How to make your home safer without installing a security system

Tri-fold image of door alarm, Ring camera app, and automatic garage door opener

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Our homes are our sanctuaries, and nothing is better than feeling safe and comfortable when we’re in them.  When many people consider how to make a home safer they automatically assume installing a home security system is the only way to go, but what if that’s out of your budget? Fortunately, there are a number of items that you can add to your space across any budget, with some upgrades costing as little as $3! 

Add automatic lights around your home

Tuffenough Solar Outdoor Lights

$30 at Amazon

Security systems are designed to alert homeowners about unwanted activity, and you can get the same assurance for a lot less by adding lights in strategic spots! We recommend adding lights to walkways and porches, as well as in dark corners of your property, like around any hedges or trees that rest close to windows. These LED solar-powered lights come in packs of one to three, and offer 120° of coverage, plus you can adjust the level of brightness from an easy-to-use remote to keep your space illuminated (and your neighbors happy!)

See who’s at your door with a doorbell camera

Ring Video Doorbell

$99.99 at Best Buy

Doorbell cameras are a great way to see who’s at your door without having to open it. Not only can you see who’s on your porch while you’re home, you’ll also be notified who came by when you were out once you sync this to your phone. This model takes quality video and offers two-way audio communication, but it does require a subscription if you want to store your video to watch or check it later. If you just want to see who’s at your door while you’re there, you can always just use the live feed and skip the subscription. All the hardware you need to install this Ring doorbell is included in the box, and you can either hardwire this to your existing doorbell or use a battery to keep it running.

Or a peephole

Defiant 160 Degree Door Viewer

$8 at Home Depot

Not into adding another piece of tech or subscription to your life? Not a problem! You can still see what’s outside from inside by installing a standard peephole into your door. Not only are peepholes a one-and-done upgrade to make to your home, it’s also one of the most budget-friendly choices on this list. This peephole from Defiant offers one-way viewing in three color options, all made from solid brass that will never require upkeep—the easiest $8 you’ll ever spend!

Stay informed with sensors

BUNKER HILL SECURITY Door/Window Entry Alarm

$7 at Harbor Freight

Windows and doors are key entry points into any home, and knowing if someone has crossed one after you’ve locked up for the night can help you stay safe. These particular sensors from Bunker Hill Security apply in a snap with just a couple of basic tools, and have two sound settings to choose from—the classic alarm bell, and a pleasant chime. If you don’t need to hear these go off all day, just switch it to the “off” position, then back to your alarm when it’s time for bed.

Keep your windows impenetrable with a security bar

Prime-Line U 9835 3 In. Extruded Aluminum, White Reversible Sliding Window Bar Lock

$2 at Amazon

Again, windows are one of the most common entry points, and usually, one of the most weakly secured areas of the home. Adding a second set of locks to your windows can add extra reinforcement where it’s needed, especially if your window panes are older. As far as second locks go, we cannot recommend this lock with a window bar from Prime-Line enough.

It’s less than $3 to purchase and easily screws onto any sliding window frame, so you can keep your windows shut, or adjust the lock so it only allows your window to open as much as you want. Plus, the arm bar prevents windows from being pushed in as well as over, protecting your home from window entry two ways with just one small piece of equipment.

Add deadbolt locks to your doors

Kwikset 660 Double Cylinder Deadbolt

$18 at Amazon

If you don’t already have one, you can easily reinforce your doors with deadbolt locks, which are stronger and harder to crack than a standard doorknob lock or chain lock. Kwikset is one of the most trusted names in locks and keys, and these durable deadbolt locks from their 660 series don’t disappoint! They come in several different finishes, single and double cylinder options, and are SmartKey compatible, so that means no more key cutting if you have a SmartKey tool. If you don’t, you can opt to have all your Kwikset locks set to fit the same key with the free keying option that comes with every purchase.

Keep it shut with a doorstop

DEROFIT window security bar

$33 at Amazon

This is a must-do for anyone with sliding doors! The lock on a sliding door will go a long way, but adding a lock bar offers added insurance that the door isn’t going to slide open more than an inch should the lock become compromised. These lock bars come in packs of one or two, and adjust between 16 and 51 inches to fit doors or windows, plus they’re designed with a pin to keep the bar stable and set in place.

