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    25 Easy Backyard Upgrade Ideas That Actually Cost $50 Or Less

    Simple improvements you can make on the cheap!

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    1. Install rope lights around your porch or patio (or on your trees!) so you can enjoy warm spring and summer evenings long after the sun goes down.

    amazon.com, amazon.com

    Promising review: "These rope light provide very bright and warm light all around the rope, not just on one side. My first set has survived torrential South Florida downpours and winds without any problems whatsoever. I liked it so much I just attached a second string to the first one. The connectors are set up to let you do that. It is my understanding that two sets strung together is the limit for one ac plug. All connections have a rubber, weathertight seal which attaches with both pressure AND a threaded piece (they provide special goop to aid in waterproofing), and there is no AC adapter needed. It just plugs directly into your outlet. We have squirrels in the yard — these rope lights are also THICK and tough to prevent these pesky critters from chewing through them." —Rene E. Borroto

    Get 50 feet of waterproof, plug-in rope lights on Amazon for $39.99 (four colors/tones available).

    2. Or opt for some globe lights for a warm cozy glow.

    amazon.com

    I ordered this exact set a couple of years ago when I was renting a place with a yard. They're definitely fragile but I followed the reviewers advice and unscrewed all the (very fragile) bulbs before I even pulled the wire part out of the packaging. Then you hang the wires, and screw in the bulbs once everything's secure. They definitely give off a gorgeous, cozy glow!

    Promising review: "I love love love these lights. They are gorgeous. I plugged them in while in the package to make sure they all worked, then unscrewed all the bulbs to make it easy to hang. I hung them up all around my balcony using a staple gun. When I finished I screwed the light bulbs in. :) I would highly recommend these lights. They are PINTEREST perfect!" —Cora

    Get A 25-foot strand on Amazon for $17.99.

    3. Spend weekends and evenings playing ~Yardzee~ — even if your yard's on the small side, you'll be surprised how quickly the hours go by!

    KDDesignsJewelryCo / Etsy

    Get it from KDDesignsJewelryCo on Etsy for $39.99.

    4. Hang a hummingbird feeder to attract the gorgeous little birdies to your yard, even if you don't have so much of a green thumb.

    amazon.com

    Mixing up the sugar solution yourself is super simple: just dissolve a cup of white sugar (not organic; it may have too much molasses, which is poisonous for hummers) in a three or four cups of water, boiling and cooling if necessary. This one has a copper base with sturdy metal feeding flowers, and a painted-red glass bottle; you'll need to change the solution every four to five days, and clean the feeder before refilling! For more tips, check out The Hummingbird Society, and to see if hummingbirds are currently in your area, check out a map from Hummingbird Central.

    Reviewers say this one doesn't leak even when the wind blows and that it's easy to clean! Get it on Amazon for $21.99.

    5. And put up a little wooden house to lure gentle mason bees, who will help pollinate your plants.

    amazon.com

    Learn more about mason bees and their houses from The Honeybee Conservancy and Bee Built.

    Promising reviews: "The mason bees really seem to love this house; they're at it constantly! I'm switching to using this type of house with the disposable inserts. I didn't know before that the blocks with the drilled holes are NOT the best homes for these bees, since they accumulate debris and mites. This was easy to mount under an eave of my house, and I expect to be using it for many years to come. Recommended." —NortheastGal

    "Despite not having a way to attach it to anything, I super glued it to the top of a post and waited about a month and got my first hive. Super glad. The wood is solid and heavier than I expected. It appears to be good quality and hardy enough to withstand a New England winter." —MassRes

    Get it from Amazon for $19.99 (and refill tubes for the next year for $9.99).

    6. Turn crates on their end to make handy end tables — and to age them, all you need is a spray bottle, coffee, and some vinegar and steel wool.

    ninered.blogspot.com

    You soak the steel wool in the vinegar overnight, spray the crates with coffee, then spray the crates with the resulting vinegar. Wait another 24 hours, and bam! They're aged.

    Get the full tutorial from Nine Red.

    7. Treat cheap yard sale lawn furniture to a coat of metallic spray paint to make it look like you spent hundreds of dollars on it.

    amazon.com

    Honestly this spray paint does wonders for all kinds of furniture; the reviewer photos are packed with SO many stunning before and afters.

    Promising review: "Bought a few cans to renovate a steel patio set that had seen much better days. The only prep was a rough wire wheel to remove any loose paint or rust, then sprayed one liberal coat. This paint is AWESOME! Loved the color, total coverage and the set looks fantastic. Seems to be weathering just fine (although it's only been outside for three weeks so far)." —Vince O

    Get it on Amazon for $7.97 (available in a variety of metallic colors/finishes), and a wire sander that attaches to your drill for $5.69.

