Stash your Cash: Decoy Safes are Cheap, Creative Way to Keep Money at Home

a decoy - decoy safesForget about putting that wad of rainy day cash under your mattress, many agree it's one of the first places thieves look -- but what about tucking the loot in a dusty "book safe" or decoy safe? It's worth considering.

Of course as one reformed burglar admitted in The Best Place to Hide Money: Conversation with a Burglar by Jeffrey Strain, the safest place to stash cash and valuables is not surprisingly, "at the bank." Their fees and charges may leave you feeling robbed anyway, but that's another story.Unfortunately, there are good reasons to keep cash at home. Recently, I listened as an American Red Cross volunteer listed items everyone should keep on hand in case of a natural disaster or emergency and one of those must-haves was cash. He explained that in the event of a catastrophe, it may not be possible to access money in the bank or use credit cards. Yikes.

Almost as scary, however, is keeping significant amounts of money lying around at home. As the candid thief told Strain, "If I can't find money in the normal places (i.e. dresser drawers, drawers by phones, closets, safe, jewelry boxes, purses) where I usually find them, I would continue to tear the house apart until I found something."

Home owner beware, however, the thief advised we should be thoughtful in selecting hiding places. He related an instance in which he stole electronics from inside a home and was surprised later to find cash hidden inside the battery compartments. Ooops.

The veteran robber and former drug addict suggested hiding money in kid's toys (well disguised by messy rooms), on the undersides of trash cans, inside laundry detergent, or in false packaging (i.e. decoy safes) but only if they are situated in their logical places. "When you find a Campbell's soup can in the bedroom," he explained, "you have a pretty good idea there is money inside."

Of course, now that those hiding spots have been outed for all the world to read they are probably not safe anymore, but you get the idea. Someplace you'll remember (vital!), and someplace a thief wouldn't be interested in looking. In my research, I ran across one website suggesting stashing cash in an empty bottle of Guinness with the cap back on. Great, unless your home invader feels like cracking open a cold one.

Similarly, the thief warned against keeping cash under the mattress because it is usually the place intruders look to find guns.

The book safe idea is sounding better and better. The best part: There are many, reasonably priced styles to choose from and they are available everywhere from Amazon, Sears and Kmart to crafting site, Etsy.

The Pommesfrites site on Etsy is currently selling a book safe disguised in an old Japanese textbook for $25. The description says the interior hollow is "spacious enough to hold an iPod, money or jewelry.

John Montefusco is selling a Clapton book safe ($40) with a hollowed out compartment in the shape of a guitar on his Etsy site, HiddenTreasureshoppe. "I look for deep books to give extra hiding space," says Montefusco. The Hollowbound shop on Etsy is selling a Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus book safe ($20) cut with an oval space inside and set with book binder's glue to keep it together. Because, as the sales pitch reads, "everybody has something to hide."

On Etsy, book safes range from text books and hymnals ($20) to Hardy Boys volumes ($14.99), recent Twilight ($35.20) editions and even a vintage 1960's "adult novelty" book ($20).Some vendors will even take requests for custom book safes.

Larger manufactures sell them from $10 and up on websites such as Amazon,Buy,The Housewares Store, and Sears. Some offer "locking" book safes with metal boxes built inside.

Then, of course, there is always DIY. Several online sites explain the step-by-step process of making your own book safe and a few offer video instruction on YouTube.

Basically, you'll need a hard-cover book at least two-inches thick, an X-Acto knife, box cutter, or power scroll saw, and glue or rubber cement. WikiHow offers great instruction for making a "hollow book".

For minimalist design enthusiasts for whom a clunky old book would look out of place in the decor, there are other options, such as the aforementioned soup can.

In fact, in addition to soup cans you can buy Pringles cans ($17.99), Barbasol Shaving Creme cans ($12.49), carpet cleaners ($18.99), surge protector strips, Ajax cans ($16.95) and even fake electrical outlets ($6.95) created specifically for the purpose of hiding money and valuables. Or make your own. "Experts say that a burglar will spend about eight minutes in your home," reads the Brick House Security website selling diversion safes, "He's in a hurry and will grab the most obvious, valuable items. He ain't that bright and follows the course of least resistance ... Sure the idiots who break into your house may know that a diversion safe exists, but they are scared, rushed and just want to get in, grab what they can and get out."

There are a few places to avoid hiding money, however, and according to Jeffrey Strain's chatty burglar this includes: toilets, cereal boxes, refrigerator/freezer, and the medicine cabinet. These locations are targets for thieves looking for drugs. "Many drugs last longer when refrigerated," he explained, "...Prescription drugs could also be found in the refrigerator." Singing like a canary, the burglar noted, "Cereal boxes are another place where a lot of people hide drugs. I'm sure that the people who didn't have drugs in their house wondered why there was cereal spread all over their kitchen after I robbed them." Yes, that among other things.

"I hide all of my big bills inside the picture of my mother-in-law," wrote one commenter on the Saving Advice website, "ain't no one looking in there! That picture is better than a guard dog on PCP!"

Whatever your method, don't forget where the super secret stash is located -- and be sure to share the information with loved ones who might accidentally toss the treasure into the recycling bin or in some cases, the pile headed to GoodWill.
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