Personal Finance

April 22, 2014

Seven ways to save and spruce up the place this summer

If building that new deck, patio or outdoor kitchen isn’t in the cards for your budget, I’ve got some good news and some good ideas to share. You can improve the look of your home with a little work and a few dollars.

Yes, despite recent evidence to the contrary, summer will eventually arrive. The summer is the easiest time of year to get things done around the house. There are few things more productive than tackling a home improvement project on a nice summer day, right?

Home improvement stores are now bustling with temptations, but if building that new deck, patio or outdoor kitchen isn’t in the cards for your budget, I’ve got some good news and some good ideas to share. You can improve the look of your home with a little work and a few dollars.

1. Do the driveway. OK, this isn’t very glamorous, but you’ll be surprised how a clean driveway can make everything around it look better. If yours is concrete, rent a pressure-washer and blast away all the oil, salt and leaf stains from the fall and winter. If any cracks are present, buy and apply some driveway caulk (

). Do the same for blacktop and then have it sealed; either DIY or pay around $200 depending on square footage. It’s simple and will add life expectancy to your surface, not to mention curb appeal.

2. Get a “new” look and feel

. Have you seen the prices of new patio furniture lately? I wouldn’t pay that for my living room, let alone something I’ll only use half the year. Instead of buying new, find some used stuff and make it into something new to you. With a little imagination, some Rust-Oleum and new fabric cushion coverings, your backyard, deck or patio will look like a million bucks.

3. Step it up

. Do you have a well-worn path around your yard, or anywhere that always seems to get muddy when it rains? Consider paving it with flat landscaping stones or preformed pavers. Some are as cheap as $2 apiece (, so you can cover a lot of ground for less than $100. You’ll love the look it adds, and the cleaner shoes that enter your house!

4. Just add fire. I think outdoor fireplaces are the coolest trend going. If you’ve been dreaming about crisp spring and fall evenings around the fire pit, summer is the time to build it. For something this small, stone and mortar are very affordable. Just dig a circle in the ground three feet in diameter, pour sand in the bottom and surround it with an inexpensive metal fire pit ring, and build the stonework around it to your liking. Just make sure this is far enough way from your house and any trees. Many cities require that there is 10 feet between your house and the fire pit (

). This will also spare you the temptation and cost of going out on the town…just bring the entertainment home!

5. Lighten and brighten

. I also love the look of tastefully done outdoor lighting. This can be as simple as sticking some solar-powered exterior lights near your trees and shrubs or walkway. Try swapping out or spray-painting your porch light for a fresh look, too. Or, at the very least, clean out all the bugs from the glass enclosures. You’ll be glad you did.

6. Plant once and enjoy

. One of the sweetest things about spring is watching my flowering plants and trees come back and bloom every year. I still plant some annuals like pansies and impatiens, but each year I try to cover more of my beds with perennials. Eventually, I won’t have to plant anything, just watch them grow. Many native plants also require little or no watering which will save on your water bill.

7. Don’t just clean the garage. Paint it.

Ok, I had to throw one more project in here. Many of us clean out the garage at some point over the summer. I can’t recommend painting or staining the floor highly enough! It totally changes the look, for the better. Even if you don't have an indoor garage, concrete patios, porches and slabs of all sorts can be painted to freshen up the look of any old boring slab, without costing you a fortune. And it can be done in less than one weekend.

Maybe these ideas will spur some in your own mind, but all of the above are guaranteed to improve and freshen up the look of your home. I’m confident they won’t cost you much and will provide some serious ROI.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click

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