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15+ Free & Cheap Backyard Ideas On A Budget

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Backyard deck: free and cheap backyard decor ideas

It can seem like giving your backyard a makeover has to cost the earth (pun intended!), but you can use plenty of backyard decor ideas to create your dream garden without breaking the bank.

I created a cozy seating area in my garden for less than $40! A few simple touches is all it takes to transform a patio, porch, or deck space into a relaxing outdoor living space. You just have to get creative with a few DIY projects!

Luckily, I have plenty of cheap backyard makeover ideas to share with you. First let’s have a look at cheap backyard ideas to create a stunning space. Then I’ll share my top tips for implementing these garden and patio ideas on a budget.

Cheap Backyard Makeover Ideas

So, how do you transform your backyard on a budget? Here are some big-impact garden ideas you can implement without doing too much damage to your bank account.

1. Create A Cabana

Create your own stylish vacation cabana feel! Secure tall wooden poles in planter pots with concrete in the bottom or secure them to the side of a deck. Tie rope or wire across the top to hang semi-sheer curtains as your privacy screen. For extra ambiance, string cafe lights across the top.

Deck with DIY cabana and colorful accessories

2. Lay Cheap Ground Cover

Some types of ground materials are more budget-friendly than others. Some cost-effective alternatives to grass, perfect for pathways and patios, are gravel (especially pea gravel) and mulch. They’re affordable, easy to lay yourself, and eco-friendly.

FREEBIE TIP: When you see county workers trimming and mulching trees near your neighborhood, ask if they will drop a truckload in your yard. Usually, they have to trek all the way to a second location to dispose of the mulch, so they are happy to dump it nearby!

Laying paving stones is also an inexpensive way to create a garden pathway. Of course they come in a variety of price-points, but look for pavers that are under $2 and space them apart as stepping stones.

Garden bench on gravel

Use a combination of materials to create different areas with different purposes. You could use wood chips to create a play area for the kids, gravel to make an outdoor dining area for socializing, and raised garden beds to establish a small flower or vegetable garden. Lovely!

3. Refresh The Patio & Furniture With A Good Cleanup

If you have an existing patio or deck, the chances are that it’s accumulated dirt, grime, and mildew over the years, and you might be thinking its best years are behind it. But you might be surprised by how transformative a good clean can be!

Rent or borrow a power washer to remove built-up dirt and stains, and you might find that you can restore it to its original condition. Seriously, Google before-and-after photos of paving slabs that have been power-washed!

Back deck with DIY furniture, accessories, and pergola

Old garden furniture will also scrub up nicely if you give it a good clean. Start by inspecting it for signs of wear, such as rust, mold, or fading, to see what you’re dealing with. A fresh coat of paint, stain, and sealant will make it good as new!

Use a wire brush or scraper to remove rust and chipping paint for metal furniture, then apply rust-inhibiting outdoor paint-and-primer in one. You can rejuvenate wooden furniture by sanding away rough spots and applying a wood sealant or exterior-grade stain.

All you need to clean wicker or plastic furniture is a solution of soap and water. Easy peasy!

4. Go Wild

Lawns can be expensive to maintain and not great for the environment, so consider letting part of your yard go wild. Leave it unmown and plant wildflower seeds to grow native plants. Your wildflower garden will look beautiful, attract local wildlife, and save you money on lawn-care products too. Win!

Or plant a clover lawn, the ultimate low-maintenance lawn!

5. Plant Perennials That Come Back Every Year

Every backyard needs greenery, but buying new plants every year can get super expensive. Annuals are plants that die after a season or two, whereas perennial plants return each year after being dormant in the winter. Go for perennials where possible. 

Evergreen shrubs and succulents are another great option because they give you greenery year-round.

Perennial coneflowers in front of a greenhouse

6. Make Your Own Patio Furniture

Every backyard needs a seating area, but furniture can be another big expense. So make your own! With a bit of determination and resourcefulness, you can build your own garden furniture, whether that’s an outdoor sofa, daybed, recliner, coffee table, dining table, or even a whole outdoor kitchen! 

