Several months ago, I made a very adult decision that I had been avoiding and putting off for a very long time. I bought renter’s insurance.
This seems like a very smart and responsible thing to do. After all, we have accumulated a great deal off stuff over the years and it would be hard to replace after a catastrophe or robbery. And, even in a college town where burglaries come in seasons – -Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, Spring break – renter’s insurance is not terribly expensive. We sprang for the expensive stuff, replacement insurance, and it still only costs us about $10 a month.
And, we live in the heart of tornado country, so buying renter’s insurance before the beginning of the tornado season seemed like a good idea. They say Carbondale has never been hit by a tornado, by I know better than to tempt fate. My insurance agent told me pictures, or a videotape of our stuff, would be one good way to record all the items that belong on the policy and we did that. But, she suggested it was also good to have a physical list of personal property. Of course, we had the big things with serial numbers and makes and models of our computers and cameras and high-end electronics, but there was a great deal more to do. Since we have extensive video and music collections, we needed to make a list of all of those items.
And, we could just list our graphic novels as “graphic novels”, she said, but especially since we are paying for replacement insurance, the more specific our list, the better the company will pay if something happens to our stuff. Apparently, the way it works is that we submit receipts as we buy the “replacement” and get reimbursed up to our policy maximum. I can’t decide if I love her or hate her for that piece of advice. It makes sense. We’ll save the list and the photos to DVD and the insurance company will store them for us and we’ll have a second copy at another off-site location. Making a physical list means that we don’t have to try to scrutinize the pictures after a terrible event and try to read the names on the sides of the DVD boxes or the names of the books on the bookshelves.
But it does mean that I have to make a complete list of everything in my house and try to remember or estimate when I bought it and how much I paid for it. It’s the little things that you don’t immediately think about that add up, my agent told me.
She was right. Replacing out DVD collection alone would cost upwards of $5,000, and then there’s the digital camera, the other 35mm camera, all the camera equipment, two computers and the software for both of them, appliances, furniture, toys, books and clothes.
Did I mention that I have enough clothes for a small army? I like clothes. And, like the DVDs, making a list of my clothing and jewelry made me realize very quickly what it would cost to replace it all. Suddenly, the $50,000 limit on our policy looks kind of small. But through this headache of list making I have come to several important conclusions. One, I need to get rid of my excess stuff. Sure, I might someday regret it, but do I really need dishware to serve 24 people? Can’t I just use paper plates at that point?
Two, everything adds up. I have a linen closet full of extras that if I were to have a fire, I would never have thought of, but it contains my extra sheets, extra towels, extra toothpaste and extra shampoo. None of that seems like much until you think about having to replace it. Just replacing the medication, over the counter and prescription, in our medicine cabinet would cost upwards of $200. The price of that insurance seems lower every time I look at this list.
Three, some things are irreplaceable even if they are insured. My daughter’s first pictures, the champagne glasses from my wedding, the afghan my grandmother made me when I was nine. The pictures, I had duplicates made of and gave them to my mother-in-law for “just in case”, but the other things I don’t want to live without them so that I can protect them. I guess I’ll just live with the risk.
Four, this list, no matter how comprehensive, will be out of date by the time I ever need it and the horror of having to remember everything I’ve bought since I last updated it will be insane. Five, I need to create back-up files more often, and store those back-ups somewhere else. The hard drive on my laptop is so big that I have thousands of photos stored on it, from my last vacations to friends’ weddings. I think I need to save a copy of those outside of the house.
And, finally, six, every day there are people who lose everything and no amount of new stuff can ever replace it. I need to do a better job of appreciating what I have and not need my renter’s insurance policy to make me grateful for the things in my life.
Purchasing renter’s insurance was a difficult decision and getting prepared for it was even more difficult, but for the small cost involved, it’s worth it.