    8. Transform your hose and sprinkler into a hands-free ~sprinkler system~ with a programmable timer — all you have to do is tell it when to water, how long to water, and how often to repeat.

    amazon.com

    Setup is very straightforward: you simply screw it onto your faucet (or, as shown in the picture, a faucet splitter), then screw in your hose and run out your sprinkler. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to program, either. It does require two AA batteries, but reviewers say those last for a *very* long time. It also has rain delay and manual watering options.

    Promising review: "These things are awesome. I have several hooked up to my well and use them to control drip lines to a privacy hedge, a trellis, and several sprinklers. Extremely easy to program. The range of settings brings a large amount of versatility. I have one that's connected to a sprinkler I'm using to reseed a bare lawn spot run for two minutes every two hours. I've been running it for two months and it's still reading full battery. I have them in locations where they get wet and have had no problems with the seal. I have five and have had no problems so far." —Rebecca A Selgrade

    Get it on Amazon for $24.99.

    9. Scatter a bunch of wildflower seeds for a low-maintenance but still stunningly gorgeous flower bed... or go all-out and turn your yard into a meadow.

    American Meadows

    And opt for seeds specifically mixed for your region of the country! (If you live in a colder climate they're best planted in the fall; see this planting guide for more info.) Get regional mixes from American Meadows starting at $9.95 for a 1/4 pound of seeds. Or see similar regional mixes on Amazon for $14+ (which would cover 500+ square feet).

    10. Repurpose a few wine bottles as prettier tiki torches that also just might help repel mosquitos.

    Nifty / BuzzFeed

    All you do is fill it with torch fuel ($13.96), thread a cotton wick ($5.05 for three) through a brass coupling ($6.05). Easy peasy! Then of course you can decorate however you like, or just leave it as-is.

    Get the full tutorial from Nifty.

    11. Or get a small glass fireplace — it looks gorgeous sitting on any tabletop, and is perfect for a two-person s'mores party!

    1Man1Garage / Etsy

    Promising review: "From the packaging to the quality, awesome! I bought for four very different personalities and every single person loved! Such unique packaging! We put salt in our biofuel and got a great orange flame. Just roasted s’mores with the grandkids and they loved it. Thank you so much for a great experience and great gifts!" —stanlere

    Get it from 1Man1Garage on Etsy for $29+.

    12. Hang some outdoor curtains on your shaded porch or pergola and it'll feel like your own private little cabana.

    amazon.com

    They're not water-resistant at all, but they are a lightweight fabric that will easily dry, depending on how humid it gets where you live.

    Promising review: "Took a chance on these because when I bought them, there were no reviews. They are very nice and a deal for the price. Very soft and look great on my outdoor area. Time will tell if they will resist the mold in southern Louisiana. I would recommend." —Justin White

    Get them on Amazon for $14.98+ per panel (nine colors, six lengths).

    13. No porch cover to speak of? Hang a shade sail instead — depending on your situation, it takes very little effort to install.

    amazon.com

    Reviewers do say that it will stretch out a little bit after the first rain, so make sure you don't buy one that's too big!

    Promising review: "These completed our new redwood deck. They look great and provide plenty of shade. After a year they're still going strong despite the Californian sun beating down on them. I mounted two sails with carabiners, so I take them down easily when a Santa Ana wind event is forecast. Not that I'm afraid that the sails will rip, I think the wooden structure will go first. Highly recommended." —Hans van Riet

    Get one on Amazon for $30.99+ (five sizes available in three colors), and a hardware kit for $13.49.

    14. Or just create your own shade wherever you need it with a classic nine-foot umbrella.

    amazon.com

    It's fade-resistant and waterproof, and has a tilt mechanism so you can find the ideal sun-blocking angle any time of day.

    Promising review: "This umbrella is just what we needed. We had one last year that was wooden and it broke due to high winds. We went with this one because of the metal pole. I love the size of this umbrella; it shades half of our deck and can’t wait to be sitting under it while the kids swim. It’s easy to crank up; even my 4-year-old can do it. The fabric could be a little thicker but for the the money it is perfect." —abby

    Get it on Amazon for $42.99 (seven colors).

    15. Secure rock climbing holds to a playhouse or a side wall and instantly become parent (or aunt!) of the week.

    amazon.com

    The kit comes with everything you need to install the 20 holds on a 1"-thick board, and every hold has two spots for the screws so they stay securely.

    Promising review: "Wonderful product that has lived up to three boys using it. These are great! We bought two sets last year because the boys were driving us crazy.... so we built a climbing wall. There is a queen sized mattress beneath it and all of them now (2,4,8) can scale it with ease. It has really helped the eldest with his upper body strength since he'll play games where he can only climb using a particular color or two." —Nell

    Get the set from Amazon for $39.99.

