Protect your home from crooks for less than $20


MISSOULA, Mont. - Your home is one of the largest investments you make, so you obviously want to do all you can to protect it.

You don't need a huge, expensive security system to keep you -- and everything inside your home -- safe.

"He came out and was basically standing right here," said Nathan Johnson, a burglary victim who described coming face-to-face with someone who broke inside his Missoula home. "I could see him about this far, 2 feet away, because I didn't have my glasses on. It was real close."

According to the FBI there are an average of 2 million home burglaries reported each year in the United States. Some 30 percent of those are through an open or unlocked door or window.

"There was a guy trying to get in the back door, and he had a black glove on. My roommate saw him through the upstairs window and called out hello, and the guy took off," Johnson said.

Detective Lieutenant Robert Kennedy, with the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, said a lot of burglaries in the greater Missoula area are just "burglaries of opportunity."

"Thieves are looking for items they can get in and get quick and either pawn or sell. It seems to just be the easiest home they get into," Kennedy said.

The FBI said tools crooks use to get inside are simple -- a screwdriver, pliers and small hammers are most common.

And if you think most break-ins are happening at night, think again.

"It's that 8 o'clock or 3 o'clock time when nobody is home," Kennedy said. "Kids aren't home from school, parents aren't home from work. And that's a great opportunity for someone to go into the house knowing that no one is going to be returning for awhile."

Police say the average burglar lives within 2 miles of the home they're targeting. That means they know the neighborhood and your schedule.

A break-in typically lasts about two minutes, and the first stop is usually your master bedroom.

So what if you could have burglars skip your home for around $20?

"Spotlights, motion-detector lights, any of those. If a thief comes up to the house and they see the light come on, they are not going to say," Kennedy said.

We did some shopping on Amazon and found plenty of ways to burglar-proof your home without spending a pretty penny.

A home security system doesn't even have to be real. You can buy decals and security system yard signs for about $12.

Even a security camera supposedly recording bad guys can be fake. We found one online for around $10.

"Taking a walk outside your house and making sure that what a burglar might see as an access point to your home is the same thing you're seeing," Kennedy said.

If crooks can't see inside they can't see what's there. We found a roll of window film on Amazon for less than $20.

Putting a dog bowl outside and filling it with water or dog food is another proven deterrent that works. We found a bowl on Amazon for $4.

"Burglaries happen all year-round," said Kennedy. "We consistently have thefts and burglaries. They just tend to be a big thing in Missoula County."

Timers for your lights give the illusion someone is home. Online we found some that you can even control with your smartphone for $19.99.

Doorstops and alarms that alert you to broken glass are other cheap alternatives.

However, one of the biggest deterrent to thefts is absolutely free.

"Make sure that you have a good relationship with your neighbors. Talk to your neighbors, so they know what is going on in your area, so if it's anything suspicious they can call 911," Kennedy said.

Here's another tip that won't cost you a dime. Most of us are guilty of keeping our keys by the front door. Instead put them on your nightstand. If you hear someone trying to get in, hit the panic button. It's like having a home alarm without the cost of one.

Below are the items featured in this story. Have a tip you'd like to share? Leave it in comments below.

Stainless steel bowl, $4.24 Beware of Dog signs, $4.69 Orvibo WiFi Smart Socket outlet plug, $14.99 Fake security camera with light-up LEDs, $8.99 Door stop alarm, $13.29 Indoor digital timer with motion sensor, $7.56 Etched glass window film, $19.97 Ultra-slim window alarm, $9.99 Smarthome Security yard sign, decals, $11.87

For more security tips, visit HGTV's website or from the website Lifehacker.