It’s a good idea to keep a little cash in your home for emergencies. How much you decide to keep is up to you, but I would suggest keeping enough cash on hand to pay for a week of groceries, and maybe a night or two in a hotel. Because this money will not be earning interest, and is subject to being stolen by a burglar, I don’t suggest keeping a huge stash in your home. In addition to a small amount hidden at home, I also stash cash in our online savings account (my ING Direct review) to put a little distance between me and some of our savings. Think of cash stored in one of the best online banks as an offsite backup disaster recovery plan.
When you’ve settled on an amount you should think about secret hiding places to stash the cash. We’ve all seen those spy movies where the guy removes the tile from the back splash behind his stove and pulls out a cache of bills, passports and ammo. Well, the following ideas may not be worthy of James Bond, but they will improve the chances of your money surviving a break in.
Seven Secret Hiding Places for Your Cash
1. In the freezer wrapped in aluminum foil. Save a little styrofoam from the next pack of meat you buy and cut it down to the size of a couple large steaks. Put your cash in a Ziploc bag, stick it between two pieces of the used meat tray and wrap it in aluminum foil. Take a piece of masking tape and write “Scraps – 05/22/2005.” Robbers are not likely to look through the pack, and if they pull back the foil they’ll only see the familiar styrofoam tray and stop.
2. Sandwiched between the cardboard backing of a hard-to-reach picture frame. Most thieves pull back pictures from the wall to see if money is taped to the back, but they aren’t likely to take the time to look behind the glass, the cardboard backing and the picture itself. Use a pen knife to split the cardboard backing into two halves and sandwich the cash in between.
3. Under a piano, entertainment center or anything weighing a couple hundred pounds or more. If you have a hand truck around the house it’s pretty easy to just lift up the corner of a piano and slide an envelope under it. However, a burglar probably won’t be able to lift something this heavy, and would spend his time digging through the drawers or inside of the furniture rather than trying to lift it.
4. Inside a used can of soup. The next time you have soup, open the bottom of the can to empty the contents and the leave the top in tact. Rinse the can thoroughly, then use it to cover your stash of cash hidden inside your pantry. Stack a few cans of soup on top just to make it less convenient for someone to pick it up out of curiosity.
5. Buried in the “soil” of a fake plant. If you have a fake plant, or small tree, in your home, wrap your cash in a Ziploc bag and nest it inside the “soil” of the plant.
6. In hollowed out pages of a book on your book shelf. Using a pen knife or box cutter, carve out a few pages of your least favorite title. Hide your cash inside the book and return it to the book shelf.
7. Inside a kid’s toy hidden in their closet. Kid’s rooms are notoriously messy, and kids are not known for having large sums of money. Take apart an old plastic toy they no longer play with and hide your stash of cash in there. Return the toy to the bottom of the pile of toys in your kids closet, or toy chest, and it should be safe.
It’s important to remember that any cash saved at home could be lost in a fire or natural disaster. The ultimate hiding place is a fireproof safe bolted to the floor, and even that isn’t fool-proof. The ideal spot for storing large amounts of cash is an online savings account, far away from your house and any potential danger. But for the small amounts you stash at home, take the time to put it out of sight.
Also, remember to tell a spouse or close friend about the money in case you are not able to get to it (you die, or become injured or ill and cannot communicate). Keep enough cash on hand to cover you a few days in a major emergency, but not so much that you’d be completely wiped out if it all disappeared.