Summer is still here, and the beautifully temperate afternoons and evenings of fall are right around the corner. Are you ready to make the most of your backyard during these pleasant, sunny days? Your backyard shouldn’t be an afterthought. Rather, it should serve as your hub for entertainment and enjoyment.

But I know there’s always one big objection to investing money into a backyard: Where’s that cash going to come from? That’s why I’m not here to recommend installing a swimming pool. There are lots of simple, inexpensive things you can do to enhance your backyard and your ability to enjoy it.

To help you expand your living space and get outdoors, here’s a look at 10 backyard improvement on a budget.

I know that the term “budget” means different things to different people. Budget for me may mean spending $20 or less, while it may mean keeping improvements under $500 for you. To make sure there’s something for everyone on this list, I’ve added ideas and products that represent different price points.


1. String Lights

I can tell you from personal experience: Nothing makes a backyard more charming quite like stringing café lights. Ever if your grass is dying, your fence is falling over and your patio is covered in spider webs, stringing café lights immediately ups the beauty and attractiveness of your backyard.

I prefer a commercial grade product like Brightech Ambience Pro String Lights. They are easy to setup — I just draped from my roofline to trees around my yard. And you never have to worry about them. They are as tough as can be. My wife and I run ours several times a week (and have for the past 2 years), and we haven’t had a burn out yet.

Turn on your string lights when you’re having friends over or just when you want to spend some time relaxing in your backyard. Trust me, you’re going to love the impact on your yard and your home.

Are café lights right for you?

Buy string lights if …

… you want to enhance the charm factor in your backyard, and host parties that last long after sundown.

Pass on string lights if …

… you don’t have good trees for stringing and/or you simply don’t have the time or desire to string them.


2. Hang a Swing

Step back into your youth by hanging a swing. When I was growing up, my uncle lived on acreage in the country. We would visit every summer and often at Christmas, and one of my favorite things to do would be to play on the swing. It was simple and inexpensive, but it was just about the most fun I could imagine having.

Your kids might like to have a swing in their backyard, too, and you can get one for multiple children — like this Spider Web Platform Tree Swing from Swinging Monkey. You can also find swings that look a little more traditional, but these large, webbed swings are all the rage right now.

If you do buy a swing, make sure to look at what the product includes. You may need to invest in rope to hang the swing. And, from my own experience, you may need a super tall ladder to hang the swing from the perfect branch.

Is a swing right for you?

Buy a tree swing if …

… you have kids or would like to feel like a kid again.

Pass on a tree swing if …

… you have no tree to hang it from or no desire to use it.


3. Ice Drinks

So a swing is a little more for the young people in your life. This one is a little more for the adults: a cooler. Nothing livens up a backyard like having drinks on ice. Stock your cooler with beer, white wine and bottled water — after all, hydration is as important as anything when having fun in the backyard.

I like the rustic look of this cooler from Backyard Expressions. It’s just small enough and transportable enough to fit where you need it to fit and go where you need it to go. And it’s just large and substantial enough to thrive in the outdoors. And, trust, me, it’s effective at getting your drinks cool and keeping them cool. It even has a bottle opener attached to the exterior, which certainly comes in handy.

If you don’t drink beer or wine, you can still use the cooler for sodas, water and other beverages. I’ve found that my outdoor cooler gets lots of use from lots of different types of drinks.

Is a cooler right for you?

Buy an outdoor cooler if …

… you do lots of entertaining in the backyard, or if you live in a hot area that demands hydration.

Pass on an outdoor cooler if …

… you rarely need anything to drink that you can’t easily get by just walking into the kitchen.


4. Offer Seating

There’s plenty of activity to be had in a backyard. But sometimes you want space to put your feet up and relax. Outdoor seating for your patio or backyard is available in a wide price range, which means you can always find something that fits into your budget. The key is simply having a place to sit. When you do, you can sit with your spouse or family and listen to the sounds of summer, or you can have friends over for a glass of wine as the days grow shorter and the nights a little cooler.

My go-to outdoor seating option is the Adirondack chair. I have 4 of them in my backyard, and they are used on a regular basis. And I’ll be honest: I get the cheapest Adirondacks I can find. The are brown and plastic, though you can choose fun, colored options like the Merlot Adirondack Chair from Adams. Not into red either? Browse around on Amazon, and you’ll be able to find almost any color under the sun. The Lowe’s near me typically puts inexpensive Adirondacks on display in front of the store at the start of the summer, and I snag a few for the months ahead.

If you’re not interested in an Adirondack, shoot for an outdoor sofa that includes an ottoman with storage. Your furniture delivers even more value when it’s multifunction.

Are Adirondacks right for you?

Buy Adirondacks if …

… you want inexpensive, comfortable outdoor furniture for relaxing and entertaining.

Pass on Adirondacks if …

… you want something a little higher in quality that’s going to last for multiple summers rather than just one or two.


5. Plant Flowers

Summer should be a time filled with color. There’s nothing wrong with the green of your grass or the brown of your trees. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a little bit of color? Find some flowers that thrive in your climate, and add that bright pop that your backyard deserves.

Flowers can start to get expensive if you go to a nursery. The best way to get inexpensive flowers? Start with a low-price seed package. This Milkweed Seed Packet Assortment delivers the color you want, plus it serves as a food source for migrating Monarch butterflies. Your kids will love seeing the butterflies stop by to snag some food when passing by your home.

Another consideration: Choose colorful flowers that don’t require a lot of water or maintenance. It’s fun to have flowers, but you don’t want to be consumed with taking care of them. After, you want backyard improvements that help you relax — not backyard improvements that create more work.

Is a seed packet right for you?

Buy a seed packet if …

… you want to save money and get in touch with nature by supporting migrating butterflies.

