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Find the right contents insurance

Working out how much contents insurance you need

Home is where the heart is, and it's also where you keep most if not all of your belongings. So it's important to protect them with the right amount of insurance cover.

The aim is to find an accurate 'sum insured' - the amount your contents insurance would pay out if you had to claim for everything you own.

Set the sum insured too low and you'll be 'under-insured'. That's bad enough in itself, but it also opens you up to the risk of having any claim you make reduced by the insurance company.

Say you've only got half the insurance you need to cover all your possessions. After a claim, your insurer might look to reduce the pay-out by the same 50%. It can do this by invoking the 'average' clause tucked away in your policy small print.

Over-estimating how much insurance you need is also a problem because if you take out too much cover you'll end up paying over the odds for contents insurance you don't need.

Make sure you include all your belongings on your contents inventory
Make sure you include all your belongings on your contents inventory

How to work out the value of your contents

Most of us don't own great works of art or antique jewellery, but it's surprising how quickly the value of our belongings can add up, especially when you include all those gadgets, such as laptops and iPods.

The best way to work out the value of your contents is to systematically go through every room and make an inventory. Don't leave anything out, whether it's an electric toothbrush or a pair of curtains - they'd all need to be replaced if, say, there was a fire at the property. And remember to include bed linen, rugs and clothes. You should also carry out an inventory of the shed or garage because garden equipment can be expensive.

You then need to work out how much it would cost to replace every single item on the list with a new one. The internet can help, or you might be able to find receipts and adjust for inflation. If you have any antiques or objets d'art, experts recommend that you get an expert valuation.

When you have a total, you should insure your contents for that amount. Don't simply guess the value of your contents: research shows that one in five households does not have enough insurance.