10 low-cost home improvements

Plant a tree

It will enhance the look of your yard and grow into a natural insulator. Plant it on the south side of your home, if you can. That way, the tree shades your house in the summer but allows sunlight to stream through in the winter when you need it most.

You can also use your tree as a way to solve other yard problems. Is your yard in a constant state of saturation? Look at willows, which will suck up that extra water. Tired of mowing and tending to so much lawn? Look at shade trees. They come in dozens of varieties.

If you're willing to wait for your shaded bliss — and you have a green thumb — you can get a sapling from the Arbor Day Foundation for less than $10. Even if you don't order from the foundation, its tree guide is still top notch.

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