Money Smarts Blog

Six Easy (and Cheap!) Steps to Upgrade Your Backyard This Year

May 15, 2018 || Elizabeth Vancamp

mulch is an affordable way to spruce up your yard

If you share my love of enjoying the backyard and my need to be frugal, this post is for you. As the weather warms, I spend as much time as possible in my backyard, and the more time I spend there, the more DIY ideas I dream up to make my yard even more pleasing.

However, the costs of these ideas can add up quickly, so I’ve learned to be thrifty when it comes to DIY projects and I’d like to pass on some of my tips for turning a backyard wasteland into a backyard oasis on a budget.

Step #1: Spruce up your lawn

Lay fertilizer throughout the year (and look into Milorganite, which will make your yard smell like a pig farm for a day but is an inexpensive way to make your yard look amazing) and toss some grass seed onto bare or sparse areas of your lawn. You can usually buy enough grass seed to patch and thicken your grass for $6-$18/bag, so with this and fertilizer, you can expect around a $75 investment throughout the spring and summer for a beautifully green lawn.

Step #2: Make sure you have a place to sit and enjoy your backyard

Find affordable patio furniture by shopping around during non-peak times, such as early spring or late fall. You can also stop by garage sales or places like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore to find patio furniture that’s in decent shape, then update the furniture to fit your style. It’s amazing what a can of outdoor furniture spray paint can do to spruce up old furniture!

You can also get creative with cinder blocks, which are relatively inexpensive and can create a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture for your patio.

Step #3: Create a patio area (if you don’t already have one)

Cement work is often pricey and adding a deck can easily blow your backyard budget, but filling a space with fine gravel is a less expensive way to create a space that’s separate from the lawn where your patio furniture can go. Plus, if you go with a smooth gravel, you’ll get a nice foot massage every time you walk over this area barefoot!

Step #4: Add outdoor lighting and decor

Solar lighting has come a long way in recent years in terms of affordability, and now solar lights for your yard are pretty inexpensive. You can use them to line your side walk, garden, or patio, or you can attach them to the posts of your fence for lighting all around the yard.

If you’d like to add a little bit of character to your seating area, you can take an old chandelier (you can find these at garage sales, flea markets, or thrift stores), spray paint it, put solar lights in where bulbs once went, and hang it above your patio furniture. This simple (and cheap) décor will make your seating area look fun and inviting.

Step #5: Use your green thumb

Narrow down where you’d like to plant things in your backyard then pick out what exactly you’re going to plant. I suggest picking perennials when on a budget because, although all plants will require some investment up front, perennials will come back year after year so you won’t have to keep investing money into them. Bushes, hostas, and wild grasses tend to do a good job of filling in spaces throughout a yard and being eye pleasing.

If you have a wooden fence, take advantage of the extra space for planting annuals or succulents. You can use terracotta pots and flower pot hangers to make a decorative hanging garden that will add color and dimension to your yard for less than $25!

Step #6: Encourage birds to visit your yard

Putting bird feeders in your backyard will encourage visits from a variety of birds, and this provides many benefits for your well-being and your yard such as lowered stress levels, pest and weed control, and increased plant pollination. This is an inexpensive addition to your backyard that will bring you enjoyment and can help keep your yard in tip-top shape.

A backyard update doesn’t have to break the bank, and can provide years of enjoyment and outdoor fun without the stress of going over budget. Stick with a small budget for this upgrade and you’ll not only have less budget stress, but you’ll be able to put more money away in your IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union savings account for bigger future projects, that fun trip you’ve been wanting to take, or finally making a big payment on your student loans. It’s a win-win!

If you find yourself wanting to complete a bigger project – like finally putting in that deck you’ve always dreamed off – a home equity loan from IHMVCU can help make your dreams a reality. Use our Home Equity calculators to find out how much equity YOU have to work with and even calculate a monthly payment.

Share your favorite budget-friendly DIY projects for the backyard with us to help us get inspired for summer.

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