Pass on a seed packet if …

… you’re impatient or don’t have time to wait for your seeds to grow into colorful flowers.


6. Dig a Pit

The hot days of summer will inevitably transform into the cool evenings of fall. I’ve found that a fire pit is one of the most useful and enjoyable things to have a backyard as the nights become crisp and you need just a little bit of warmth to make the most of your backyard.

You can dig a fire pit, but digging comes with a number of challenges. First of all, there’s always the chance of striking a utility line or your sprinkler system. Also, digging a fire pit makes it incredibly permanent. I recommend getting a manufactured fire pit like this Roman Fire Pit from Fire Sense. It can be used when needed and stored when needed. But, best of all, it helps you expand the number of days that you can comfortably use your backyard.

Not all climates require a fire pit. If you live in Texas or South Florida, there simply may not be enough days in the year when you could use a fire pit. But, for most communities and locations, a fire pit would be a valuable addition to any backyard.

Is a fire pit right for you?

Buy a fire pit if …

… you want to increase the number of days each year that you can comfortably use your backyard.

Pass on a fire pit if …

… if you never really get uncomfortably cold where you live.


7. Hang a Hammock

Ah, the ultimate summertime asset — a hammock. One of my favorite things to do is retreat to my hammock to cool down after mowing the grass. I even drift off to sleep sometimes. It can be hard to fully unwind on the sofa or in a chair where others can bother you or perhaps the television serves as a distraction. A hammock is a true getaway.

Don’t have the trees to hang a hammock? Never fear. You can get an inexpensive hammock chair that hangs from almost anywhere. Get a hammock that comes with a stand, like the Vivere Double Hammock. This hammock is spacious enough for two, and it’s something you can wrap yourself in for unaccounted for hours or relaxation no matter the time of year.

Of course, you can find less expensive hammocks that you hang from trees. But not all homeowners have the trees needed to hang a hammock, which make the hammock stand a nice option.

Is a hammock right for you?

Buy a hammock if …

… you need a spot for ultimate relaxation outdoors and away from any distraction.

Pass on a hammock if …

… you prefer napping and lounging in the friendly confines of an air conditioned home.


8. Dine Outdoors

Dining may be the single best activity for outdoors spaces. Of course, you can always fire up the grill and throw on some hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken or steak. But you can also create a fun activity for the whole family by creating a s’mores station. A s’mores station makes for a fun activity for the kids, or you can use it to graduate to the backyard after dinner when you have friends over.

A s’mores station like the Sterno Family Fun S’Mores Maker is also budget-friendly. You have to buy the ingredients, of course, but you’ve got the perfect tray and flame for building out individual s’mores for yourself or for a group. There’s something classic and fun about s’mores, and this product help make creating them a lot easier.

Not interested in s’mores? If you don’t have a grill, it’s a backyard essential that will get tons of use. I didn’t really know much about grilling until I got my first grill as a housewarming present. I burned a lot of stuff those first few months, but I’ve now graduated to intermediate status — and I’m out there once a week trying to become a true grill master expert.

Is a s’mores station right for you?

Buy a s’mores station if …

… you want a fun activity that the entire family can participate in when using the backyard.

Pass on a s’mores station if …

… you don’t have young kids or don’t often entertain — s’mores seem to be the biggest hit when served to children and large groups.


9. Construct a Game

Have you ever been to a bar that has oversized board games? I’m talking about super-sized Jenga, Connect Four and more. They are tons of fun — and you can create the same type of fun in your backyard.

Creating one of these games requires tools and some lumber — maybe some paint if you really want to go all-in. Jenga is an especially simple oversized game to create. But, if you’re not really handy or don’t want to spend the time to build your own game, you can always invest in a pair of corn hole boards — like this Official Size Cornhole Game from Trademark Games. Not familiar with corn hole? It’s a little like horseshoes or washers, but more fun (in my opinion).

You can make your own corn hole boards, too, paint and everything. Search around online for plans if you’re feeling handy. If not, find a deal on Amazon or through another retailer.

Is corn hole right for you?

Buy cornhole boards if …

… you’d love to replicate the fun and experience of a bustling bar in the backyard of your home.

Pass on cornhole boards if …

… you hate competition, beanbags or diversions that help you better connect with family and friends.


10. Scare Away Mosquitos

I saved the most important improvement for last. Nothing ruins a backyard (or your ability to enjoy it) faster than the presence of mosquitos. No matter how much fun you’re having, tiny insects feasting on your blood will send you scrambling for the safety of the indoors.

One of my go-to, mosquito-fighting products is Backyard Concentrate from Cutter, which connects to your hose for application. I like it because it’s easy to use and it lasts longer than just one day. One drawback: Read the label carefully to ensure it won’t kill any of your plants or greenery. It should be good to go on grass, but be careful when applying anywhere else.

There are tons of mosquito fighting products on the market, everything from candles to spray-on repellent. I like the concentrate, but choose a product that works best for you.

Is concentrate right for you?

Buy backyard concentrate if …

… you want an easy to apply, long-lasting mosquito solution.

Pass on backyard concentrate if …

… you prefer one-time applications like spray-on repellent.


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Final Thoughts on Backyard Improvements on a Budget

Lots of ideas here, I know. And not every one of them will if your needs or your lifestyle. To help you choose which are relevant and which you should pass on start, start with this question: How would you like to use your backyard? If for relaxation, get a hammock. If you want to entertain, invest in building games, stringing lights and creating seating areas.

Your backyard should never be wasted space. Choose the backyard improvements on a budget that best meet your needs, and start making the most of the space behind your home.

Did I miss a backyard improvement that you’ve tried? Let us know about it in the comments section, or message us directly through our contact page.