Update your door frames with reinforcements

Door Armor MAX door reinforcement set

$99 at Amazon

Every door frame comes with hinges and door jambs, and those little pieces of hardware do go through their own wear and tear over time. You can get a set like this one from Armor Concepts and get everything you need to reinforce your door in 30 minutes.

Each set comes with a galvanized steel frame, door hinges, and door jambs, which all work to make your door essentially unbreakable in the event of a forced entry. Door jambs are what keep your lock secured in place, so fitting your door with the strongest one possible is an excellent way to provide added security in a matter of minutes!

Reduce your keys with a keypad lock

Schlage Plymouth Electronic Keypad Single Cylinder Deadbolt

$116 at Amazon

This can be especially helpful for anyone who has lots of people going in and out of their home. Rather than cutting and handing out numerous keys, a keypad lock allows for keyless entry when you enter a code. You can set specific codes for multiple people to use, and can easily lock your doors with one push of a button. That means no more hidden keys that could be found. These keypad locks come in seven color choices, and all you need is a screwdriver to install one. 

Try a garage door app

Chamberlain - myQ Smart Garage Control

$25 at Best Buy

An open garage door is one of the easiest places for intruders to enter or steal things from, but you can ensure that your garage door is closed even if you’re not at home. This Smart Garage controller from Chamberlain works with any garage door opener manufactured after 1993 and installs in seconds—just mount the included WiFi hub in your garage, then download the myQ app to set it up and start using it.

A truly remote gadet, this is one of the best garage door openers we’ve seen and great addition for anyone who regularly needs to remotely let in a visitor without having to give them a key, like a maintenance worker, dog walker, or houseguest. Plus, you can always be assured that your garage door is closed from wherever you are, and close it from afar if you forgot to earlier.

Skip the system with a doorknob alarm

SABRE Wireless Door Handle Alarm

$11 at Home Depot

You can be alerted anytime someone turns your doorknob without paying for a full home security system when you add a doorknob alarm to your door. The SABRE Wireless Door Handle Alarm takes just minutes to set up — all you have to do is add three AAA batteries (not included,) set it to your alarm notice of choice, then hang it over your door.

This alarm measures 110 dB when it goes off, making it loud enough to hear across most homes, but it does have a 30-second delay to avert faulty triggers, so it shouldn’t be the only security you rely on. We still love these for their ease and effectiveness, and because you can take them with you on the go to keep you feeling safe at hotels or other overnight stays.

Keep it discreet with a smart motion sensor

Smart Motion Sensor

$35 at Amazon

Perhaps you want to be alerted to movement around your home but don’t want bright lights or loud beeping alarms going off every time it happens. If that’s the case, we recommend this motion detector that sends an alert to your phone in real-time thanks to extra-sensitive Thread technology. In addition to motion, you can use this device as a remote light switch and to keep track of room temperature and humidity without having to store anything in a cloud — this works with the Apple HomeKit to keep data right on your iOS devices, meaning no added subscription is needed. Don’t need to be alerted to every movement of the day? No problem! You can set this device to only send you alerts during certain times, like while you’re at work, away on vacation, or after you’ve gone to bed.


Fake it with a sign

Yard Sign for SimpliSafe Home Security System

$12 at Amazon

Don’t have a large dog with a booming bark in the home? Pretend you do with a sign that says so! Caring for a canine or installing a home security system isn’t going to be accessible, or even preferable to everyone. That said, you can still present the illusion of having a security system on the premises by adding an inexpensive sign to your yard. “Beware of Dog” signs or signs advertising services like ADT, or this one from SimpliSafe, may be enough to deter unwanted activity in your space, and are easy to display in most yards or windows.

About the Author

Krissy Howard

Krissy Howard is a New Mexico-based writer whose work has appeared in Byrdie, Well+Good, Cuteness, This Dog's Life, and Reader's Digest. In addition to reporting on pet care, skin care, and other wellness topics, her original humor can be found at Reductress, and The Hard Times. More.

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