One advantage to moving off campus is the opportunity for outdoor spaces like backyards, porches or patios, but if you’ve grown used to living in the cramped conditions of a dorm room, it can be difficult to figure out how to decorate. If you’re struggling to make the most of the warmer months before your backyard is covered in snow, check out our tips for your home outside of home.

Check out yard sales for furniture

When you’re living on a student’s budget, the prices for patio furniture can seem like an insurmountable burden. If you don’t want to choose between a set of lawn chairs and eating three meals a day, keep an eye out for yard sale ads. With Binghamton’s myriad of flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores, there are many opportunities to shop for used furniture and decorations. When you’re walking around the West Side, look out for signs advertising weekend sales, and make sure to show up with cash and a car with ample trunk space. Cheap doesn’t always mean flimsy — sometimes the oldest furniture pieces are of the best quality.

Build a firepit

Nothing screams “college” like a group of scruffy, acoustic guitar-wielding undergrads seated around a bonfire. If your backyard is large enough, a firepit is the perfect backyard accessory to welcome chilly fall weather. Before buying a pit or building one yourself, you might want to talk to your landlord and look into New York state’s regulations regarding wildfire safety, which change seasonally based on high-risk periods designated by the Department of Environmental Conservation. March to May is usually a high-risk period, so be especially careful when planning end-of-year get-togethers.

Use pots for gardening

Ornamental and edible plants can spice up your exterior while also spicing up your meal prep rotation. Even if you have a big yard, though, it might not be a good idea to plant vegetable beds outside a home you’re only leasing for a year. If you’re looking to start a garden, use pots. They’re cute, portable and can be fairly cheap if you buy them in fall or winter.

Keep wildlife in mind

Birdhouses or feeders are a great way to treat and observe local wildlife, but your commitment to respecting your animal neighbors shouldn’t stop there. Pollinator-friendly flowers native to the Binghamton region, like asters or wild bergamot, can be ornamental and easy to grow. It’s also important to clean up after outdoor parties — minimizing litter and food waste will ensure safety from larger animals that might creep into your yard looking for a snack.

Be prepared for losses

When decorating your front yard or porch, you should always consider the possibility of items being stolen, blown away or damaged from rain or snow. For this reason, it’s smart to avoid spending big money on yard decor, but you should also pay attention to the weather and take the necessary precautions against wind and rain. You can protect your furniture and decorations by filling lighter items with sand, staking them into the ground or bringing them inside when the forecast looks especially ominous.

Get inspiration from online sources

When you’re staring out at an empty backyard, it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. Having a blank canvas can actually stifle your creativity, and envisioning your perfect space is often harder than building it. Luckily, websites like Pinterest and Reddit offer inspiration, with countless photos of interesting outdoor setups. The goal here isn’t to recreate the pictures perfectly, but rather to get an idea of what you like and how you can make something similar. Look specifically for DIY or budget spaces if you’re interested in the well-being of your wallet.