Savings challenge: Are cheap home security measures a safe bet?

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Editor’s note: Each week, one of Bankrate’s personal finance reporters is reporting on a new way to save and chronicling the savings journey. This week, I weighed the pros and cons of having a security system versus going with cheaper alternatives. See what happened.

Ever see a security system commercial where a homeowner walks in on a burglary in progress? As a single woman, these commercials pose a convincing argument for having a great security system. But, I wondered what alternatives exist for keeping my home safe without adding a new category to my monthly budget.

Having a good security system brings peace of mind, says Capt. Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View Police Department in California.

“The best advice the police department can give anyone is to go outside at night to see where the dark spots are,” he says. “Look at the house from the perspective of the burglar.”

Hsiung lists good lighting, pruned foliage, quality deadbolt locks and windows that are never left open as parts of smart home security.

I devised two plans to compare a low-cost security system to a higher-tech version.

See how it turned out.