Here are some clever ideas for low-cost paving and shelter solutions.

 Our savings partners at www.simplesavings.com.au have some terrific savings ideas, drawing on the experience of thousands of members, all sharing their tips.

This month we were impressed with members’ answers to a request for help to find a low-cost substitute for outdoor paving and an overhead covering. The suggestions are certain to please working carers trying to save money while still wanting to improve an outdoor area.

Member Nayia emailed members with this request for help:

"I would like to ask if anyone has any ideas to solve this problem. We have a (very) small room out the back which has become our fourth bedroom. The room itself is fine, but it is four metres from the house, with no eaves for protection. If my son wants to go to the toilet or come into the house, he gets wet if it's raining and/or traipses dirt into the house or his room. There is no space outside his room for a mat and very little inside it. The room also gets full sun, so is boiling in the summer.

We are renting so we can't drill into the walls or guttering for cover, but we'd love some suggestions for: (a) a cheap cover we could use that would reduce or block out the rain and sun. We thought we could buy a big patio umbrella, but it won't cover the whole area and will blow over in wet windy weather; and (b) a cheaper solution than decking tiles, which are very expensive, for the ground. The area to cover is about 1.5 x 4 metres.

There were some fantastic ideas and here are some of them.

Keep the elements at bay with a sunshade

Would the owner of the house permit you to drill a few small holes into the wall to install a sunshade? Bunnings has lots of cheap options and you can ask them how to install it too. For low-cost flooring, I've found it is possible to get deck tiles cheaply if you know where to look. I bought mine for $10 each here in Sydney but they will ship them round Australia, just ask for a quote. For more information check out eBay which gives information with prices here http://bit.ly/1fOagGK or their company website: Green Forest Timber

Posh path for a cheap price

You can make a very cheap and attractive looking path by purchasing ordinary concrete squares from the local landscaper and painting them with a dark grey concrete paint. My neighbour did this with great results; he just laid the squares on the ground and put a bag of gravel in between the cracks. They look very upmarket for minimal cost and with no cement needed, if you're renting you can take them away when you go!

Make a jigsaw floor

For a cheap indoor/outdoor flooring solution, visit your local Kmart. They have large plastic blocks that fit together like a jigsaw. These make a super-fast and easy outdoor floor covering!

Scour the classifieds for free supplies

Here in Western Australia we have a newspaper that is called the Quokka, which advertises free items. Most areas have something similar, so check what is available in your area. Through our local paper a friend of mine managed to find enough cement slabs for my patio AND his, for free!

From portable carport to deck cover

You can make a suitable shelter for around $100 by purchasing a portable carport. The metal frame, plastic fittings and plastic material can be erected and anchored to the ground to cover the required area.

Make a walkway from old wooden pallets

You can create a simple and effective walkway in next to no time by using wooden pallets. You can usually find these for free in any industrial area. Just lay them on the ground to make a path. If the slats are too wide, it is easy to pull other pallets apart and add extra ones. You can even stain them and seal them to make them look a little smarter. The result? A raised walkway that is practically free!

Portable toilet solves to-ing and fro-ing

To reduce 'traffic' from your son going from one building to the other to use the bathroom, consider a portable toilet! I bought one from a camping store for $40. It has a seat and lid, which can be removed for easy emptying and cleaning. As for floor covering between the two areas, I would concentrate on purchasing something such as a free-standing car cover for the 1.5 x 4m area and perhaps get some stepping stones for underneath. Freecycle is well worth checking to see if you can pick up some free pavers!

AstroTurf is answer to cheap ground cover

If you're looking for a cheap ground cover or outdoor flooring solution, try AstroTurf! Our greyhound tracks a lot of mud about the place and we found AstroTurf (fake grass) works really well at helping to reduce the mess. It lets the rain run through and can be shaken clean as needed. You can purchase it by the metre at hardware stores and it is usually in rolls about 1800mm wide. You can even choose how bushy you want it!