Just last week my fiancé, Emily, and I didn’t think we would build a patio for less than $100. Our plan was to save up $10,000 and have a contractor build a beautiful deck attached to the front of our home.
But as I was reading “Your Money or Your Life” (found in: Top 5 Best Books about Financial Independence) I realized something. Our vision of this deck was the definition of excess. Did we really NEED a 341 square foot lounging area made with expensive composite boards?
If you’re planning on becoming financially independent, then you need to make sure you’re using your money wisely!
Why Build a Patio for Less Than $100?
After having a simple conversation with the future wife, we realized why we wanted a patio in the first place. We wanted to:
- Have a place to read outside
- Add value to our home
- Interact with the neighborhood
- Get rid of the ugly bushes in front of our home
- Be able to watch the sunrise (it’s facing east)
It wasn’t the thought of an extravagant deck that excited us, it was the space. We just wanted a space to hang out in front of our home.
I brought up the idea of making a gravel patio. Emily liked the idea a lot. Not only would this save us an incredible amount of money, but we would have our space sooner than we imagined. This project could be done in a day or two for less than $100!
As of last Friday, we had saved up $6,450 for our deck. That same Friday, we decided to take the entire amount and use it to pay off debt. This money got rid of two credit cards and a credit card consolidation loan! Now, the only debt we have left is our mortgage, my student loans, and her car!
If you want to invest your savings instead, then check out How to Start Investing: A Step-by-Step for Beginners.
The Materials You’ll Need
In order to do this project, you’ll need some tools and supplies. For budgeting purposes, I’m going to assume that you own all of the tools listed and don’t need to buy them.
- A roll of edging plastic ($19.48)
- Landscape fabric ($19.98)
- Landscape fabric pins ($3.98)
- Pea gravel, 18 bags ($55.76)
Total Cost: $99.20
Let’s go through the process, step-by-step. Here’s our before picture (right after we ripped out the bushes):
Clear and Prep the Area
First things first, map out the area that you want to transform. We decided to go with a 90 square foot rectangle directly connected to the front of our home.
Use the square shovel to map a line that will become the boundary of your patio. You can do this by putting your shovel to the ground, stepping on it, moving it a couple inches over, stepping on it again, etc. etc.
Once you have your cut in border, you can use the square shovel (or whatever tools you prefer) to dig out all the weeds and debris. Make sure to stay within your defined area. The wheelbarrow is nice to hauling debris away here.
After that, use the metal rake to level out the dirt as best as possible. Once you think you have it close to level, stomp all over it to press everything into the ground. If you have any sort of tamper tool, then now is the time to bring it out. If not, a bunch of stomping will suffice.
Take another look at your area. Now that you’ve pressed in the dirt, is it still level? If not, then use the metal rake again to fill in the spots that dip down and stomp some more.
Pro tip: When leveling your dirt, make sure to slope it a little bit away from your house so rainwater isn’t directed to your basement.
At this point you should have an area of packed down, semi-level, dirt. Good job!
Add in Your Barriers
You’re going to need to install two types of barriers. One is a barrier between your gravel and the dirt (landscape fabric). The other is a barrier between your gravel and the edge of the grass (edging plastic).
Landscape fabric is necessary because if you don’t put it in then weeds will grow through your gravel over time. This looks terrible and it’s really hard to get rid of once it starts.
Edging plastic is useful because it stops gravel from bleeding into your lawn. Nobody wants to walk through grass and start stepping on rocks.
First, you’re going to use your garden trowel to dig a 3 inch wide by 6 inch deep trench around your entire border (that touches grass). Then, place the plastic edging in the trench so an inch or two sticks out of the ground. Cut off any extra plastic you have and fill in the trench with loose dirt.
Roll out your landscape fabric to cover any exposed dirt inside your boundary. Push the landscape pins through the fabric and into the dirt to make sure it stays in one place. You’ll use the utility knife to cut your fabric to size.
Now your patio is ready for some rock action!
Here comes the fun part. Now all you have to do is pour in a bunch of rocks. I recommend pea gravel because it feels nice on your feet, but you can use any type of gravel.
Open your bags of gravel and pour away. As you’re pouring make sure to stop every couple of bags and level things out with your hands.
This is the most satisfying part of the entire project.
After you have all your rocks poured, all that’s left is adding in some patio furniture. I learned from Emily that what you need to search for online is “Patio Bistro Set”. It’s basically just two outdoor chairs with a table in between them.
Congratulations! You did it! By going this route, you saved thousands of dollars that can now be used to invest, save, or pay down debt. We’re now one step closer to mastering our personal finances and become financially independent!
And I have a new place to read in the morning 😊