Think you're being crafty by stowing that roll of emergency cash at the back of your sock drawer? Assuming it will be camouflaged amid all those delightful polka dots and stripes, or overlooked in the face of aggressive argyle?
The sock drawer is among the most common places people stash money, jewelry, and other valuables — and burglars know it. The average thief takes just eight to 12 minutes in a home, and he or she is going to start by making a beeline for the master bedroom and that unassuming dresser drawer. Other not-as-secret-as-you'd-hoped spots in the bedroom include under the mattress and inside desks and closets. Americans are also fond of using the freezer or the cookie jar. And wall art that fronts a safe or secret compartment is less cunning than you might think (Shawshank Redemption aside).
Our lack of creativity might not be such a problem if we carted our precious possessions to the safe deposit box as regularly as we once did. But it's estimated that nearly half the safe deposit boxes in the country are empty today, and some banks aren't even including them in new branches. As for cash in particular, stockpiling savings at home is surprisingly common.
There are many reasons to reconsider this strategy. Free-floating money does not have the same loss protections as when it's kept in an FDIC-insured bank account. You're not earning any interest. A fire or other disaster could rob you of all your hard-earned savings. Or you could forget where you put the money and either accidentally throw it away or leave it behind. (Or someone else could do it for you, as with the Israeli woman who unknowingly replaced her mother's million-dollar mattress.)
If, however, you insist on keeping cash around — or if you have valuables that you're unwilling to put in a safe deposit box — be smart about where you hide them. Pick a place that will be easily overlooked by a thief, and that will remain undisturbed by house guests or pets. Keep in mind that it's easiest to remember a hiding place if you pick just one. And to avoid accidental tossing, you may want to let someone you trust in on the secret.
Here's a round-up of seven clever options, both do-it-yourself and for purchase:
1. The hollow book is a classic of concealment. You can create one yourself or buy it online. The ruse will be most effective if you have a large enough book collection that the imposter doesn't stand out.
2. Whether you're partial to fake beverages, jars of peanut butter, or containers of salt, there are plenty of so-called diversion safes that can hide in plain sight in the kitchen. All have secret compartments for your valuables. Alternately, you can repurpose containers on your own depending on the product (think mustard and mayonnaise jars).
5. The Rubik's cube safe is in a category by itself. No, it's not a working puzzle. But it does have a hidden compartment, accessible by turning the middle three layers in a specific combination. Just hope the burglar doesn't recognize it's not the same size as the classic Rubik's.
6. Buy a can of tennis balls and cut a small slit in each one. It'll work similarly to those small coin purses that open when you squeeze their sides and pop back into shape afterward. Stow it with other athletic gear and no one will ever know.
7. Find an old canister-style vacuum cleaner, which typically can be converted into a storage compartment. No burglar is going to stop to clean up after himself.