Whether you rent or own your dwelling, having insurance for your dwelling is very important. Our lease actually requires us to get it. Since we’re in a one-bedroom apartment and almost none of our stuff is new (or if it is, it’s well-used), we didn’t insure it for a huge sum, but do have enough insurance to replace it all should something happen. It costs just under $100/year and it’s worth every penny for peace of mind.
About a year after we got insurance, when I was renewing the policy, I suddenly realized that we didn’t have any documentation of our possessions, were we to have a fire or other catastrophe. While the insurance company might believe we had 2 couches, a bed, a dining room table, etc, they might not be willing to take it on faith that I have a lovely violin or the number of computers we seem to have acquired (though some are so old & feeble that they’re not worth replacing).
So I grabbed our little digital camera and made a sweep of the place, documenting. It’s been on my mind again recently, after I wrote about creating a personal balance sheet in my textbook personal finance series. Here are some tips for documenting your possessions for insurance.
- Use a digital camera. If you don’t have one, borrow a friend’s or buy a disposable digital camera. Having the pictures in digital format makes them much more useful.
- Photograph everything. Photograph the most important items carefully, bu also take pictures of rooms so that you can point out that you lost two sets of hand weights, a couple quilting hoops, several wicker baskets of fabric, etc. If you end up having to use the photographs, having broader pictures will help you figure out everything you need to replace. Also pull open kitchen drawers to get an idea of what’s inside.
- Store remotely. Don’t just keep everything on your local computer or in your camera. You can use everything from online storage like dropbox to gmail to a friend’s computer to web albums to store pictures. But wherever you do store them, make it private. You don’t want to end up on someone’s shopping list!
- Document on “paper” too. Santa’s not the only one who makes a list and checks it twice. Having a list will help you recall specifics down the road. It
- Don’t sweat tidiness. Don’t put it off just because things aren’t as neat as you’d like. Better to do an initial documentation, find time to clean later, and then re-document if you want to. The only thing I’d avoid taking pictures of are any big fire hazards (and I’d get those fixed so you don’t have to use the insurance!).
Insurance is good, but without documentation your bases aren’t fully-covered.
Do you have homeowner or renter’s insurance? Have you documented it yet?