Many of us have a small stash of cash in our homes should a significant emergency arise – a massive power outage, natural disaster, or other calamity. But where to hide it? One need only Google “places to hide money” to discover a large number of – in most cases – utterly predictable and therefore horrible places to hide money in your home. I’ll debunk a few of those in a moment and provide some suggestions for unusual and effective hiding places, but first let’s consider how a burglar thinks…

  • Most burglars want to find cash or things that can be quickly converted into cash (DVDs, CDs, DVD players, TV’s, computers, iPods, cameras, cable boxes, etc.)
  • Want to get in and out of your house quickly
  • Do not want to attract the attention of neighbors
  • Will check your prescription medication bottles in the hope of finding something good
  • Operate during the day or early evening when they can see (or otherwise determine) that no one is home
  • Time permitting, will dump your canisters (flour, etc.) upside down, dump or take your change jar, and may look in your fridge & freezer
  • May peek in the tank of your toilet
  • Will dump dresser drawers upside down, glance behind pictures, & “frisk” your clothing hanging in your closet
  • Will steal your firebox (fire proof box) if he’s not on foot
  • May look for “decoy safes” – fake Ajax, Jolly Time popcorn, Aquanet cans, electical outlet safes, etc.
  • Will tend to spend most of their time where the good stuff is – family/great room, rec room, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, computer room/office, etc.
  • WILL check beneath your mattress!

Types of hiding places to avoid!

Some of the hiding spots you ought to avoid should be very apparent, given the list above. Putting money in prescription medication bottles is just flat out dumb. Likewise, putting money inside anything that a thief is likely to grab – say a DVD player, or DVD cases themselves, is not wise. (Plus: someone – husband/wife/kids – may loan or give the DVD to someone!) Putting $500 (or whatever amount) in the pocket of a certain shirt in your closet may work – but keep in mind that “frisking” clothing in your closet takes just seconds, AND this is hardly an original idea. Likewise, hiding items in a waterproof bag or bottle in the tank on your toilet is an idea that wasn’t conceived recently (have you seen The Godfather??)… many people have had this idea and as a result, a burglar may look. In a similar vein, hiding cash inside a heating/AC vent or cold air return vent isn’t novel and if it’s taped in place, the adhesive on the tape may fail – and your money will be lost in the ductwork somewhere!

Also, try to avoid a place that you may actually forget. If you put cash in an article of clothing or an old shoe and a couple of years go by, you may forget about it. Goodwill and Salvation Army workers routinely find money in donated clothing.

With this last point in mind:  before you hide money anywhere in your home, go to wherever you store the deed for your home and put a note on it – something to the effect of “emergency $$,” or “hidden cash,” – so that you won’t move away and leave your cash in the house! In the excitement of a move, you may totally forget it!

A couple of other thoughts before my recommendations

The best place is in a heavy, high quality safe. If it’s a really heavy safe, securely bolted down (and the bolts aren’t easily accessible) your average burglar won’t bother. The cost of this type of safe may be prohibitive for many of us, however.

If you hide stuff in furniture, the walls of your home, clothing and the like – and your home burns, so does your money. Your hidden cash certainly pales in comparison to a house fire, but do you really need to lose another $300, $500, or $1000?

This is going to seem totally counter intuitive, but you may want to consider leaving $50 to $100 lying in plain sight in your kitchen. If you have a nice home, nice furnishings, but no cash lying about, a burglar may trash your place looking. If he can grab a quick $100 and run, he most likely will – remember, he wants to grab and go as quickly as possible!

We know what rooms and spots are popular with burglars, so…  finding other, remote spots to hide cash is a good idea.

Where to hide it…

A few ideas – perhaps you can use one of these, or maybe these ideas will spark an idea on your part:

  • Your friendly local neighborhood burglar won’t spend a lot of time in your utility room in the basement. One simple hiding spot is to put your cash in an envelope and place it on top of a section of heating/AC ductwork. Choose an out of the way spot. Don’t leave a stepladder or anything someone could stand on in that part of your basement. The chances that your guy will go to your basement and check to see if you’ve hidden cash on top of your duct work is very remote!
  • Similarly, your home probably has a large steel I beam running its length. It looks something like this…

structural I beam

If you can find an out of the way spot on this beam which is poorly lit and not very accessible (e.g., there are storage boxes in the way) it could provide a good hiding place. Put the bills in an aluminum tube or steel pipe and set it in the joint of the beam. It’s unlikely that your burglar is going to spend a lot of time searching around your basement. To facilitate removing the bills should you use a tube or pipe, tie a piece of thread around a paperclip and put the clip on the end of the bills you first insert into the tube.

  • Your washing machine has a metal panel on its back which can be removed. Pull the washer out, remove the panel, and put your cash (in an envelope) in a safe spot inside – duct taping it to the sidewall of the appliance. Your typical burglar will not want to pull out your washer and partly dismantle it – it’ll simply take too much time. (Of course it’ll require you a little time to retrieve it as well. The next suggestion is less time consuming and every bit as effective.)
  • You probably have a metal box hanging off the ceiling of your garage – your door opener’s motor unit. There is a surprising amount of space available inside. Remove one of the side panels, securely duct tape your envelope of cash to the panel, and put it back in place. On my opener, the side panels are attached with 4 easily removed screws – it takes about 4 minutes tops to take one off and put it back on. I apologize to 99.999% of my readers for what I am about to write, but: I am NOT referring to the translucent section of the opener where the light bulb is – I am referring to the side panels!
  • A final comment: I mentioned fire earlier. If you wish, fireproof envelopes are available from a number of vendors. They cost between $35 and $50, and will protect your bills should the worst happen. Just Google “fireproof bags.”

An important note…

If you hide cash in your home, immediately after doing so put a note with your home’s deed reminding yourself to retrieve the cash – should you move; you may forget if it’s been in place for months – or years!!  If you’re renting, do so with some other important document you’d refer to when moving – your renter’s insurance policy, for instance.

If you have any outstanding hiding spots you’ve dreamt up, please share them with your fellow Practical Hacks readers!

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