I made my West Elm knock-off benches for just $15 each and used free plans to build my own outdoor furniture. Bargain!

Porch with DIY benches

There are plenty of free outdoor furniture tutorials and plans online that use salvaged materials, so look for easy DIY projects using pallets, barrels, old tires, or whatever else you can find without spending a cent!

7. Add Color With Paint

A fresh coat of paint will work wonders if you can’t afford to upgrade your fences, patio, or furniture. Go to town with a bold statement color, paint your own mural on an exterior wall, or use stencils to create a pattern on an old concrete patio or concrete pavers.

Dare to make a bold statement by choosing eye-catching shades that reflect your personality and style.

Shed paint swatches

8. Add An Outdoor Rug & Soft Furnishings

Elevate your outdoor space in warmer months with the cozy charm of outdoor throw pillows, blankets, and curtains to create a welcoming backyard space, perfect for lazy afternoons and fun gatherings.

Not only do outdoor rugs and furnishing add bursts of color and texture, but they also make your seating area feel like an extension of your indoor living space. 

garden deck with outdoor sectional and flowers

9. Bring Indoor Items Outside

Extend the style of your interior decor to your backyard with some small decorative items like mirrors, candles, curtains, weather-proof ornaments, and even a bar cart.

This is an easy way to improve the look of your outdoor seating area. Just make sure the chairs are suitable for outdoor use or keep them in a covered area to protect them from the elements. 

Indoor furniture to outdoor bar cart

10. Style Plants & Planters

There are so many interesting ways to showcase plants and flowers beyond the confines of traditional flower beds.

Transform your outdoor space with raised garden beds, craft a vertical hanging garden to adorn blank walls, put up a pretty DIY trellis, and embrace the charm of whimsical planters and containers—think painted wheelbarrows or repurposed guttering.

DIY vertical hanging garden

11. Light It Up!

Adding light is such a simple way to add ambiance and coziness to your backyard, and there are so many options: outdoor string lights, lanterns, DIY mason jar candles, and so on.

Even better, instead of relying on mains—or battery-powered garden lights—opt for solar-powered ones, which don’t cost anything to run.

Garden string lights

12. Add A Screen To Hide Unattractive Areas

If you’re on a budget, some parts of your yard might not fit your dream aesthetic. A privacy screen can be a great addition to any outdoor area where you have to keep ugly water butts and trash cans.

Screens can also be a great way to break up your backyard into separate areas with different uses. 

DIY Wooden Privacy Screen

13. Build Your Own DIY Fire Pit

Fire pits make for great focal points for outdoor gatherings, and they’re pretty cheap to build yourself, so they’re ideal backyard landscaping ideas on a budget.

The main thing you’ll need is some bricks, which you may be able to get for cheap or free from someone getting rid of theirs. Look on Facebook Marketplace or NextDoor.

Add a couple of chairs, perhaps a coffee table, and some outdoor lighting, and you’ll have a very cost-effective outdoor space for socializing in the summer months. Just check your city codes before proceeding in case your area has restrictions.

14. Unique Planters

Beautiful planters can set the look of your outdoor space. Shop thrift stores for great ones, make your own concrete planters, or refresh your existing ones with outdoor spray paint.

15. Install A Basic Water Feature

There’s nothing like a water feature to make an outdoor space feel peaceful and elegant. And it doesn’t have to be an extravagant or complex build.

You could construct a small pond using a waterproof container like a kiddie pool or some preformed liner and surrounding it with a simple rock garden or decorative pebbles. Get creative and upcyle an old trough or bathtub. Wooden half-barrel are another cost-effective option.

Top Tips for Keeping Costs Down

Before you start your backyard makeover, check out my top tips for implementing these garden ideas on a budget!

Use What You Already Have

Instead of buying new items, give your existing garden furniture a new lease on life with a bit of upcycling.