    16. Turn an old tire into a tetherball station with some quick-setting concrete and a tall, sturdy pole.

    oldsaltfarm.com

    Get the tutorial from Simply Kierste. You *can* get everything you need for an in-ground install on Amazon for $113.60, but I realize that more than breaks the budget here. If you decide to go the more DIY route, you can get a tether ball, rope, and carabiner kit for $22.98.

    17. Cover an all-concrete patio with an outdoor rug for an immediate transformation.

    amazon.com

    This rug's made with a heavier polypropylene sisal weave, which is sturdy and stain-resistant; reviewers do say it can take a bit to fully dry after a rain.

    Promising review: "Nice rug! Quality seems to be good, and the colors are vibrant. My patio is Mediterranean-themed, and this fits in very well. This rug is softer than other outdoor rugs I have felt. My friend actually asked if it was meant for outdoors because it was so soft on the top versus plastic-y like most outdoor rugs. The "beige" color on the Blue/Beige is a little more yellow than I expected, but it still looks great. Very happy with this purchase." —N.M.

    Get the from Amazon for $40.49 (for the 4'x5'7"; there's a wide range of sizes available, including circle rugs, and 10 colors/patterns) .

    18. Or opt for weather-resistant deck tiles that snap together and require very little maintenance.

    ikea.com

    Get nine square feet from Ikea for $19.99.

    19. Break down a pallet or other reclaimed wood to build a garden pathway in record time.

    20. Pick up some cinder blocks and 2x4s to make a quick and sturdy potting bench.

    carolynshomework.com

    From Carolyns Homework. (But if you'd rather just order one online, you can get a well-reviewed one at Walmart for $54.99.)

    21. Spray paint circles in lawns make for epic and hilarious Lawn Twister.

    One Good Thing By Jillee

    To keep this safe for the grass, use contractor's marking spray paint, which will wash off with some water or the rain — you can get it at your local hardware store for about $5 per can. From One Good Thing By Jillee.

    22. Set up a hammock between two trees or across your porch for cozy afternoon naps...

    amazon.com

    This hammock easily fits two people!

    Promising review: "Set this badboy up in your yard, and I guarantee you'll be caught in it by noon. There's no escaping these things, so be sure to bring a big bottle of lemonade and a good book. (Also remember that this hammock will need a bit of use to get stretched out. If you end up with your bum on the ground, just readjust the straps until you're back in the air.)" —Chelsea Tisdale

    Get it from Amazon for $49.97.

    ...or the perfect Instagram opportunities. (Of course, this hammock also gets the thumbs-up for good naps.)

    Wayfair

    This one's best for one person, or like, one person and a small dog! And you should probably bring it inside when it rains, because it's made of 100% recycled cotton.

    Promising review: "This is the cutest hammock ever! I’ve gotten so many compliments and the fringe on the bottom is just darling. It’s cotton and white so be careful not to leave it out when the weather is ugly. Great deal!" —Eva

    Get it from Wayfair for $46.64 (list price $70).

    23. Or try some zero-gravity chairs — they adjust to a full reclining position so you genuinely feel supported and relaxed from head to toe. (Plus they have handy trays to hold your drink and snacks!)

    amazon.com

    These chairs work their magic with ~bungee suspension~, and also feature durable UV-resistant fabric.

    Promising review: "These are excellent value for the money! They look durable and are certainly comfortable in any position. Very easy to adjust — the zero gravity thing really works — and the little drinks holder is great. What's more is they come fully assembled, so they're ready to use straight out of the box. Very pleased with them and would highly recommend." —'Doguie' Douglas

    Get a set of two on Amazon for $79.99 (which comes to $40 each).

    24. Store your bar accessories on a sturdy rolling cart so you can bring everything outside in one go.

    iheartorganizing.com

    Then if it rains, it's just as low stress to get everything back inside in a hurry! From I Heart Organizing, who uses this $29.99 Ikea cart. You can also get a similar cart from Target in grey or white for $30.

    25. Put up a set of wind chimes because they'll sing you a calming, relaxing melody day in and day out.

    amazon.com

    Y'all, I just love the sound of wind chimes. So peaceful!

    Promising review: "I truly love this chime and how it is tuned. It is superbly melodious even in its most frenzied activation. To avoid frenzy, however, I followed directions and figured out a place I could hang it where it would get just enough breeze to be activated slightly and never enough to go haywire. The construction is sturdy, the colors are beautiful, and the chimes gently ring when breezes wend their way onto our porch. It’s awesome. With that and bird song at dawn, we could easily imagine we were living on our own Walden pond." —The Rev Ari

    Get them on Amazon for $26.

    You, feeling like a ~movie star~ in your backyard all summer long:

    Warner Bros. / giphy.com

    The reviews in this post have been edited for length and clarity.

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