9 Ways to Save Big on Outdoor Chores
6. Become your own lawn doctor.
Mowing weekly doesn't always cut it. Not only do you need to seed twice a year and fertilize four to six times, but you may also have to kill weeds and bugs. Lawn-care services typically charge at least $60 a treatment. It's cheaper to feed and weed the lawn yourself. Just buy a spreader ($75), seed ($40 to $60 per 20-pound bag), and fertilizer, which may contain weed and bug control ($18 to $22). Ask the salesperson for pointers or visit scotts.com for lawn-care advice if you're still stumped.
SEASONAL SAVINGS: $80 and up.
7. Get sudsy.
Car maintenance isn't just about changing oil and rotating tires -- you also need to wash your vehicle regularly to keep its finish shiny and new. If you get it cleaned monthly at a carwash you'll put out $168 to $1,020 annually: the average price of a basic cleaning is $14, and you can spend as much as $85 if you add in extras like full detailing. Even if it's too cold to hand-wash your car in winter, you'll save money if you commit to doing it the rest of the year. You probably have most of the materials you need (hose, sponge, chamois cloth, and paper towels), but you should buy a dedicated car-wash cleaner because it won't strip off the protective wax (soap will), and a clay bar to remove surface contaminants from the paint.
SEASONAL SAVINGS: At least $112 by doing eight washes per year yourself instead of going to the car wash.
8. Barter with neighbors.
Trade power equipment you already own for stuff you don't have and you won't need to buy or rent it. If you lend your hedge trimmer to a neighbor in exchange for use of her power edger, you'll both come out ahead.
SEASONAL SAVINGS: At least $300 in landscaping fees if your yardkeeping crew charges $30 per hour for pruning and edging, chores that generally need to be done several times a season.
9. Clean your own pool.
If you have an in-ground pool you'll need to do weekly maintenance during swimming season: Check water level, adjust chemicals to maintain a balanced water pH, brush tiles, backwash the filter as needed, and vacuum the bottom. You'll pay from $75 to $165 per month to hire a pool-cleaning service, reports costhelper.com. Or you can do it yourself for $20 to $100 per month (though you'll need to have a service on call to fix the pump in case it malfunctions).
SEASONAL SAVINGS: $260 and up depending on need.
"It was going to cost $4,500 to have the exterior of our house painted. So my husband and I did it ourselves, spending $1,300. It took four weekends but I love the way the house looks."
-- Kym Curto, Redondo Beach, California
"Last year a contractor wanted to charge us $450 to wash and stain our deck, so I decided to do it. I used water and bleach to clean the deck and spent $100 on stain and $25 for a Wagner Deckmate, a moplike tool. Ten hours of work saved me $325."
-- Laura Hunter, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
"I used to pay a guy $1,200 to seed my yard, pull weeds, and rake leaves each spring. I saved more than $1,000 by doing it myself. My only expense was $100 on grass seed, and I loved working outdoors."
-- Lauren Kitchens, Tupelo, Mississippi
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, July 2009.