Sand down wooden surfaces and apply weather-resistant paint or stain to protect them from the elements. 

Or use spray paint to add some personality. For example, you could transform a worn-out metal chair into a vibrant focal point by painting it in a bold color.

Spray painting patio furniture

Buy Second Hand & Search Sales

Avoid hefty price tags by scouring platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and local community groups for hidden treasures.

Look for listings where other DIYers offer leftover cans of paint, turf, or slabs for free or cheap. See which gems other people are giving away, perhaps because they’re doing their own garden makeover—plant pots, furniture, rugs, and other decorative items.

Also, keep an eye out for garage sales or neighborhood swap meets, and remember to try negotiating prices or bundle deals to maximize your savings. When that isn’t possible, shop the discount racks at local hardware stores.

Snake plant with sale sticker

Get Creative With Upcycling

Unleash your creativity by upcycling everyday objects into one-of-a-kind garden accents.

Why not repurpose old watering cans or wheelbarrows as whimsical planters? Or transform broken garden tools like rakes or shovels into rustic wall art?

Look online for backyard makeover tutorials and inspiration for ideas as to how you can repurpose materials like pallets, tires, and even discarded kitchenware into functional and decorative elements for your outdoor space.

Bird cage planter

Grow Plants From Scratch

Save on landscaping costs by growing your own plants from seeds or cuttings. Seeds are much cheaper than plants, and your friends and neighbors might even be up for giving you some cuttings for free. If not, look for community exchanges or gardening clubs in your area.

Learn more about how to get free or cheap plants here.

Seedlings growing on a greenhouse shelf

Personalize Plain Items Yourself

Instead of splashing out on expensive garden decor, start with budget-friendly plain pieces and add some personality to them yourself. This is a much more affordable way of filling your backyard with beautiful pieces.

Experiment with paint and stencils to create intricate patterns on planters, paving stones, concrete, rugs, and anything else you think of.

DIY Concrete Planters

Borrow Or Rent Expensive Tools

Avoid the huge expense of buying your own gardening equipment by exploring borrowing or rental options for specialized tools.

Check with friends, family, or neighbors to see if they have equipment like pressure washers, tillers, or hedge trimmers that you can borrow.

Or, you could inquire at your local hardware store or community center to see if they have any rentals you could use for your budget backyard makeover.

If you do have to buy new tools, prioritize the most essential tools based on your renovation plans, and consider whether it’s worth buying them second-hand instead of brand new. 

Cutting wood with a miter saw in the outdoors

Plan Ahead

It’s not just the actual transformation of your backyard that will cost money; maintaining your garden space will require money too. So anticipate future costs and build in systems to reduce the amount you’ll need to spend.

For example, opt for native plants to conserve water. Native species are well-adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, so they don’t need as much extra irrigation and fertilization. 

Plants in nursery pots waiting to be planted

Install a rain barrel or collection system to capture rainwater for watering plants and landscaping during dry periods. 

Likewise, establishing a composting system in your backyard can save you money on fertilizers. Repurpose an old bin or build a simple compost pile using organic materials like kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and shredded paper. 

Outdoor furnishings are one of the best ways to make an outdoor space look homely, but they do suffer if they’re not looked after properly. Extend the life of outdoor cushions and upholstery by bringing them inside during the winter months, following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, and keeping them in well-ventilated areas or using breathable, weather-resistant covers to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Furniture on a deck with potted plants

Enjoy Your Beautiful Budget Backyard!

As you embark on your budget backyard transformation journey, remember that beauty need not come with a hefty price tag!

With these cheap backyard ideas, creativity, and a dash of resourcefulness, you can turn your outdoor space into your dream backyard without breaking the bank.

GET INSPIRED! Follow my Budget Backyard Ideas on Pinterest

Whether revamping a neglected patio, revitalizing weathered furniture, or cultivating a lush garden oasis, embrace the opportunity to unleash your creativity.

Happy decorating, and may your budget-friendly backyard makeover bring you and your family lots of enjoyment for years to come!