Budget Home Monitoring Options

security camera footage on a tablet computer on a man's lap

Whenever you leave your home, there's a chance of it being burglarized, but did you know that these chances go up exponentially during the holidays? Break-ins peak between November and December and account for over 400,000 of the nearly 2 million homes burglarized yearly. Although the numbers may be alarming, the numbers are equally as good that you can prevent your home from being targeted by adding home monitoring to your home's safety plans. Stats show that if you have a home monitoring system, you avoid burglary by 300%.

The only other tough part with the numbers may be how to make home monitoring work with your budget. But it can be done, and even in a way that your pocketbook will barely notice. Ready to make the numbers work in your favor?

Free or Low-Cost Home Surveillance Apps

A smart watch and a tablet in the background with home security apps open.

Have an especially tight budget this year? That's OK because there are some really great ways you can monitor your home for free or for just a few bucks. All you'll need is a spare PC, notebook, Android, or iOS device, and you'll be able to monitor your home and even be alerted.

Several Wi-Fi camera apps are out there that repurpose your old Android smartphone, iPhone, or tablet into security cams. We've picked the top three for you, listed below, that will work with the most devices. With each of these apps, you'll be able to monitor your home live, record to the cloud, and receive motion alerts. By setting them up strategically around your home, you won't be blind to what's going on while you're away. Here's the best of the bunch that is either free or a few dollars in cost:

Android or iOS: free Manything app or free Presence app

Android, PC, or notebook cameras: iCamSpy (There is a free trial version to this app, but to get the best features, the pro version is recommended, and at less than $5, it's a good option.)

DIY Home Monitoring Kits

Other ways to keep your home safe and monitor it while you're away include setting up your own home alarm system. Most of these DIY systems allow you to add Wi-Fi cameras with motion detection, window and door sensors, and fire and smoke alarms. These DIY security alarms are usually self-hosted, meaning that they will call or otherwise notify you of an alarm sounding instead of monitoring the company.

Whatever system you choose, make sure that it's compatible with the operating system you'll be accessing it from, such as Android or iOS. The top three recommended DIY home alarm systems on a budget include iSmartAlarm, SkylinkNet Alarm System, and SimpliSafe Home Security. Starter kits range from $145-260 and usually include the best accessories at a better price.

Wireless IP Camera

A home security camera in a house.

A great way to stay on budget and still check in on your house while away is with a wireless security camera. These days you can find them for as low as $60, and even a single camera set in the right spot can make a difference. Most of these cameras come with iOS or Android apps to control them. When buying, you want to check the description to see if you can zoom, tilt, and record. Most will record to a micro SD card, but some will also record to the cloud. Check out if there's a fee for their cloud storage or if you're able to set up your own cloud storage.

All-in-One Systems

Many all-in-one home automation systems allow you to do more than monitor the home. The benefit of having a system like this is that they can also automate things like your lights so that they are on a timer and give the appearance of you being home. With these systems, you can start with the basics and add on when your budget allows.


This system comes with an HD security camera with which you can watch live or recorded video. It will also alert you when motion is detected and has no monthly fees. You can add on accessories, such as plug-in modules that allow you to turn your lights on or off or sensors that monitor your windows and doors. It starts at $170.

Amazon Echo or Echo Dot

This smart system also allows you to go basic or add all sorts of third-party accessories. It starts at $50 for the Echo Dot, and then you can add cameras and other things to allow it to monitor your home properly. A few examples of compatible cameras to monitor your home include the EZVIZ Mini at $65 and the Levana at $89.

Google Home

Relatively new to the market of home security and automation is Google Home. Like Amazon Echo, you can add pretty much anything to Google Home. The downside is the cost; beginning at $130 just for the hub and $199 for the Nest wireless camera, you may have to find some wiggle room in your pocketbook to make this an option.

Most burglaries are committed by someone in your neighborhood, which means that up until now, they've been the ones doing the monitoring. So, in addition to keeping a keen eye over your home, you'll also want to keep what they see to a minimum. You can do this with some self-monitoring. For example, watch what you put in the trash—don't let them see that new television box you just tossed out.

Prevent them from noticing you're gone with a temporary hold on newspapers and mail, so they don't pile up. Put your lights on a timer and post signs around the yard and windows stating your home is being monitored (even if it isn't). Incorporating these tips along with remote monitoring will boost your chances of having a safe home for the holidays—and any day of the year.