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Saving money on your gardening costs

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It’s easy to get carried away at the garden centre, but keeping your outdoor space looking good doesn’t have to cost a fortuneHere are some handy tips for keeping your gardening costs down.
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Gardening and finance

A garden can give you a lovely place to escape to after a busy day and when the sun’s out give your home additional living, dining and entertaining space. However, sprucing up your garden and keeping it looking good does not have to cost the earth. 

Easy ways to make your money go further in the garden

Here are some tips to help you tame those hedges without breaking the bank. 

Alternatively if you’ve got bigger plans for your outdoor space and are looking into landscaping, we explain a few of  your financing options.

Seeds and equipment

Joining a local gardening group can be a great way to swap tips and even seeds, cuttings and plants with people nearby. Community gardening groups can also organise plant sales where you can pick up perennials and young vegetable plants for much less than you would find in a gardening centre or large supermarket.

Some groups even organise day trips to gardens and attractions that may offer group discounts.

A fun, easy way to get your hands on cheap or free gardening equipment is to join an online recycling network. The biggest names in this space include Freecycle and Freegle

While it might take a bit of searching, it’s possible to find some great equipment that someone else has decided they no longer want or need.

Separately, sites with classified ads like Gumtree can also be a great source of free or low cost tools and equipment.

Shopping online

Buying  plants online can also net you some big bargains. It’s also worth browsing a range of seed catalogues and nurseries before buying. 

Signing up to online newsletters from your favourite brands can also be a great way to get good deals, particularly as many run offers and discounted product lines for newsletter subscribers.

Composting

Once you have bought your plants, good compost will be essential. However you don’t have to shell out for expensive bags of the stuff, savvy gardeners can make their own.

Your food waste is a great nutrient source for microorganisms under your existing soil. By feeding on the organic material in your leftovers these organisms can break it down creating a fantastic soil improver.

Grass clippings also make prime composting material - and it’s just as simple to drop them in the compost bin as the green waste  one.

While some gardeners use large ‘dalek’-shaped plastic composting bins, you can simply place your food and kitchen waste in slightly adapted buckets and even cardboard boxes.

The Royal Horticultural Society has some great tips on how to create the best conditions for composting in your garden.

Does your council offer discounted products?

Some local councils offer discounts on compost bins and water butts to encourage residents to reduce waste and save water. These discounts mean that these products can be bought much more cheaply than elsewhere.

For example, the London Borough of Hackney offers discounted compost bins from as little as £8 as well as water butts from around £25. To check if you could be eligible for discounted composting products from your local authority, log on to the Get Composting site and type in your postcode.

Protecting your plants

One easy way of protecting your saplings and vegetable plants from egg-laying insects is to cover them with old net curtains. These mesh-based curtains can be a great cost-effective alternative to netting found in gardening centres.

Why not use old plastic bottles as cloches to shelter your plants? They create a warm micro -climate around very young plants and protect them from slugs and snails.

The easiest way to do this is to cut the ends off the bottles, unscrew the tops, plunge them into the ground and voila! Cheap, effective protection for your plants.

If you need a cold frame to protect and nurture your seedlings outdoors, you can save your cash by mounting an old window on some old bricks or wood. 

You should be able to get your hands on old window panes from scrap yards or reuse and recycling centres. Check if your local council recycling centre has a reuse shop. 

These places can be great, cost-effective sources of raw materials like wood, glass and bricks. 

Cold frames can be expensive to buy at specialist shops and garden centres, so making your own can save you bags of cash.

Landscaping and larger projects

If you’re looking to do more than simply tidying up your garden and planting some perennials, it’s worth thinking about your financing options.

Are you planning to install new fences, or perhaps completely re-landscape your back garden? 

Choosing the wrong way to pay for home improvements can be costly and place you in a difficult financial position. However, done properly you can minimise the amount of interest you pay and spread the cost of an expensive project.

Credit Cards

A credit card can be a helpful tool if you need to make purchases on credit, but want flexibility in paying it back.

Some credit cards offer 0% interest on purchases for a set period too. If the garden work you’re looking to do is relatively low budget, generally not more than £5,000 or so, then using this type of credit card can be a great option. So long as you repay the money before the interest-free period runs out you will not have to pay any interest on it.

Things to consider if you’re thinking of funding your gardening work this way:

  • Ensure you can repay the debt within the 0% interest period

  • Credit cards can charge upwards of 20% APR once the introductory offer period ends

  • Don’t let the offer of interest-free credit encourage you to borrow more than you need

  • If you have a poor credit record you may not be eligible for a 0% on new purchases credit card or you may get a lower credit limit

Applying for a credit card and then being declined can leave a mark on your credit record. To avoid this risk always use a free eligibility checker before you apply to find out if you are likely to be accepted.

Compare credit cards

Personal Loan

Personal loans let you borrow from around £1,000 to about £25,000 to be repaid each month over the time period you choose. Repayment periods are generally between one and 10 years, with the interest rates fixed.

That means you will know on the day you take out the loan how much you will repay each month and for how long the payments will continue.

However, you might not get the deal you see on offer even if accepted - as providers only have to offer the advertised rate to 51% of people.

Some things to consider with personal loans:

  • For smaller amounts, under £5,000, the rates can be as high as a credit card - just without the flexibility

  • Applying for multiple loans can affect your credit score - where possible use an eligibility checker before applying

  • Paying off your loan early can mean extra charges are applied

  • If you have a lower credit score, it’s worth seeing if a credit union could save you cash 

Homeowner loans

If you’re looking to borrow a larger sum of money to fund your improvements, you may consider applying for a homeowner loan. As the name suggests, you may be eligible to take out a homeowner loan if you own a home or hold equity in a property.

The key thing to note here is that you’ll need to think very carefully before securing debts against your home. This type of credit is a secured loan, which means your home is at risk if you struggle with repayments.

Full details on how secured and unsecured loans work

If you’re confident in your ability to pay back the loan without any difficulty, then this type of loan might be worth considering. 

The main features of these types of loans are:

  • You can pay the loan back over 1 to 35 years

  • You can borrow up to a set percentage of the value of your property

  • You have to pay interest for the duration of the loan term

  • You have to pass a credit and affordability check 

Like all loans, the cost of a homeowner is determined by the interest rate, but you also need to watch out for any fees charged on top of that.

Most secured loans are only available through a broker, so to get the best loan you need to:

  • Decide how much you need to borrow: Work out exactly what you need to borrow. If it’s less than £25,000, you could consider a personal loan which won’t be secured against your home.

  • Work out your loan to value: You will need an accurate valuation of your property and to know the outstanding balance on your mortgage if you have one

  • Choose your loan term: Work out what monthly payments you can afford and estimate how long you need to pay back your loan

  • Check your credit record: Make sure there are no mistakes on your credit report and check if you have a good, fair or poor credit rating

  • Speak with a secured loan broker: They take your information and search the market for the best secured loan for your circumstances

For full details on how homeowner loans work, read our ‘What is a homeowner loan’ guide.

Don’t forget insurance

If you're making changes to your garden, it is important to have the right financial protection in place in case your garden and its contents are protected in the event of a break-in or adverse weather.  When comparing home insurance, be sure to check how much garden cover it offers as there are substantial differences between policies.

While your landlord is responsible for your home, you still need to protect your belongings while you rent. Compare home insurance policies to find the right cover for less.

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