Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | May 6, 2011

Landscaping on a Shoe String

You’ve finally decided it’s time to start that big landscaping project for your home. You’ve got the dimensions of your yard, you know the local zoning rules, you’ve found your inspiration from various magazines and books, and now it’s time to call a landscape professional to determine how much it’s all going to cost. Here’s a heads-up: it is going to hurt, a lot.

The landscaping bill for materials and labor can be quite staggering, especially if you’ve allocated most for your income toward your mortgage and other home expenses. However, with a little bit of creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity, you can maximize your home’s curb appeal without spending a fortune.

Set a Budget

When setting a budget for your home landscaping, the general rule is to set aside 10% of your home’s value.

That amount of money may be a little hard to come by for most people, so it’s important to determine your overall costs. Talk to friends and neighbors to see how much they have spent on their landscaping. Decide what you can afford to scrimp and save on, and what you need to purchase no matter what the price is. You can also talk to professionals and ask for estimates to get an idea of how much you would need to spend to accomplish your goals. With all this information, you can determine a budget for your landscaping project. 

Make a Plan

You know your budget for your landscaping project, now it’s time to make a plan for how you’re going to accomplish your goals without stretching that budget. Split your yard into sections, and prioritize which sections are the most important. Completing your landscaping project in phases will allow you to work at a pace that is suitable for your budgetary needs.

Oftentimes, money is wasted on poorly planned landscaping projects and overextending resources. If your budget can barely meet the needs of building a covered patio, you should probably hold off on repaving the driveway until the patio has been completed. Plus, there is always the possibility of an unexpected expense occurring in the middle of a project. Having multiple, unfinished sections of your yard can leave your home looking like a disaster, and might pressure you into making poor decisions that will drastically affect your budget. A solid plan for your landscaping project will help you avoid costly mistakes.

Reuse and Restore

A quick scan of your yard tells you that your old garden furniture needs to go. Before you decide to throw out that decrepit picnic table or rusted set of lawn chairs, think of ways you can restore your furniture rather than replace it. Vibrant paint colors can bring new life to old garden furniture, and by using the same paint on your pots, doors and fences, you can create an entirely new look for your garden without having to spend money to replace anything. Refresh your old lawn chairs and patio sofas with new fabrics around the cushions, and cover an old patio table with a new tablecloth. Look for clearances at fabric stores, or check your home for old materials you can reuse on your garden furniture.

Have a pile of junk taking up space in your garage or yard? Be creative and think of ways you can reuse that junk in your garden. This can save you money on your yard, while helping the environment by creating less waste. Gather vintage items and collectibles of a matching theme, and cluster them together around your yard as garden décor. Use old kitchen pots or plastic storage bins as plant containers. Broken cement pieces, old lumber and bricks can be used around your yard for borders, stepping-stones or walkways.

Low-Cost Plants

Nurseries and garden stores aren’t the only places to find plants for your yard. Check your local supermarket for low-cost plants and flowers. If you don’t want to spend any money, try trading plants or plant cuttings with a neighbor to add new plants or flowers to your garden. Also, look for drought-tolerant plants. Although they tend to cost a bit more, the fact that they require less water can save you money on your water bill in the long run.

Smart Shopping

Knowing when to shop is just as important as knowing where to shop. Keep an eye out for major sales at your local home and garden retailers and department stores. Trees and plants sold late in the season tend to be cheaper as retailers try to get rid of them. Check various nurseries for any dying or damaged plants they may be willing to sell you at a discount, and revive them for your garden.

Alternative Resources

There are places other than your local home improvements store to find materials for your landscaping needs. Quarries and lumber yards are great places to check for affordable lumber and landscaping stones. Talk to the manager to see if you can get a discount for buying materials in bulk, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to obtain unwanted or excess materials at a low-cost. Construction sites, yard sales, estate sales, online marketplaces and reuse stores offer used items and materials that you can put to good use in your yard.

Hire a Pro

Sometimes hiring a professional landscaper will save you more money than doing the work by yourself. Certain tasks may require the right person with the right skill level and the right set of tools. Trying to complete a difficult part of your landscaping project without the proper tools or experience can lead to extra costs, not to mention the possibility of serious injury. Imagine spending time and money building a new gazebo, then realizing you are unable to complete construction midway through the project. Now you have a useless, wooden eyesore in the middle of your yard. If you aren’t confident in completing a certain task, find a professional who is.

The Bottom Line

While it would be easier to hire an expensive contractor to fulfill your landscaping needs, you can have a lot more fun completing the job yourself while staying within an affordable budget. Look at your yard as a blank canvas where you can express your creativity and artistic design, and take pleasure in watching your landscaping ideas come to life. To make a budget landscaping job even more enjoyable, encourage your friends and family to lend a helping hand. Rather than hiring professionals to do all the work, take pride in the time, sweat and effort you put into making your home more beautiful while saving some money at the same time.


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