This year, in lieu of a big summer vacation, you may be focused on ways to make your outdoor spaces more fun so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out by having a staycation — or so that your kids have more options for outdoor activities they can do closer to home.
If it fits into your budget, use a little imagination and implement some simple makeover ideas that kids and adults alike will be able to enjoy. Here are some ways to upgrade your backyard on any budget.
GET AN ABOVE-GROUND POOL
Above-ground pools are trending during this pandemic, with Instagram influencers showing off their stock-tank versions for keeping cool this summer. This DIY option will set you back around $600, while a manufactured frame pool can be around $2,000 — still a lot less than the average cost of an in-ground pool, which is $35,000 according to Home Guide.
No matter what kind of pool you’re considering, it's important to weigh the costs and benefits of installing any permanent water feature before you take the plunge.
“A pool can be a good idea, but only if you live in a warmer climate and plan on regularly using it,” says John Schmoll, owner of personal finance blog Frugal Rules. “If you're looking at it from a purely investment standpoint, you may not see as significant of an ROI if you were to sell your house as you might think.”
COOK WITH AN AL FRESCO KITCHEN
If you enjoy cooking outdoors during the summer, now is a great time to take stock of your current set-up and evaluate if it's time for an upgrade.
"Buy a new grill if yours is worn out and you'll use it for several years," Scholl says.
You can get a basic (and portable!) charcoal grill for under $50, or splurge on a high-end gas grill for around $500, depending on how much you want to spend.
Another option for outdoor cooking? Get the family involved in DIY pizza making as a weekly summer ritual. For $200, you can get a pizza oven that sits on your existing grill to bake your own pies whenever you'd like. Rotate who chooses the toppings and turn any day into a pizza party.
UPDATE YOUR PATIO FURNITURE
New lounge chairs or an upgraded outdoor dining set can make spending your extended time outdoors much more comfortable. Do keep in mind that these items can come at a cost if you want them to last: Expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for quality furniture, depending on the size of the set.
If outdoor furniture isn't an option right now, you can still spruce up your backyard and make it more enjoyable.
“There are countless other ways you can upgrade your backyard, especially if you have some DIY skills that help you make it budget-friendly,” Schmoll says. “Some good ideas include mounting a tree bench or putting up a pergola.” Each of these items cost around $300 if you install them yourself.
SET UP A FIRE PIT
More and more people are finding that just sitting around a fire pit is a great way to bond with family and friends.
“In order to make the yard more exciting, we're adding a fire pit for roasting marshmallows and enjoying spooky stories while sitting around the fire together,” says Tired Mom Supermom blogger Elizabeth Nunes. “We plan on camping in the backyard and projecting movies onto the side of the house once the sun goes down.”
You can get a basic wood-burning fire pit for about $60 or opt for a fancy gas-powered version starting at just under $250.
CREATE AN OUTDOOR GAME SPACE
A blank wall is a natural spot for projecting a spooky or funny flick for impromptu movie nights. Or, if you have a sturdy tree, you could build a permanent fort or tree house.
But if you want to get really creative, Schmoll suggests investing in some durable outdoor game sets, such as croquet, cornhole or even giant versions of popular board games.
And if your household enjoys playing a specific team sport, consider installing a basketball hoop or a volleyball (and badminton) set — you should be able to find some under $200 — so you can entertain your crew this summer and for years to come.