12 Inexpensive Ways to Transform Your Backyard (and Increase Your Home's Value)

There are cheap and easy ways you can make your backyard the perfect chill space.
Updated April 3, 2023
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If there’s one thing people learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that spending time outdoors is often a good idea. For one, it’s safer to gather that way. For two, going outside is good for your health, whether you’re gardening, enjoying nature, or just spending time with family.

To that end, you may be looking for ways to spruce up your outdoor space — especially your backyard — so you can make it a versatile and inviting area of your home. Here’s how to do exactly that even if you don’t make thousands of dollars a month, all while adding value to your home.

Grow perennial flowers

eqroy/Adobe purple blue and pink heads of hydrangea flowers

Perennial flowers are plants that you put in the ground once, and they come back and bloom every year around the same time. This is an inexpensive task that even the novice gardener can do as long as you follow the directions.

Consider daffodils, tulips, and other colorful flowers that will herald spring every year. This will help put you in the mood for the season and add value to your home with a small up-front investment.

Add a fire pit

Kristen/Adobe Man relaxing in the backyard by a fire

Does anything sound cozier than sitting around a fire pit on chillier nights, gazing up at the stars, or making s’mores? Depending on your skill level, you can DIY a fire pit for your backyard out of pavers, or go even cheaper and repurpose a spent washing machine drum. Or you can use an empty koi pond as long as it’s made of the right stuff.

Since people can see themselves enjoying that space, it may bring a good return on investment.

Plant a privacy fence

Smole/Adobe  hand screwing wood plank to metal construction

Privacy goes a long way in a backyard, as who wants people watching them while they relax on their own property? That’s why a fence can come in handy.

But a fence can be expensive to build. Consider, then, planting hedges that will grow into privacy fences with a little time and nurturing. Good options include bamboo, boxwood, and hicks yew, to name a few. You’ll pay for the plants up front, but the value they will add is worth it.

Add a seating area

Ozgur Coskun/Adobe Comfortable chairs on an outdoor brick patio

What good is a backyard if there’s nowhere to sit and enjoy it? Ideally, you already have a patio in your backyard that you can spruce up with affordable and easy-to-maintain furniture.

If not, you can always create a designated seating area with gravel and bricks that can visually set the space apart. All of these small purchases will pay off big time in the long run.

Build a pergola

Tom/Adobe Rear Patio Pergola With Wooden Furniture

One of the most valuable assets in a backyard is shade, especially in that sitting area you just DIYed. Building a pergola is a relatively affordable way to add some if you’re handy with a hammer and nails.

While this is among the pricier options for sprucing up your backyard, thanks to lumber costs, both the shade and the sense of place it creates make it one of the most profitable things you can do.

Put in custom lighting

ronstik/Adobe outdoor string lights hanging on a line in backyard

People don’t just use the backyard in the daytime; folks might want to throw an outdoor soiree in the evening, perhaps before gathering around the fire pit. One way you can make your backyard friendly for the evening is by adding custom lighting.

You can purchase LED or solar lights and easily install them, which will also save on the energy bill. Or you can hang string lights to add to the ambiance. The options are endless and may pay off in dividends.

Plant an herb and veggie garden

Maksim Shebeko/Adobe herb garden on a rustic wooden table

The COVID-19 pandemic made gardeners of many people, as folks had added time on their hands and an increased need for ingredients to cook at home. Plus, gardening is good for both your physical and mental health, as it gives you exercise and promotes well-being.

Ever successfully grown a tomato? It’s so satisfying. If you don’t have yard space, you can still use large pots to grow herbs, tomatoes, and squash. Edible gardens may also increase the value of your property.

Add a backyard swing or swing set

pushish images/Adobe Empty chain swing in children playground

When you think of serenity, maybe what pops to mind is lounging on a hammock or swing with a good book on a breezy afternoon. So if you’re looking for a place to sip on lemonade while a lazy Sunday drifts by, add a backyard swing for adults to your outdoor space. 

Or if it’s children who need to be entertained, you can put in a swing set that won’t break the bank but will be attractive to homebuyers. Some assembly may be required.

Plant trees

sarayut_sy/Adobe growing seedlings

If you have time on your side, planting trees in your backyard is one of the best ways to upgrade it for the least amount of cash with the best return on investment. 

Depending on your location, select trees that flower and provide color (just be mindful of cleanup and maintenance), fruit trees (same rules apply), or that grow and provide shade and fresh air for years to come. All you have to do is plant them in an optimal area and watch them grow.

Consider xeriscaping

doethion/Adobe Drought resistant plants and grasses

If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of rain, consider replacing your traditional grass lawn with drought-tolerant plants. Not only will this save money on your water bill, but you may even qualify for reimbursement for the process depending on your municipality. This means less maintenance for you, too, and a serious boost in curb appeal.

Add a small water feature

David Gn/Adobe pine siskin bird perched on water fountain in garden

Adding a pool is a huge investment, and may or may not be a good way to add value to your home, depending on many factors. However, adding a small water feature can give your yard a focal point while adding drama.

Consider creating a small pond surrounded by a rock garden, a fountain, or a classy birdbath which has the bonus of attracting birds to the area. Just be sure the feature recycles the water and you’re good to go.

Put in pathways

torsakarin/Adobe Stone pathway and green grass at green park

Last but not least, you can create walkways in your backyard that divide up the space and save the stress on your greenery. These can be made using inexpensive pavers from your local home improvement store or found stones if you’re lucky. 

As an added bonus, no one will wonder where they are supposed to walk on their way to the mailbox, garage, or side-door entry.

Bottom line

bernardbodo/Adobe happy family having fun together at barbecue backyard party

If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, you want to make sure that the space is utilized for optimal function and fun. This can entail setting up a fire pit, adding plants for beauty, or creating utilitarian shade structures — all without breaking the bank. Using the best Amazon hacks and other sites could help you save on your purchases.

Whatever you buy, just be sure to consider the needs of your neighbors before you embark on your DIY path to the perfect plot of land. Consideration goes a long way.

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Author Details

Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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