For cash-strapped families like ours, a back yard becomes more than just a place to hang out on the weekends. A back yard can help stretch a family’s budget by providing us with the space and raw materials needed to earn money and become more self-sufficient.
One significant way that my yard stretches our family’s budget is by giving us a place to raise food crops. Nearly 80 percent of the produce our family eats is raised right in our back yard which has made a huge difference in lowering our grocery bill. The extra produce we can’t eat or home preserve is bartered to neighbors or sold at a neighborhood grocery store.
Here are four more ways that a backyard can stretch a budget and generate some extra income too.
Raise chickens or other small animals
Many cities have eased up on zoning restrictions to allow the raising of chickens for eggs which saves money on many fronts. Having chickens means a steady supply of farm fresh eggs (which can be either eaten or sold to the neighbors), free chicken manure for your garden beds, and free organic pest control. If you don’t like chickens, small scale bee keeping or fish farming is also allowed in many cities.
As a place to dry clothes
While having a clothesline may seem like a waste of yard space, I discovered that this resource provides more than fresh smelling clothes and a monthly savings of $20 on my electric bill. Line drying clothes prevents fading, preserves the life of the garments and means you can skip additives like fabric softener or bleach. A clothesline also provides a place to air out sleeping bags and comforters instead of sending them out to the dry cleaners.
For making soil amendments
Anyone who gardens knows that compost, potting mix, and mulch can get very expensive. Not so if you have a yard and the space to make your own soil amenities. I have a 10 x 10 corner in my yard that produces nearly 5 cubic yards of chemical-free compost each year for a savings of $200. This keeps good material out of the landfill and means I spend less on weekly trash pickup than many of my neighbors.
A place for activities or home businesses
With a yard, you have a free place to throw a party for the kids or a get-together for co-workers and friends. It also gives you the space needed for indoor/outdoor home businesses such as a day care or dog watching services, firewood splitting, small appliance repair and outdoor furniture fabrication. Some of my neighbors even use their yards as outdoor classrooms for teaching art, wood working and gardening.
As costs continue to rise, a yard is a wonderful asset for anyone looking for ways to be more self reliant. These are just a few of the simple ways that our family and some our neighbors are making the most out of our yards.
More by this contributor:
Boost your garden production with 8 high yield vegetables
5 tips for planning a low water vegetable garden
How my vegetable garden earns me money