By Paul Sisolak
They call it saving for a rainy day, but when we wait for the rainy day before we begin saving, we're left in a quandary if we need funds on hand in the event of an emergency. Personal finance experts suggest keeping a financial reserve of three to six months of living expenses at all times. But according to a recent poll by the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development, 44 percent of Americans don't readily have the liquid assets they need to cover surprise expenses -- and even fewer people hold it in the form of that classic currency: cash.
In the event of some national emergency, major catastrophe or just a bad power outage, financial institutions could be rendered temporarily inoperable, as well as your ability to withdraw money or use your credit or debit card. Having some physical cash is practical, though you might hesitate to position any in your home since a suitable, theft-proof hiding spot is hard to find. The old money-taped-to-the-underside-of-the-toilet-lid trick doesn't work. (Just like under your mattress, it's one of the first places burglars look.)
Consider these unique and safe hiding places right in your own home to tuck your emergency savings fund.
1. Inside false infrastructure. Constructing fake fixtures around the house, like a drain pipe in the basement, return air vent in the living room or power outlet on a bedroom wall, gives the appearance of working household parts, but in fact, acts as a facade for hiding your emergency money inside. Some homeowners may need to be on the handier side for this idea, since it may involve some do-it-yourself drilling, fitting and securing. Too DIY intensive? Many online vendors sell installation-ready versions that double as light switches or electrical plates.
2. Buried outside. What better way to hide money inside your house than hiding it outside? Pick a reasonably conspicuous spot in your yard or garden to bury your money, and carefully protected, nobody will find it -- except you, as long as you remember where you dug. Be sure not to leave your $20s, $50s and $100s uncovered, since the elements can decompose the paper over time. Instead, zip cash up in bags, put it in glass jars and/or wrap the bills in plastic or a small tarp. Unless would-be thieves have a shovel, light and plenty of time on their side, they're unlikely to look in the ground.
%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-963%3. Disguised and dispersed. Sometimes, hiding your money in less conspicuous places can be the most inconspicuous hiding spot that a thief might overlook. Are you a devout bibliophile? Hollowing out a book to stuff some bills into is an outdated method, but not for anyone with an extensive library of tomes floor to ceiling, where the "money book" is hidden among hundreds of other books and more difficult to find. What about hiding some cash in an envelope in a box of blank envelopes? Odds are the irony will be lost on a burglar with a low IQ. Money doesn't have to be folded or stacked, either: It can be rolled into bike tires, curtain rods, hollow broom handles, table legs, or anything cylindrical that needs more than a bit of dismantling. (Remember, you don't need to keep all your emergency money in one place, either.)
4. Sleeping with the fishes. If you own some pets of the aquatic kind, and their tank is large enough, roll your emergency proceeds securely in a solid color jar and hide it among the coral, seaweed, Atlantis ruins or behind the water filter -- places that even the most concentrated, keen eye might miss. If that's not opaque enough, go for an envelope wrapped in plastic, more plastic and a Ziplock bag, and place it flat at the bottom of the tank under colored gravel. Homeowners with a fish pond can do better by nestling a jar of money at the pond bottom, making sure it's submerged and heavy enough to prevent flotation to the top. Don't worry -- the fish won't tell.
5. Fail-safe in a safe. Another options is simply to invest in a heavy duty safe that proclaims its presence with the confidence that it won't be compromised by anyone or anything. A steel or cast iron floor safe can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, but when it comes to security, you do get what you pay for. Find one that can be bolted firmly to the floor, heavy enough to deter easy lifting, and with a series of locks, combinations or, if applicable, one linked to a home alarm system.
Can hiding your emergency fund in plain sight work? It wouldn't be wise to leave your hard-earned savings out in the clear blue open, but some experts believe leaving a bit of "bait money" in view -- $50 or $100 out in the open -- can satisfy a thief looking for a quick cash grab. Should the distraction be successful, the real savings you've stealthily stashed throughout your household, thanks to these tips, will stay safe and sound. Now, the real challenge is saving up that emergency fund for when it matters most.
Paul Sisolak writes for GoBankingRates.com, a source for the interest rates on savings accounts, CDs, mortgages, auto loans and more.
By Paul Sisolak