Protect Your Holiday Gifts with a Home Inventory

Planning on racking up the gifts this holiday season? In case of emergency, inventory them and the rest of your belongings with an app on your phone.

Will you be receiving new electronics, jewelry or other big-ticket items as gifts this holiday season? And (hint, hint), will you also be getting the receipts?

The holidays are an ideal time to take a home inventory and make sure all your pricey new gifts will be protected in the event of a loss: a fire, a burst pipe due to freezing, a natural disaster or even theft.

A home inventory of all the items you own with information about their value is a good way to prove ownership in the case of a loss. The inventory will assist your insurance carrier if you ever need to make a claim. Yet, according to an Allstate Insurance survey conducted in January, only 39 percent of Americans have ever made a home inventory.

If you don’t fall in that category, here are simple tips and resources that can make the task of documenting and protecting your holiday gifts — and everything else you own — a lot easier than you think.

Start with an app or checklist. A smartphone app can streamline the process of taking a home inventory. Allstate’s Digital Locker helps you quickly photograph and capture descriptions of all your possessions, and then stores the data in the cloud. You can also do it the analog way, with a clipboard and a household inventory checklist in tow.

Go from room to room. Organizing by room will keep you on track. Start at one end and catalog everything you see as you walk through; write detailed descriptions of each item, down to the make, model and serial numbers; and take pictures or a brief video. Don’t forget those new holiday gifts and any items tucked inside drawers, closets and cabinets.

Note what stuff is worth. Part of a home inventory is noting the cost and purchase date of each item. And while receipts are always your best bet, holiday gifts don’t typically include them. Take heart: Interactive tools like What’s Your Stuff Worth? can help you estimate the value of those new possessions along with the value of what you previously owned.

Keep your inventory safe. Once you’re done, find a good spot (or more than one) to store the inventory, along with receipts and any related documents. It should be safe from an event that might invite a claim, like sources of water damage, theft and fire, but also easily accessible enough to retrieve in the event of a claim. If you used an app to create the inventory, consider cloud storage or a thumb drive. Hard copies can be safely stored in a safe deposit box or with a family member or friend.

Now that your inventory is complete, you have a ballpark figure of what it would take to replace your belongings. (Is it more than you thought?) Use this figure as a starting point for a conversation with your agent to make sure you have the right coverage on your renter’s policy.

Also, make a mental note to update your home inventory any time you come into any valuable new possessions. After all, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

This guest post comes from the editors of The Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/tadamichi                    

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