The widespread and ongoing power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy not only left millions of people in the dark but reminded many of us of how useful it can be to have some good, old-fashioned cash on hand for an emergency.
Many ATMs in Sandy's path were rendered useless by the storm. Those that remained in operation often had long lines, and some reportedly ran out of cash. Credit and debit cards weren't of much use either, dependent as they are on electronic store terminals.
So, before the next big storm, it may make sense to round up a little extra cash. Some advice from our money experts:
- If you want to conceal cash in a safe place at home, it's easy enough to make one. For example, put a roll of bills into an empty food can and stow it deep in your pantry or hollow out that copy of "Moby Dick" you know you'll never read anyhow. Burglars have seen it all, of course, but they're usually in too big a hurry to check every book or canned good you own. If you're not the do-it-yourself type, you can buy similar items, such as wall clocks with secret compartments and Pringles tubes with fake bottoms.
- Consider a home safe. Safes are designed to protect their contents from fire, burglary, water, or some combination of those perils. So your first step is to decide what risks you're most concerned about. You can find safes at retailers such as Costco, Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, and Target, as well at specialty stores and online. Expect to pay $50 for a small chest suitable for stowing cash or $100 and up for a safe large enough to accommodate other valuables and important documents. Consumer Reports doesn't test them, but our Money Adviser newsletter has published a guide to choosing and using a home safe.
- Finally, and obvious as it seems, if you hide money around the house, try not to forget where you put it.