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Queen of free: Keep yard looking sharp

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Hooray, it’s officially spring. The flowers are starting to poke their little heads up from the ground and before we know it, the green grass will grow all around.

After a very long winter, I’m even jonesing to begin mowing again. The newness of the spring beckons many of us to yard work and curbside beautification.

However, our well-intentioned lawn dreams can easily morph into unbudgeted, overspending nightmares. You can still keep your yard beautiful this spring and summer without breaking the bank.

Here are some simple tips to keep your spending and your flower beds under control.

Spring clearing

Begin with the cleanup. One of the easiest traps to fall into each spring is to head to your local home improvement store without thinking about what you actually need. Rather than gaining inspiration in the aisles, begin by doing a spring cleanup. Gather sticks, rake leaves from the flower beds and clear away any unwanted trash. Once your yard is a clean slate, then you can get a better estimate of what you actually need instead of making impulse buys that go to waste. Don’t forget to knock the dust off of your tools and lawn care equipment, too.

Find it yourself

Find free mulch. Live within city limits? Some cities offer a branch collection service. These branches are then chopped up and turned into mulch that is absolutely free for its residents. Typically, supplies are not available until after Memorial Day weekend because the mulch needs to properly cure. You’ll need to bring along a utility bill as proof of residency and a vehicle that you don’t mind having mulch dumped into as it is not bagged. Our family also has space for open-air compost that we turn into mulch. While not for everyone, the process is easy and much less smelly than you might assume. Our bin, which has lasted for years, was constructed from chicken wire and boards we had in our garage.

Think long term

Go perennial and plant bulbs in the fall. While more expensive in up-front costs, perennial flowers grace your flower beds with long-term beauty. Either purchase perennials or see if your friends, family or neighbors will give you a start of one of these plants. Bulbs planted during fall months also bring spring beauty without extra costs and little effort. Both will simplify the landscaping process as well.

Don’t splurge

Set a cash budget and stick to it. I might sound like a clanging cymbal, but you must, must, must set a cash budget when it comes to landscaping (and every other category of your finances). It’s simply too easy to overspend in the springtime on flowers, mulch, yard ornaments and more. As our hearts yearn for warmer weather, we want everything on display. From a new gas grill to a cute little gnome, from beautiful daisies to fresh herbs — there are so many wonderful “things” you can purchase. But let’s face it, you can’t afford it all. So set a cash budget before you leave your yard and commit to sticking to it no matter what you might see.

Calculate upkeep

Think about the work involved. Your time is money. While an ornately landscaped yard adds value to your home, it also adds hours of effort. Be sure you calculate the upkeep and maintenance involved with your outdoor projects. Fish ponds need to be cleaned. Flower beds need to be weeded. What is exciting and fresh and new in April might be grueling in July. Count all of the costs when it comes to your investment.

Be efficient

Get a local tuneup. Work your social media channels to see who has had an excellent experience with a local business that tunes up lawn mowers and sharpens blades. Your friends and neighbors have valuable opinions on where to go and where to avoid, along with an approximate amount you’ll spend annually for such services. Tuneups might have an upfront cost expense, but they will guarantee your equipment runs efficiently. Efficient use means less gas to purchase and a longer life for your mower, both resulting in fewer overall dollars spent.

Keep your grass nice and green without spending too much green this spring. You’ll enjoy your outdoor space even more knowing that you haven’t overspent.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net

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