Now that the waters in Houston are receding, people are able to get back into their homes and witness the damage in person. There are years and years of recovery coming, and many people have lost everything. Unfortunately, many people also don’t have flood insurance. But for those who do, they will need to report their losses to the insurance company. That means providing an inventory of everything that was lost. But would you be able to provide a home inventory if your house was damaged by flood or fire, or if thieves came in and stole a number of your possessions?
The best inventory would be a detailed list of everything you own, when you bought it, and what you paid for it. But let’s be honest, who has time for that? So let’s look at the best way to be as detailed as possible without going overboard.
The simplest way to start your home inventory is to take video. Take your camera or cell phone and walk through your house, getting all of your possessions on video. Make sure you focus in on collections or anything of value. Open up closets, open up cabinets in the kitchen, open drawers in the bedroom. Get everything on record. This is a great start when you have to sit down and figure out what was lost or what has gone missing. Make sure you store this video where you can access it. Do you have any sort of cloud storage or computer backup? Make sure the video is there. If you don’t have that option, burn it to a disc and keep it at your office or at a friend’s house.
Log Expensive Items
Obviously, making a detailed inventory of everything you own would be a huge project unless you are a super minimalist. So instead, make a log of the expensive items – computers, other electronic equipment, jewelry, music instruments, and any collectibles you own. I recommend taking pictures of these items as well. Log whatever information you have – model numbers, purchase date, purchase price, etc. I recommend putting this into a spreadsheet on Google Drive. It’s easily accessible from any internet connected computer or tablet.
Save your receipts for expensive purchases. But if you don’t have those, credit card statements are also great. Check how long your credit card company stores their statements online and consider downloading those that pertain to some of your big purchases. If you’ve bought from Amazon.com, they keep a record of all of your purchases (which can be scary to look back if, like me, you made your first purchase last century).
Obviously, a bunch of paper records aren’t going to be helpful if your house floods or burns. So scan the records and store them somewhere that you can easily access them.
There are also computer programs and apps that can help you log your inventory. I haven’t used any of these, but if you find the task overwhelming, check them out and see if any of them can help you get started.
Remember, at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. It is replaceable. You are not. So if your home is at risk, grab what you need (do you have an emergency plan?) and get out with your family and your pets. Recovery after a disaster is never fun, but if you plan ahead, you can make it as painless as possible.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.