adding up to hundreds of dollars in losses. Throw a little bit of your refund check toward a DeliverySafe today and save money, hassle, and stress for years. 

Savings alert!

Get $50 off your DeliverySafe box with promo code: 50OFF

4. Catch lurkers in the act—and make them Insta-famous

Do you ever feel like somebody’s watching you?  Turn the tables on neighborhood hooligans, thieves, and other front door lurkers with a video doorbell camera. 

Ring’s OG video doorbell is triggered by motion and can either be hardwired or run on batteries.  At just $100, Ring leaves you plenty of room in the budget for other security upgrades.

The two-way speaker lets you spook package pilferers and other unwanted “guests” whether you’re elbows-deep in the kitchen or up to other “business” in the powder room. 

But if a crook completes their heist anyway, you can return the favor by splashing their thieving mug all over the internet (thanks to the clips your camera caught). A great place to start is the free Ring Neighbors app that lets you share footage with folks and law enforcement in your neighborhood. 

5. Flex your green thumb to give criminals the finger

You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to add Mother Nature to your home security strategy. 

Thorny bushes under windows, pruned trees, and clear lines of sight across your property can all ruin a burglar’s day. Don’t give prowlers a place to hide—keep bushes and trees tidy and trimmed.

Avoid planting greenery that obscures the view under windows or near other entryways. If you must have a plant in those spots, opt for something that’s spiky and inhospitable to creepy crawlers of the human persuasion.  

Make it even harder for a sneakthief to get close to your abode with a driveway alarm or motion-activated floodlight cam that warns you (and them) that something fishy’s going on. 

You can pick up these perimeter protectors for between $90 and $250. 

6. Fake a Netflix and chill night

Randomized lights are one thing, but the sound and flicker of a TV gives bad actors even more pause. 

So what if you’re out for the night (or week)? You can fake a lockdown-worthy Netflix binge when you connect your TV to a smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Nest.

Smart speakers run anywhere from $40 up to a couple Benjamins, leaving plenty of leftover moolah to spend on your worry-free night out. 

Depending on your setup, you can program a routine before you head out or manually fake it using your Amazon Alexa or Google Home app. 

7. Carry around a personal bodyguard

Home isn’t the only place you want to feel safe—and masks aren’t the only protective gear you shouldn’t leave home without. 

From portable pepper spray to mobile panic alarms, there’s a bevy of personal safety products to ease anxiety when you’re on the move. 

Unleash on suspicious stalkers with a 130 dB siren from a personal panic button that looks just like a regular keyfob. Push your panic button to the next level with the Noonlight mobile app—when you press the icon on your phone your GPS location is instantly linked to a monitoring center with operators that can send out help immediately. 

You can get one of these bodyguard stand-ins for as little at $20—just make sure you know how to use them. You don’t want to be unprepared in the stress of the moment when you really need help. 

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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