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Outdoor Spaces On a Budget

Updated on June 30, 2016
Rosie writes profile image

Rosie was an elementary school teacher for 13 years, teaching grades 3-5. She is now a Library Media Specialist in an elementary school.

Getting Motivated

Do you get depressed when you are in your yard or even when you look at it? If you have very little time and money to spend on improvements, you have come to the right place. There are several easy ways to improve your yard while spending next to nothing.

You can revamp and use items you already have, incorporating them into your yard in useful ways. If there are multiple areas in need of work, tackle one at a time. As you improve each area, you will feel happy about what you have accomplished and you will want to spend time in your yard.

Interesting Flower Pots


Reuse Old Things

When we look through magazines or see commercials, new things seem to fill our minds and we have an urge to buy them. We think if only I item, my space would look great. Often though, this is not the case. Disappointment kicks in once we realize the item didn't do the trick or didn't live up to our expectations. Look at those pictures no more, because you can make old items seem new and you will probably like them even more than new purchases, because they will be custom designed to your liking and will cost you very little to refurbish.

  • Find plant pots that you have stored away. Spray paint them to your liking, fill them with flowers, and place them down steps, around your deck or patio, and even throughout your yard. Painting pots all one color can be very eye appealing when placed in a cluster. Bright whimsical colors can be quite beautiful as well, providing a pop of color in spaces that need a lift. Don't feel that you need to fill your pots with annuals that require constant watering. Use daylillies in areas that get a lot of sun, or hostas in shady areas.
  • Old plastic wicker furniture can be completely refurbished with a can of spray paint (paint made for plastic, about $4-$5) and some matching pillows. First clean the furniture with soap and water and allow it to dry. Spray it completely with one coat and allow it to dry. Spray a second coat and allow it to dry. Place a couple of outdoor pillows on the furniture and you have a whole new look. Of course you can do this with any piece of furniture, whether it is made of wood, iron, or metal, there is a paint that will do the job. When spray painting, be sure you are outside and far from cars, houses, and people, so that the spray does not drift towards unwanted things. Every couple of years, you will need to do a light touch-up, so keep the cap stored away.
  • If you have bricks or cinder blocks that are just sitting around, put them to use. Create planters by building rectangular structures to place a plant pot in. These can always be moved around as needed. You can spray the pot to match the brick to give it a complete look. Try using aromatic herbs such as lavender in place of flowers; these will provide great smells as well as attractive foliage and some will return year after year.
  • Visit Goodwill or your local thrift store if you need outdoor furniture. Remember, you can always sand it or paint it to make it look new, and you will only pay a mere fraction of what you would pay for new furniture. Plus, you will get to make it your own.

Outdoor Improvements

What improvements have you made to your backyard to imrove its look and functionality?

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Use Raw Materials

Mulch looks nice, but it also costs a great deal. In addition, you will need a ton of it to make any impact on outdoor spaces of any size. It has to be spread in thick layers for it to last for a reasonable length of time. Fortunately there are alternatives to mulch that cost nothing or very little, and they look great and are actually easier to spread.

  • Use pine straw to cover previously mulched beds or new beds. Pine straw costs much less than mulch, is very easy to spread, and is all natural, unlike some mulches that have dye in them. If you have pine trees in your yard, you may already have pine straw available; it just needs to be raked into piles and spread in the right places. Pine straw also fluffs up, unlike heavy mulch, giving it the appearance of being thicker than it really is.
  • Create your own compost mixture. Make a square or rectangular area using 2 by 6 boards, cinder blocks, or bricks. Add a couple of bags of topsoil. Throughout the winter months add organic materials from your kitchen such as coffee grounds, banana peels, and egg shells. Mix with a shovel every few weeks. When spring arrives, use this mixture to fill your pots instead of buying potting soil or topsoil and save money.
  • Use a layer of pine cones in the base of plant containers. Fill the rest with composted soil mixture. The layer of pine cones will allow water to drain properly and will make the container lighter and easier to carry and move around. This is great way to use organic matter in pots. If you need the pot to be weighted down due to wind concerns, place a layer of rocks at the bottom first.

Accessorize with beautiful outdoor pillows.



Accessories can make an oudoor space. Little pops of color are pleasing to the eye and evoke emotions. Whether you are creating a fun or relaxing space, accessorizing will make a huge difference.

  • Put candles in glass containers and place in spaces around your deck. The Dollar Tree or local thrift store are great places to find beautiful glass containers and candles for only a few dollars.
  • Place small pillows on chairs with colorful patterns. Pillows give a cozy feel and can make a space inviting. Use curtain fabric, tablecloth fabric, or shower curtain fabric, if you do not want to purchase new fabric. Spray with fabric water repellent in case the pillows do get wet.
  • Hang outdoor lights on deck railing to give a warm glow in the evening. Purchase Christmas lights on clearance, or check your attic for lights you haven't used in years.

Create Your Own Fire Pit


Create Your Own Fire Pit

The warmth of a fire is a must in your outdoor space. Whether your roasting marshmallows with the kids or telling stories around the fire, nothing beats it. It's not necessary to go out and buy an expensive fire pit; you can easily make a fully functioning fire pit with a few items.

  • Make a table-size glass-walled fire pit. Here is an excellent article with clear instructions and pictures that describes how to do this at The Art of Doing Stuff.
  • For less than $30, you can build a fire pit on the ground with a few simple materials that you may already have. You will need some edging blocks and a sqare patio block. Visit theKitchin for complete instructions. If you want a fancier firepit, view the video below for easy installation.


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    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks phdast7! I look forward to trips to GoodWill. I usually find something that can be fabulous given the right touch. Take care.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub with some terrific ideas. I am a long time GoodWill shopper. It is a wonderful place to spend a few dollars and come home with an arm load of stuff, that as you said, just needs a little fixing up. Sharing. :)

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks Angelo and Audrey! Things are tight this year financially, so I'm sprucing things up on a budget. I'm having some fun with it too!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      This is such a wonderful hub! Thank you!

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

      A lot of good ideas here for sprucing yards up on a low budget.

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks. I'm finally able to be outside. It has been unusually cold here in Virginia - temperatures are getting warmer and rapidly. 86 degrees today?!? Being outside is on my mind :)

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Good suggestions. I hadn't thought about it, but a few bright pillows would really liven up our deck. Thanks for the inspiration!